So we're in the thick of winter now and I'm staring out at a miserable, grey day with a constant stream of rain bouncing off the little patio area beyond the kitchen door. Even the cats are having second thoughts about venturing outside. It's the sort of day I'm happy to see once in a while, provided there is food in the fridge and the promise of a snuggly blanket, comfy sofa, a steaming hot brew and a good film (like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - have you seen it?) later in the afternoon. It's also the kind of day I want to cosy my tummy with great food!
This sweet sour dish, which heralds from Lyon in East-Central France, typically makes use of the finest produce in the area, in this case the famous (Poulet Bresse) chicken. But I have sent it 700 kilometres or so up the autoroute into Normandy, by using apples and cream for which that region is famed. And what could be better than good old AIP staple, apple cider vinegar, to add the required acidity, followed by a little coconut cream to mollify and balance the tartness and round everything off to tang-tastic perfection!
Choose the best quality chicken thighs you can source and make sure they are skin on and bone in to retain that succulent flavour. Using whole alliums lends the dish a satisfying depth as they take on all those juices - the shallots that shoot out their Russian doll-like innards when prodded with the tines of your fork, together with melt-in-the-mouth-tender cloves of garlic both serve to enliven the taste buds.
And while you're at it, be sure to choose a firm apple for the job as well - a softer flesh variety will resort to purée and that's not what we're aiming for here. Finally, if you don't tolerate coconut (which you won't taste btw) don't let that stop you from trying this winning bistro dish. It will be sharper without it, that's true, but a memorable feast all the same.
chicken with cider vinegar cream and caramelised apples
Note: Anything acidic is best cooked in stainless steel. It's not a great idea to use cast-iron since you run the risk of leaching iron into your food. It may also change the flavour.
Print the recipe here
2 tbsp solid fat (I use lard or coconut oil), divided
6-8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
8 shallots, peeled and left whole
8 plump cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup bone broth (chicken)
4 large sprigs thyme
1/4 cup coconut cream *
sea salt to taste
1 large firm sweet apple (such as gala)
Heat 1 tbsp of the fat on a medium/high heat in a large non corrosive sauté pan (see note above). Place the chicken thighs into the hot fat, skin side down, and allow to brown for approx 3 minutes. Resist the temptation to move them too soon or the skins may be pulled off by the pan. Turn the thighs over to the flesh side for a minute or two to quickly brown, regulating the temperature so they don't burn. Do this in two batches so they don't steam and be careful of spitting fat. Put onto a large plate and set aside.
Pour all but 1 tbsp of the chicken fat into a small container and reserve for other purposes. Now add the shallots to the pan and allow them to brown for 2-3 mins, shaking the pan once in a while. Add the garlic and cook a further minute as for the shallots. Pour in the apple cider vinegar and deglaze the pan by stirring with a wooden spoon to release the sediment on the bottom. Next add the broth and return the chicken pieces, making sure they fit snugly into the liquid so they take in all the flavour. Slip the thyme sprigs in between the chicken, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, then bring up to a simmer and cook for around 30-35 minutes until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken, shallots and the garlic to a warm place, add the coconut cream to the pan and turn up the heat. Bubble the mixture until the sauce is slightly thickened, approx 10 minutes. Taste and add sea salt as desired. Discard the thyme.
Meanwhile, cut the apple into quarters, cut off the core, then slice each quarter into three. Heat the remaining fat in a frying pan and add the apple slices. Cook on a medium heat for around 3-4 minutes on either side until evenly browned.
Put the chicken into a pretty serving dish or directly onto plates. Pour the sauce over the top and serve the apple slices alongside.
* Put a 400ml can of coconut milk into the fridge at least the night before you want to make the recipe. When you need to open, turn the can of refrigerated coconut milk upside down, open with a can opener and slowly pour the watery liquid off into a separate jug. You can use this liquid for smoothies or drink as is. The cream is what is left below.