When creating recipes, I find inspiration in several places. I’ll typically stumble upon traditional recipes while researching random food facts (quite a black hole of information, trust me). Other times, I solicit ideas from friends, or readers via my facebook page, and add potential dishes to a growing list of contenders. But how I created this dish is unique for me, so I’d like to share that story.
I recently stumbled upon a photo on Instagram from Food & Wine’s Chefs Club, a restaurant concept featuring a line-up of visiting chefs. For this particular event, they offered menu items from La Caravelle, a classic French restaurant that closed its NYC doors in 2004. One of their signature dishes, Chicken in Champagne Sauce, was a favorite of the Kennedys; the restaurant re-named the dish Poularde Maison Blanche (“White House Chicken”) when JFK was elected president.
Inspired by that photo, I set out to make my own Chicken in Champagne Sauce. Let me be clear: I did not attempt to recreate this famous dish, but rather, I wanted to make a dish that tasted as good as this picture looks. Considering I’m late to the party and wasn’t able to attend the event (or visit the restaurant before it closed), this may be the closest thing I experience to the dish, and I’m fine with that.
Champagne is the name of a sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne wine region in Northeast France, fermented under strict guidelines; sparkling wines that don’t feature Champagne grapes, or weren’t produced under the required guidelines, cannot legally be called Champagne. For this recipe, any sparkling white wine will do. Fun fact: the bubbles in sparkling wine are a result of second fermentation, similar to how kombucha achieves its effervescence.
We’re going to brown the chicken to give it a nice texture. Frying up some bacon is an excellent way to whip up a quick cooking fat, add richness to your dish, and create a tasty garnish; it is a technique employed often in French cuisine (Exhibit A: Beef Bourguignon). Pro tip – use bacon ends and pieces, since they’re generally cheaper, and you’re going to chop them up anyway.
Champagne Chicken (Paleo, Primal, Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet)
8oz bacon ends, coarsely chopped
2-3 lbs chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
salt and pepper to taste
2 shallots, minced (about 1/3 cup minced)
8oz white or crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried tarragon (or 1/2 tsp fresh chopped)
~1 cup champagne or other sparkling wine
~1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream (coconut cream for dairy-free)
chives to garnish, chopped
1. In a large skillet or dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until just crispy, about 6 minutes. As the bacon cooks, pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set on some paper towels to drain.
2. Increase the skillet heat to medium-high, then add the chicken thighs, skin-side down. Brown on each side until golden, about three minutes per side, then remove and set aside (skin-side up). Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning, and don’t overcrowd the skillet; brown the chicken in batches if needed (I was able to fit them all in this 12-inch skillet). If you need more fat to help brown the chicken, add a knob of butter. Once the chicken is browned, remove it and decrease the heat to medium-low, then add the shallots; sauté until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they start to release their liquid, about 4 minutes, stirring often.
3. Stir in the thyme and tarragon, then return the chicken pieces to the skillet, skin-side up. Pour in equal parts champagne and chicken broth to cover 2/3 of the chicken pieces, about 1 cup each. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low, and braise until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Uncover the skillet and increase heat to medium. Remove the chicken and set aside. Simmer the sauce until reduced by a third, about 6 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, remove from heat, and add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken to the skillet, spoon the sauce over the chicken, garnish with the bacon pieces and chives, and serve.