While we usually seek for comfort and heartiness in a stew, it doesn’t necessarily mean our options are limited when we’re also looking for big bursts of flavour. This verjuice chicken and leek stew recipe, for one, boasts sharp acidic tastes that pair incredibly with mushrooms, tarragon and more. We don’t deny it could be just as good, cold night or not.
- 2 small whole chickens (2.4 kg)
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 500 g small button mushrooms
- 3 shallots, sliced thinly
- 1 cup (250 ml) verjuice
- 3 medium leeks (1.05 kg), white part only, cut into 5cm (2in) lengths
- ¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves, plus 2 stems extra, to serve
- 2 cups (500 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
Place one chicken, breast-side down, on a chopping board. Cut down both sides of the backbone using kitchen scissors; discard backbone (or reserve for another use). Turn chicken over; press down firmly and steadily onto the breast bone to break so the chicken lies flat. Pat chicken dry with paper towel. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a 7 litre (28 cups) cast iron or other flameproof casserole dish over high heat. Add one chicken, breast-side down; cook, pressing legs down so they touch the base of the dish, for 10 mins or until chicken is golden brown. Transfer to a large plate or tray. Repeat with another tablespoon of oil and remaining chicken; transfer to a large plate or tray.
Add mushrooms and shallots to same dish; cook, stirring, for 5 mins or until golden brown. Add verjuice, scraping base of dish; cook for 1 min or until simmering. Return chickens to dish, side-by-side; top with leek, chopped tarragon and stock; season. Reduce heat to low; cook, covered with a tight-fitting lid, for 1 hr or until chickens are cooked through.
Heat remaining oil in a small frying pan over low heat; cook extra tarragon for 20 secs or until crisp. Drain on paper towel.
Stand casserole dish, covered, for 5 mins. Transfer one of the chickens to a serving platter; cut into four pieces. Spoon over half the mushrooms, leek and sauce and top with crispy tarragon.
Cut remaining chicken into four pieces; transfer to an airtight container with remaining vegetables and sauce. Cool, then store.
TIP We used a 25 cm x 33 cm oval cast iron casserole dish. Freeze the unused backbones to make your own chicken stock. Refrigerate chicken stew in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Freeze for up to 3 months; thaw in the fridge, then reheat in a microwave.