Chicken w/ Wild Mushrooms

What is it about poultry and mushrooms that makes them pair so well with each other?  We’re not sure, but we certainly seem to enjoy the pairing a lot, considering how many recipes we’ve posted featuring these ingredients in the same dish (including turkey pot pie, chicken cacciatoreturkey and mushroom risotto, and turkey tetrazzini, to name a few.)  Although we may disagree with Ina Garten’s statement that “[c]hicken and mushrooms can be boring,” we’re glad she came up with this decidedly-not-boring recipe that brings out the best of these 2 ingredients together.  The dish creates its own sauce — flavored with garlic, thyme, sherry, white wine, chicken stock and a bit of butter — that cooks in the same pot and transforms chicken and mushrooms into perfectly delicious BFFs (Best Food Friends.)


The original recipe calls for “1 1/2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms, such as porcini and cremini.”  We cut the recipe in half and ended up using dried porcini mushrooms and fresh cremini and baby portabello mushrooms.  It’s easy to reconstitute (re-hydrate) dried mushrooms — just put them in a big bowl (they will expand as they hydrate), add enough warm water to cover the mushrooms, then let them sit for about 30 minutes.  Drain and they are ready to use.  We didn’t do it this time, but whenever you are reconstituting dried mushrooms, you can keep some of the re-hydrating water to substitute for a portion of whatever liquid you’re using, in order to add even more mushroom flavor to the finished dish.  Since we didn’t do it here, we’re not quite sure how much mushroom water to substitute when this recipe calls for a cup of chicken stock — a quarter to half a cup maybe.


Remove the stems from the mushrooms and cut them into 1-2 inch pieces and peel the whole cloves of garlic.  The original recipe calls for tying the thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine, but we left the thyme sprigs loose (you’ll remove the thyme when the dish is done, so tying them together makes it easier to keep track of all the sprigs.)


The original recipe serves 6 people and calls for 2 small chickens, cut into eighths.  Since we were only cooking for the 2 of us, we used 4 chicken thighs instead.  We like to use bone-in thighs for dishes like this that simmer slowly in a sauce because the thighs hold up well and have a lot of flavor.  Trim any visible fat and the extra flaps of skin from the thighs.


Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.


Lightly dust each chicken thigh on all sides with flour.


Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil over medium-high heat in a large, oven-safe Dutch oven, then add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on both sides — about 3-5 minutes per side.  Depending on how much chicken you are browning, work in batches to avoid over-crowding the pot.  Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.


Reduce the heat to medium, then add the whole garlic cloves, mushrooms and thyme to the Dutch oven, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.


Add the sherry and cook for about a minute, de-glazing any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  We didn’t have any sherry, so we used dry marsala instead.  Add 1-2 cloves of minced garlic and cook until fragrant — about 30 seconds.


Add the white wine, chicken stock and salt & pepper, then bring the mixture to a simmer.


Return the chicken (and any accumulated juices from the plate) to the Dutch oven, cover, and place the pot in the oven preheated to 325 degrees until the chicken is cooked through — about 30-35 minutes.  Chicken thighs are done when their internal temp reaches 165 degrees at the thickest point.  They are also very forgiving and nearly impossible to over-cook (which is just one of the many reasons we cook with them so often.)


Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.  The original recipe didn’t call for it, but we removed and discarded the whole garlic cloves as well because, even though garlic mellows when it cooks, we didn’t want to risk a mouthful of whole garlic along with our bites of chicken and mushrooms.  Remove the chicken to a clean plate and if you want, remove and discard the skin.  We took the skin off ours because it didn’t stay crispy as the chicken cooked in the oven, and who wants to waste calories on less-than-crispy chicken skin??


And who needs chicken skin when you’ve got butter!  Using a fork, mash/mix about 1 1/2 tablespoons of room-temperature butter together with 2 tablespoons flour.


Add the butter mixture to the sauce in the Dutch oven and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Stir constantly and cook over medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken — about 5 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.


Put the chicken back in the pot and cook for a couple of minutes to make sure the chicken is nice and hot.


Serve the chicken with plenty of sauce spooned over top and garnish with chopped parsley.  We followed Ina’s serving suggestion and paired the chicken dish with couscous, which soaks up the rich, savory sauce beautifully.  Smashed potatoes or egg noodles would also pair really well with this dish.  The more BFFs, the merrier!

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