This evening for dinner I decided to make Nigella's Spring Chicken from her cookbook Kitchen. Although this is titled "spring" chicken, it is perfect for this time of the year, a warming casserole is just what you crave at the end of a cold winters day. This casserole has an amazing depth of flavour and would work equally well served with new potatoes, rice, barley or other grains. Alternatively it could be served with a baquette or other crusty bread to mop up the juices. We thoroughly enjoyed this comforting dish and I plan to make it again soon.
1 tsp olive oil
140g pancetta cubes
12 chicken thighs (bone in with or without skin)
1 leek, cleaned, quartered lengthwise then finely sliced
1 stick celery, quartered lengthwise then finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tsp freeze-dried tarragon
1 tsp sea salt flakes or 1/2 tsp pouring salt
good grinding white pepper
1 x 500ml bottle dry cider
300g frozen petit pois
1 x 15ml tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Little Gem lettuces, suct into strips or roughly shredded
2 x 15ml tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
Heat the oil in a large, wide casserole that comes with a lid and add the pancetta cubes, cooking them until they begin to give off their juices and start to colour.
Add the chicken thighs (skin-side down if yours have skin), tossing the pancetta cubes on top of the meat (to stop the pancetta burning and to make space) as you put the poultry in the pan, and cook for about 5 minutes over a medium heat.
Turn the thighs over and tip in the prepared leek, celery and garlic. Season with the dried tarragon, salt and pepper, then stir everything around a bit, letting it cook for another 5 minutes.
Pour in the cider, then sprinkle in the frozen peas. Bring the pan to the boil then cover, turn down to a very gentle heat and cook for 40 minutes. Do check after 30, though, to see if the chicken is cooked through, and if you are using boneless thighs, then 20 minutes should do it.
Remove the lid, stir in the mustard, and then toss the shredded lettuce over the chicken, letting it wilt in the hot sauce for a couple of minutes.
Scatter the chopped tarragon over the casserole. Serve with new potatoes or rice.