Alsatian Chicken Stew

Is there a smell better than leeks sizzling away in bacon fat?

Probably. Somewhere. Maybe.

But on a cold winter’s night, with flurries out the window and snow-capped mountains on TV, I can’t think of one.

Here’s an easy, one-pot chicken stew—a riff on Nigella Lawson’s riff on Coq au Vin—whose leeks and bacon and wine will warm both you and the house. And, like most chilis and soups and stews, it’s even better the next day, so it’ll pay toasty, savory dividends for a couple of meals.

When your CSA gives you chicken and mushrooms . . .
Alsatian Chicken Stew

The specs below are for a small batch (since I received 4 drumsticks in my sharebox this week), but it easily scales up to feed a bunch of folks. You can use bone-in or boneless chicken parts (either way, dark meat’s better). If you use skin-on pieces, just know that you’ll want to sear them to get a little brown going before you add them to the stew pot. Serve in a bowl on its own, over rice or buttered noodles—or, if you’re feeling extra ambitious, over spaetzle

Shitake happens. Oyster mushrooms work well here, too.
  • 4 chicken drumsticks or 6 chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 strips thick-cut bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3.5 oz mushrooms, sliced or torn into pieces
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) of dry or medium-dry Riesling
  • splash of heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh dill to garnish
One pot
One pot–a Dutch oven or high-sided fry pan–will do the whole job.
  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, casserole, or large, high-sided fry pan. Season the chicken with a little salt and pepper. If you’re using skin-on chicken, add it to the pot and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside. If you’re using skinless, skip ahead to step 2.
  2. To the same pot, add the bacon pieces and fry until just crisp. Add the sliced leek and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until well softened (3-4 minutes).
  3. Pour in a glug or two of the wine and deglaze the pan. Add the mushrooms, the bay leaves, and the rest of the wine. Return (or add) the chicken to the pot. Let everything come to a boil, then reduce the heat. Let it simmer for a good 45 minutes (maybe an hour), until the liquid thickens. Splash in a little cream and let that heat through. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Spoon over egg noodles, spaetzle, or rice, sprinkling on a little fresh dill just before serving.

Stew bowl
Apologies for the photography. We were hungry, and it was dark.
What to drink?
Shimmering with lemons and apples, François Barmès’s Riesling “Tradition” is perfect in the dish—and alongside it.

With the meal, we enjoyed the same wine I cooked with—the 2011 Alsace Riesling “Tradition” from Domaine Barmès-Buecher. Dynamic biodynamie pioneer François Barmès, a great friend of Moore Brothers (whose Pennsauken, New Jersey shop is kind enough to employ me), was tragically killed in a bicycle accident shortly after the fruits of the 2011 harvest were in the tanks. With help from neighbors and friends (François had a lot of friends), his wife, Geneviève, and family are continuing his legacy, sharing with us beautiful, vibrant, naturally substantial wines from the mountains southwest of Colmar. This is dry Riesling, a bit fuller weight than most in its price class, sure-footed, with brilliant, life-affirming acidity.

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