4 chicken thigh portions with bone
Cooking oil for frying
125g button mushrooms
2 sticks celery
1 clove garlic
100g lardons (4 rashers)
2 (400g) cans plum tomatoes
2 tablespoon sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prep to Cook: Large skillet or frying pan, casserole dish for cooking, tin opener, veg peeler, vegetable knife, chopping board, long handled stirring spoon
Prep the chicken:
In the frying pan or skillet with deeper sides heat about 4 tablespoons of the cooking oil
Add the lardons or bacon bits and allow them to fry and give out more fat
Remove the bacon bits and put into cooking pot.
Carefully drop in the chicken portions skin side down and allow to ‘frizzle’
Brown the chicken skin then put the chicken thighs into the casserole dish
Peel the onion and cut into half
Place cut side down and slice about wedges through the half onion
Repeat the process with the remaining onion half
Peel the clove of garlic and put through a garlic press into the frying pan
Fry off the onions and garlic until just turning golden and put in casserole
Peel and cut the carrots in half lengthwise and then again into half to make thin strips
Group the carrots and cut across the strips to make carrot batons about 2 cm long
Wash and strip stringy parts from celery then dice into portions about 1 cm wide
Cut the button mushrooms into four through the stalks
Add the vegetables to the chicken in the casserole dish
Add the tinned tomatoes chopping them up slightly and finally add the sherry and stir
Put on lid or use foil to cover.
Prep to cook:
Cook gently at 180C or Gas Mark 4 for 45minutes to 1 hour
Remove the lid for the final 15 minutes
Chicken thigh portions are frequently cheaper than chicken breasts and cook really well in this dish. Tinned plum tomatoes are also cheaper than chopped tomatoes and sometimes the sauce is richer and thicker.
Cooks Know How: The secret of success with this dish is to brown the chicken thigh joints really well. Remember to be careful as you get the cooking oil in the pan quite hot before you add the chicken. Listen for the sizzle as the joints go into the oil in the pan. Keep the temperature up so that the oil does its work and browns the skin of the chicken. This browning adds the flavour and makes the sauce taste good. When you have removed the chicken thigh portions to the cooking pot or casserole re-use the browning pan to stir up the garlic and onions. Use a wooden spoon or spatula and rub the bottom of the pan where the browning was taking place to ‘deglaze’ it. This lifts the brown bits from the pan and carries them into your sauce which will taste all the better for it.
The vegetables are subtle in flavour and bulk up the dish. The carrot colour brings out the orange red tones so that the finished dish looks good on the plate. The sherry adds a sweetness and a gloss to the sauce that is typical of Spanish food. Using the juices to cook the vegetables also means that the meat is made tender and juicy. This is a benefit of slower cooking in a casserole dish.
You can use chicken breasts and dice them into 3 or 4 so that the dish is easier to eat with a fork and has no bones. Alternately you can use chicken quarters which cook really well in the rich sauce. Pop jacket potatoes in alongside the casserole and you have a whole meal ready at the same time.