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I was recently perusing an old community church cookbook my mom has had for as long as I can remember. It’s for sure from the 1980s, with thick red plastic binding.
The cover has been gone for so long that the first page is a list of ingredient substitutions. Did you know that to substitute one cup of butter, use 3/4 cup lard or 7/8 cup rendered beef fat?
This cookbook is Old School. There are charming drawings and pages of household hints (To sharpen scissors, cut through fine sandpaper), along with a smattering of prayers and tidbits of advice.
The recipes are short and sweet, often just a small list of ingredients and a few sentences for the method. The creators of these recipes figure that whoever is reading them has a good handle on cookery already, thus no need to mention the size of pan required to bake the Butter Brickle, or how large the green peppers should be chopped for Turkey Casserole.
There’s a whole lotta Jello happening in the Puddings, Pies and Desserts chapter, and I’ve never seen so many cans of mushrooms used in one cookbook before. Many of the home cooks who contributed these recipes to the cookbook are long gone, but on these splattered pages, their legacy lives on.
I came across a few recipes in the community cookbook for chicken baked in mushroom sauce, and rather than open cans of mushrooms and mushroom soup, I thought I’d create something from scratch. Cold nights call for comfort food, and this hearty braised chicken and mushroom dish is on heavy rotation when I hunker down for the winter.
Chicken thighs are full of flavour, especially when they are seared in bacon fat. A rich and creamy mushroom sauce is made in that same skillet, with all of those browned bits scraped up for mega flavour. The chicken returns to the pan, along with chopped bacon, and it hangs out in the oven for 30 minutes, leaving you time to cook potatoes or pasta because this sauce needs something carby to sink into.
You’ll be thrilled with how the meat is so tender and juicy, but the sauce — oh, the sauce — is incredibly delicious. With punches of lemon and mustard, it’s so tasty when lapped over a bed of creamy mashed potatoes or eggy pappardelle. This is next level comfort food, and I’m sure the home cooks would approve.
Saucy Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Bacon
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil (optional)
1 onion, diced
3 cups quartered button or cremini mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup dry white wine, or sherry
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Warm a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
3. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and generously season on both sides with salt and pepper. If there’s not at least 1 Tbsp of bacon fat in the skillet, add a bit of canola oil. Increase the heat to medium-high. Place the chicken in the hot skillet, skin side down, and cook it for 4-5 minutes. Flip over and cook for another few minutes. The chicken is ready to be flipped when it’s easily released from the pan. If you have to force the flipping, let the chicken cook a little longer. Remove the browned chicken to a plate.
4. Stir in the onions, mushrooms, garlic, and thyme. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are softened and have released most of their liquid, about five minutes. Be sure to scrape up any of the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Add the white wine and stir until the liquid has been absorbed by the mushrooms, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, whipping cream, lemon juice, mustard, and smoked paprika. Bring to a boil over high heat and simmer for two minutes. Return the cooked bacon and chicken to the pan, spooning some of the sauce over the chicken. The skin side should be facing up so it gets a little crispy.
5. Place the skillet in the oven and cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the thighs. A thermometer inserted into the thigh should read 165 F. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley. Serve the chicken with hot buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Serves 3-4.
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