Greetings one and all and welcome to my latest post. Geez, I have been so busy getting my life back in order that I have not found the time to do much writing or cooking of fabulous meals; we have been surviving on simple, quick and easy fare for the past two months now.
I am working full-time now, 13-hr shifts at the local general hospital in the city. Omg, getting back into the game has been such an uphill climb for me … but it gets better with each passing week. We have also taken rent of a small cosy place that is only a walking distance from the private nursing home where I will eventually be employed for the duration of my stay here in Dublin.
It is smack bang the middle of July here and the one thing we have noticed is ….>> we have not been out of our jumpers for very many days since our arrival. Yesterday for instance when I woke up to go to work, I was freezing! I did not want to leave the comfort of my blankets. Eventually, I rolled over and checked the outside temp and to my shock it registered a RealFeel® of just 4ºC (39F), and it wasn’t even a rainy day!. Today the temperature is not much different, although it is raining now. Friends across the pond on the western European continent seem to be sweltering in blistering heat, some of up to 38ºC last week, but not here. I am not complaining much tho. I always prefer it to be slightly cool than hot anyway … and the dog is ever so happy. And I am happy coz when the weather is cool enough Doopey obliges and snuggles with us on the bed.
Summers in Europe for me usually mean making cool dishes (or not at all). Last summer in Amsterdam I remember R. and I literally living off icy popsicles for two months until the heat finally broke mid September. But here in Ireland I think autumn is already upon us … hehe. I think if you lived here it would do you good to invest in a slow-cooker. Roasting and braising joints seem to be well affordable at the stores, and plenty of potatoes about to accompany your meal.
So today I am making a yummy casserole of chicken with bacon, leeks and mushrooms. Now I know the boyfriend doesn’t do mushrooms in his food but this pot of food was made entirely for me. I made a large batch so that I could take some to work with me over the coming days since I spend all three of my mealtimes at the hospital.
The basis of this dish is simple: Precook all the ingredients, then make a roux and plop everything back in for final cooking.
Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Casserole.
8 chicken thighs, bone in
1 large red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 rashers smokey bacon, diced
1 large leek, washed, trimmed and sliced
1 punnet Chestnut mushrooms
1-2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp tarragon
400 mls milk
200 mls chicken stock
salt & pepper
The good thing about stews and casseroles is that they are cheap, they feed lots of people, and you can throw in whatever the hell you want and just cook it down to a lovely stodgy mess and it would still be the best thing ever on a cool day. I thought about adding that red bell pepper, but as I went along with the dish I eventually decided against it. I just wanted to keep the flavours mushroomey and chickeny.
So grab all your ingredients and let’s start off with some good rendering of bacon. Chop up the rashers and place them in a pan with just a teaspoon of oil to get them going. Fire should not be too large otherwise you will end up burning the fat and smoke will start filling your house.
Once the fat has been rendered and the bacon bits have taken on a nice crispy golden brown hue, set them aside to drain on paper towels, keeping as much of the fat in the pan as possible coz you wanna sautee the other things in this yummy bacon flavoured pan.
Start with the onions and the leeks. Again, keep the fire small to medium and gently sweat everything down over 5 – 10 mins. Add a pinch of salt to help draw out the moisture.
Then add the mushrooms and the garlic. Sautee until everything looks and smells delicious. I always feel it is necessary to sautee mushrooms adequately even if they are going to be cooked again in a stew because I want their true flavours to come out and permeate the stew, and sauteeing them with a bit of butter and garlic always seems to do the trick. Eventually you will end up with something that looks like this …
Add the bacon back to the mixture and stir everything thru. Transfer the sauteed stuff to a clean dish and let’s start prepping the chicken. Again, I did not bother rinsing out the pan. I am using the same pan with all those bacon and leek flavours to sear the chicken in.
Nothing special went into prepping the chicken thighs, just a simple dash of pepper and salt, that was it. Make sure you season both sides of the chicken tho.
Place them skin-side down into the hot pan and brown them on both sides … more fat will be renderd from the chicken. Once they are browned off place them aside on a plate and make the white sauce.
There will be some chicken fat left in the pan so I used that in making my roux. Simply top up with some extra butter and then proceed as per normal. Sprinkle an equal amount of flour into the pan and work it with the back of a wooden spoon for a few minutes. Then add cold milk and work out the lumps with a whisk. Add dried herbs, season with dried herbs, salt and pepper and add the chicken stock. Allow the sauce to cook gently for a few minutes then add the chicken pieces.
Leave the chicken in the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes then add all the sauteed mushrooms and leeks.
Simmer again for another 15 minutes then turn off the heat and let it rest for 15 minutes. So unfortunately this isn’t a fast and easy meal … it takes a bit of mothering to get right. This is not your store bought Chicken Tonight dinner in a jar, although I shouldn’t knock the product since I have never tasted it myself. If you find your sauce thickening too much just add a bit more milk or chicken stock to thin it down.
Once the stew was cooked I served it with some potato gratin and a cold broccoli and tomato salad.
To put in on the record, I did not make the potato gratin from scratch. I bought it in the store and the only contribution I made to the final product was to sprinkle it with Spanish smoked paprika … oooh, it really brings out the flavours of the cheese and potato.
This dinner really hit the spot for me, and it keeps for a good few days. You can even freeze portions of it to bring to work or simply to avoid cooking again on another day when you just want to put your feet up.
If you made a large pot of this stuff you could also feed a lot of people for fairly cheap coz most of the ingredients are vegetables, flour, milk and a bit of bacon. So go on then, invite some friends round for a bit of supper and indulge in some causal dining with a good, honest casserole. I personally don’t think people make enough casseroles anymore these days. I rarely see it on menus too, unless it is a veggie curry or a Thai green curry on rice … those seem to be all the rage these days.
Anyway, hope you enjoy today’s recipe especially to all those people who are living in the southern hemisphere, experiencing winter right this very moment. You know who you are … you can’t live on soup all season! MAKE CASSEROLE!
~ Enjoy!! ~