It looks just like any ordinary chicken casserole, does it not? But this casserole has an added ingredient that makes it extremely chickeney. In fact, it’s fair to say this is the most chickeney chicken casserole since the first chicken escaped from the egg. And, yes, the egg came first.
A few months ago, my friend Matt (whom I have not seen in a while), suggested that I should do a chicken casserole here on the blog. I thought it was a nice idea but I needed a little something extra. I mean, a chicken casserole is a chicken casserole is a chicken casserole. Yes it is but not when we go extreme on the chickeniness. My ingredients list will give you some clue as to what I did. But, the secret ingredient is not there.
- A chicken (pretty chickeney flavour)
- 8 chicken thighs (very chickeney flavour)
- 1 litre of very good home-made chicken stock (getting there on the flavour front)
- A nice piece of pancetta (not chickeney at all)
- 3 onions
- 3 carrots
- 4 stalks of celery
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove of garlic
- A good handful of parsley
- Flour for dusting
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- The secret ingredient (very, very chickeney)
First thing to do is to chop the chicken into bite sized pieces. I like mine to be big bites.
Next, slice the pancetta into nice small pieces. Not too small, this dish needs to be rusticated (I am a city slicker myself so rustication is something I have to work at.)
Fry the pancetta in the bottom of a casserole dish. You people Stateside call it a Dutch Oven, for some strange reason.
Remove the pancetta when it is just about cooked and has released plenty of fat. Dust the chicken in seasoned flour.
Fry the chicken in the casserole until it achieves a nice light golden colour.
While the chicken is frying, chop up the carrots, onions, celery and garlic. You want the onions, celery and carrots pretty small but not so small that people get the impression you are “going all fancy”.
Good country practice dictates that one can cut the garlic smaller than the vegetables.
When the chicken is browned nicely, stack it all on a plate and take a picture.
Add the onions to the casserole and sweat them over a moderate heat. Stir them to be sure they remove any golden bits of flour that may have stuck to the casserole.
When you have adjusted the ISO of your camera from 100 to 800, set the focus and add the carrots.
Stir these around a bit and add the celery.
Sweat these down until soft and add back the fried chicken. It will be pretty chickeney at this stage.
Throw the pancetta back in to add some saltiness and “Oh Mammy” (umami) flavour. Next we add the very chickeney chicken stock.
Side note on chicken stock: You just have to make this at home. One chicken carcass (after chinese boiling the chicken) returns us one litre of jelly consistency chicken stock. It is fantastic and has a real flavour punch.
Flavour punch or not, it is not the secret ingredient. Cover the casserole and place it in a 200º C oven for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and add the secret ingredient. Let it cook for a further 15 minutes uncovered. This allows the casserole to thicken and flavours of chicken to intensify that little bit more. Just before serving, add the chopped parsley and stir.
“So, what’s the secret ingredient?” I hear you wonder. It is intensely concentrated chicken stock. Having done this with beef stock (see the post here), we decided the same would work with chicken. We reduced the usual 1 litre of great chicken stock to less than a quarter litre and filled an ice-cube tray with this intensely flavourful chicken deliciousness.
Just one of these ice-cube sized flavour bombs adds a real strength to the chicken flavour and brings this humble rustic rooster out of the hen-house, giving me something to really crow about. Give it a go. You won’t taste anything more chickeney.