Friday, November 16, 2007

Chicken Braised with Chestnuts

Since the beginning of October I have been seeing chestnuts highlighted everywhere: in the supermarket they have end-of-aisle displays of their various offerings (whole roast, puree, dried, organic puree...), in the food supplements and magazines they are touted as the culinary epitome of Autumn etc. Personally, I associate chestnuts more with Christmas and hence December into January, since that is when I have always had them, but have found myself peculiarly susceptible to this particular onslaught of advertising. Hence this sweet-but-deep nut has been floating around in my mind for a few weeks, and taking the day off on Wednesday gave me the opportunity to actually plan, cook and shop for a meal at (relative) leisure. Going to Sainsburys on a Wednesday early evening is an entirely different experience to going on a Saturday morning, about which I could wax lyrical, but I digress... Chestnuts. How to pair then with chicken as anything but a stuffing ingredient? This simple braise keeps them whole and distinct, with mushrooms (preferably chestnut for depth of flavour and a hint of humour) to accentuate their earthy richness, and fortified wine to bring out the sweetness.

For two:
  • 2 chicken legs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 large flat mushrooms, preferably chestnut
  • 140g whole roasted chestnuts
  • 300ml marsala or similar
  • 100ml water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 200° C. In a large frying pan gently heat the oil. Finely chop the onion and fry. Chop each mushroom in half and then into thick slices. Fry with the onion until both are softening, being careful not to allow the onion to crisp. Add the chestnuts to the pan to heat through. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Turn up the heat and brown the chicken on both sides. Place in the dish with the vegetables, and add the remaining ingredients, seasoning well. Cover and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve the meat with the pan juices and vegetables spooned over and some green vegetables alongside.