Recipes are meant to be manipulated

Again, necessity changed our plans when I blurted out to a bunch of friends, “Y’all come over for dinner Sunday.”

I had somehow forgotten that our behemoth of an oven had stopped working. I had actually forgotten, even though I almost pulled my hair out when the first technician under our home warranty walked in and did a great bug-eyed impression of Rami Malek from Mr. Robot.

“I don’t even know what that is,” he said, as he slowly backed out of the room.

Yeah, we bought a house with a commercial range, the kind you see in restaurants. It was love at first sight. Now that my second and third sights were coming into focus, I realized it could be difficult to find someone to work on Goliath when he actually broke down.

So, with a bunch of fun, foody friends coming over, my genius husband said two magic words, “mustard chicken.” Yep, the dish can be braised on the stove top (that works just fine) and serves as many as people as necessary. It is not a quick dish, but it is easy and it was the first recipe my husband cooked out of a gorgeous coffee-table cookbook by David Lebovitz called “My Paris Kitchen.”

Cooks are probably familiar with Lebovitz’s blog and books about learning to cook in tiny Parisian kitchens. He has a great, approachable style and turns out mouthwatering dishes. Heck, the chicken with mustard is even on the book cover.

The first time we followed the recipe exactly and of course it was fantastic and hearty. This time, we wanted more of the mustard sauce for sopping, and we wanted more of every spice and we wanted to add mushrooms. No problem. This kind of cooking is adaptable. We spent Sunday morning cooking it up in three different pans for 16 pieces of chicken.  Hey, it was a big crowd coming.

It’s important to get a great dark brown sear on the chicken in this dish, which adds an immense depth of flavor. And you just can’t crowd chicken when you’re trying to crisp the skin. Crowded chicken steams instead of browning; hence the three pans.

The recipe called for thighs and legs, but we used just thighs. Don’t bother scouring grocery stores for crème fraiche because the suggested heavy cream works just as well as a finishing touch. See? Adaptable.

So, here’s the recipe from Lebovitz  (and the stuff we did in parenthesis) It’s up to you to adjust, add, and make the dish your own. Have fun. We did.

And Goliath met his match with the second repairman who was familiar with his innards. But even this guy got a little squirrely on us.

“Yeah, I know this brand, but I’ve never seen one of these in a house before. Huh.”

Viva la difference!

Chicken with Mustard

serves 4-6

1/2 cup, plus 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (Maille is excellent and easy to find locally)

1/4 tsp. sweet paprika (We doubled it)

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt (We didn’t use any; mustard is very salty)

4 chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks, skin on (we used just bone-in thighs)

1 cup diced bacon (1 1/2 is better)

1 small onion, finely diced (use 2)

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp. dried (again, more is better, at least double it)

1 cup white wine

1 Tbsp. whole mustard seeds or grainy mustard

2-3 Tbsp. crème fraiche or heavy cream (1/4 cup is good too)

Warm water, optional (Didn’t need it)

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives, for garnish (Forgot that part)

 

Mix the mustard, paprika and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Toss the chicken pieces in the mustard mixture, lifting the skin and rubbing some of it underneath.

Heat a wide skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat and cook the diced bacon until it’s just starting to brown. Remove and drain. Leave about 1 Tbsp. of bacon fat in the pan, discarding the rest. (Yeah, right. Just leave most of it in there.)

(Lower the heat), add the onion and cook about five minutes, until soft and translucent. Stir in the thyme and let cook for another few minutes. Then scrape the onion mixture into a bowl.

(Turn the heat back up to medium high) Add a little olive oil to the pan, if necessary (not, if you left the bacon grease). Place chicken pieces in pan and cook, browning well on both sides. (about five minutes per side)

Remove the chicken and add it to the onions in the bowl. Add wine to the hot pan and scrape the darkened bits off the bottom.

Return chicken to pan, along with the bacon and onions. (Add 2 cups of sliced mushrooms now).

Cover and cook over low to medium heat, turning the chicken in the sauce a few times during cooking, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, the mustard seeds and the crème fraiche.

 

 

 

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