chicken with wild mushrooms and carrot

chicken with wild mushrooms and carrot

november 25, 2012

     Nothing says umami like the taste of wild mushrooms.  If only I could stroll through the woods and confidently pick mushrooms that are tasty and safe to eat! Leaving this step to the experts, I forage happily at local farmers markets or a nearby grocery.  A visit to the South of the James Market In Richmond last weekend yielded lovely specimens from two local growers : white and grey oyster mushrooms from amFOG(site under construction) and shiitakes and creminis from Steve Haas Mushrooms.

Umami, known as the fifth taste, is the predominant sensation of taste for such foods as tomatoes, parmesan cheese and anchovies.  Mild tasting chicken is also an able partner for the other basic four tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty.  In today’s recipe, chicken and wild mushrooms are joined by carrot for some mellow sweetness and white wine for piquant tartness.  This one dish meal would be well paired with mashed potatoes or, as shown, with parmesan polenta to boost the power of umami.
Americans love their boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Chefs the world over marvel at our love affair with  “bland pillow meat”, as one French chef of my acquaintance so aptly described this staple of our diet. I have some love for white meat chicken : the monthly menus of The Good Eats Company personal chef service offer up chicken breasts plain and simple, ethnicized, jazzed up or given the gourmet treatment, but I will always vow that dark meat is more flavorful.  It’s also worth the extra trouble to cook and serve meats on the bone; if the chicken is cooked on its frame, so to speak, there is less shrinkage and even more savory goodness.  This recipe calls for trimmed skin-on chicken thighs, but if you care to remove the skin, the dish will not suffer in the least.

You may wonder why this recipe is described as serving four to eight.  Two chicken thighs per serving if you are quite hungry or if a meal does not seem complete unless it is heavy with protein.  One chicken thigh per serving if you are like me and adopting Mark Bittman’s “less meatarian” approach to eating.  Bittman is the celebrated New York Times food columnist and blogger and author of the cookbook How to Cook Everything, among others.  This chicken dish was inspired by one of my favorite  Bittman recipes, “Crisp-Braised Duck Legs with Aromatic Vegetables” , in which he uses two duck legs to feed four people, shifting the focus to the veggies and away from a meatcentric ideology.  Carnivores take note : I am not leaving the ranks, just trying to take Mom’s advice to eat more vegetables.  Here’s one recipe to test your sensibilities – would you make it for a crowd?

chicken with wild mushrooms and carrot

by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company

four to eight servings

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin
4 carrots, peeled and cut into lengthwise thirds, then batons
1 pound mixed wild mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, cremini)
2 large shallots (4 oz), sliced into thin rings
canola oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups good quality chicken stock, preferably gluten free
6 fresh thyme sprigs
fine sea salt (I like Baleine)
finely ground white pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat in heavy saute pan.
  4. When oil is hot, add four chicken thighs, skin side down, and sear two minutes per side, adding more oil if you opt for skinless chicken.
  5. Remove chicken and place skin side up in heavy ovenproof casserole dish; repeat with second batch of chicken.
  6. Add shallots, stirring occasionally over medium heat, for about two minutes or until they begin to brown and soften.
  7. Add carrots and mushrooms, stir to coat and cover for about two minutes.
  8. Place vegetable mixture atop chicken, exposing the skin so that it may  crisp as it bakes (scoot the vegetables to the sides and in-between chicken pieces).
  9. Add wine to the saute pan to deglaze, stirring to loosen any browned bits, and boil over high heat for four minutes.
  10. Add chicken stock, bring mixture to boil, then pour over chicken and vegetables.
  11. Tuck in sprigs of thyme.
  12. Bake for 45 minutes.
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