Whenever I throw together a casserole I always seem to under-estimate the ingredients – moral of the story, find your biggest cast iron casserole dish for this recipe, around 6 litres or so, or even halve the recipe if there’s only a couple of you (we were eating chicken casserole for days! Not a hardship but in retrospect I made too much and had to literally stuff everything into my 4.5 litre French oven and fretted about that while it was cooking). Or is it a Dutch oven .. I never know the difference. Also, I happened to have a red capsicum in the fridge and included that, however it’s not something you’d necessarily use in a French casserole so feel free to leave it out. It does add a bit of sweetness to the base flavours though, along with the leek and celery.
I just happened to make this for a Sunday lunch which was a sunny, but cold and windy day so the tender, falling-apart, herb scented chicken and hearty vegetables were perfectly mopped up by a warm, crusty bread roll. This is a lighter, more delicate option for the usual hearty beef casseroles we see at this time of year but was warming and comforting nonetheless.
Recipe for slow cooked French chicken casserole:
1kg boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets (8 fillets in all)
2 x 20ml tblspns plain flour
2 x 15ml tblspns unsalted butter
1 x 20ml tblspn grapeseed oil
2 large leeks, washed and sliced (white and pale green parts)
White part of 4 green onions, sliced (reserve the remainder of the spring onions)*
4 stalks celery, sliced fairly thickly
1 medium red capsicum, diced (optional)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 x 15ml tblspns fresh thyme, chopped finely
8 baby potatoes
12 baby carrots, peeled, topped and tailed or 5-6 larger carrots, cut into halves or quarters
200g Swiss brown mushrooms, left whole unless large, then halved
3 dried bay leaves
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, hot (see note below)
60mls light cooking cream
1/2 cup (70g) frozen peas
Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 x 20ml tblspns chives, sliced
Green part of spring onions, sliced*
Dinner rolls, to serve
Preheat oven to 150C.
Trim chicken thighs of most fat (leave some on) then place into a large, glass bowl, season well then lightly dust all over with a heaped tablespoon of flour, making sure they’re covered.
Add butter and oil to a 5-6 litre, cast iron Dutch or French oven with the leeks, white part of the spring onions, celery, red capsicum, garlic and thyme – season well. Cover and slow sauté over low/medium heat for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until leeks have softened. Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables onto a plate and set aside.
Increase hotplate to medium/high and allow the pan to become hot. Use tongs to place in 4 chicken thighs and use tongs to sear on both sides for a couple of minutes just until browned on the outside. Remove first batch onto a clean plate then sear the second batch of chicken thighs. Add the first batch of chicken thighs and the cooked vegetables back into the casserole dish then add the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and bay leaves – season well (or to taste). Pour in hot chicken stick gradually, stirring through with a wooden spoon to combine ingredients; 1 to 1 1/2 cups should do it as this casserole tends to end up with a lot of liquid at the end of cooking time – add less stock at the start if you want less liquid at the end (sorry, captain obvious reporting for duty). Bring to a high simmer then turn off hotplate.
Place covered casserole in preheated oven and slow cook for around 2 hours. I check hourly to make sure everything’s cooking nicely; at the first check I move the chicken and vegies around a bit so they cook evenly.
Around 20 minutes before the end of cooking time, remove casserole from the oven and make sure the chicken and vegies are tender and cooked. Increase oven temp to 180C. Add cream and peas, stir through to combine well then return to the oven for 20 minutes covered. Around this time you might want to think about warming your dinner rolls in the oven.
Remove casserole from the oven and immediately fold through herbs – remove bay leaves. Check seasoning and add a bit more if you like. Serve with buttered dinner rolls.
Serves: 6 with bread and/or a side vegetable
Note: you could substitute 1/3 cup of decent white wine for the same amount of chicken stock, if you’re serving some with this dish.