Chicken thighs are such an underestimated cut. They live permanently in the shadow of glorified chicken breasts and trendy drumsticks. Don’t get me wrong! I love chicken breasts and drumsticks are great fun on a bbq. But I believe that if an animal gave life for our pleasure we have moral obligation to eat as much of it as we can. So when it comes to poultry my shopping list often includes thighs. Plus they are not only full of flavour but also one of the cheapest source of animal protein. One of my regular recipes using chicken thighs is Spanish style tray bake with chorizo (published here). It is very flavoursome but a bit on a rustic side. So when I want to elevate chicken thighs to a more refined dish this is the one I go for. It might look a bit more fiddly, especially with making the sauce after the chicken is cooked. But believe me, it is worth the effort. The sauce is absolutely essential to this dish. Silky smooth and on one hand creamy but with noticeable acidity from cider and shallot. It is simply a perfect accompaniment for the chicken. So if you want to treat your diners to something more fancy and all you have is chicken thighs give this dish a go.
Makes 2 adult portions.
- 25g salted butter
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 4 chicken thighs, skins on
- 1 tblsp brandy (preferably Calvados)
- 1 tsp plain flour
- 120g dry cider
- 80g chicken stock (from stock cube is fine)
- 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, few parsley stalks, half of celery stick, 2 sprigs of thyme tied together with a string or wrapped in a muslin cloth)
- 1 tblsp double cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 dessert apple, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
- 1 tsp salted butter
- Couple of pinches of caster sugar
- Heat the butter in a large sauté pan (or deep frying pan) over a medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Remove the shallot and reserve.
- Add the chicken thighs and cook them skin side down, until the skin is well browned. Pour off excess fat.
- Add the brandy, light it with a match and shake the pan until the flames subside. Remove the thighs and reserve for later.
- Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes until straw-coloured. Remove from the heat and add both the cider and cooked shallot. Mix well together and then add the stock. Return to the heat and bring slowly to the boil, stirring continuously.
- Season with salt and pepper and add the bouquet garni. Simmer for about one minute.
- Put the chicken back into the pan skin side up. Cover and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, prepare the garnish: fry the apple wedges in the butter with the sugar until golden-brown on each side. Keep warm.
- When chicken thighs are cooked, transfer them into the ovenproof dish and keep warm.
- Strain the cooking liquid though the fine mesh sieve into a clean saucepan. Reduce to the required consistency by boiling rapidly. Add the cream and season to taste. Transfer to a serving jug.
- Garnish the thighs with the apple and serve immediately.
It works perfectly accompanied by mashed sweet potato and honey glazed carrots paired with a light Pinot Noir or chilled dry cider.