Sunday Chicken Dinner
I’ve been making this particular version of chicken so long that the hardest part of this post was trying to figure out the name of the recipe. The first time I made this one for my husband, back when we were first dating, he loved it and asked what it was…”umm, chicken?” We both laughed and now we actually call it “Umm Chicken” in our house.
Braised chicken leg quarters are pretty much a Pennsylvania Dutch staple. They’re almost always served along side carrots and some form of potato and covered in a gravy made from the pot juices. My mom used to make an almost literal bucket of gravy with hers. Because, you know, what isn’t better with gravy?
When I started studying French cooking, I learned to make coq au vin blanc (chicken in white wine) – and it took about 2 minutes for me to realize that this was pretty dang similar to, albeit more complicated than, my mom’s braised chicken. I was so conflicted! Mama v. Julia Child – what’s a girl to do?
Slowly, and almost on accident, I started merging the two methods. I wanted to keep the ingredients Pennsylvania Dutch simple, and I NEEDS my gravy. But I loved the addition of fresh herbs, leeks and wine. Coq au vin blanc was just a little lighter – so I decided to replace the flour from my mom’s gravy with a little bit of creme fraiche. The result is a staple in our home.
The leg quarter is such a beautiful part of the chicken; you get pretty much all the dark meat, which is great because it’s doesn’t dry out like white meat – it’s perfect for braising. If you’re expanding this recipe for 4+ people, you can either use all chicken leg quarters or add some breasts as well. I prefer to use airline cut chicken breasts (breast with the drumette attached – just ask your butcher) there’s just something elegant about them.
Preheat oven to 350 F with the rack in middle.
Pat brined chicken dry and sprinkle with a good amount of salt and pepper. Heat 1 T. each of oil and butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Once the foam from the butter mellows down a bit, place the chicken skin side down in the pot to brown. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until the skin is golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate to rest.
Pour out the fat from your pot and wipe up any browned bits. Lower the heat to medium-low, then add the remaining 2 T. of butter, along with the leeks, shallot and garlic. Add your mustard powder, cayenne, juice of half a lemon, and a bit more salt and pepper. Cook until everything is soft and lightly caramelized. Add the chicken, skin side up, carrots and wine. Turn up heat, and boil gently until liquid is reduced by half. About 5 minutes.
Cover your pot and place it in the oven. Let braise for about 30 minutes
While the chicken cooks, cover the potatoes with salted water and boil for 15-20 minutes. Until they're just tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add lemon zest, 1 t. oil, fresh sage, salt and pepper. Use a whisk or potato masher to smash them up just a bit. You're not going for mashed potatoes, just slightly broken.
Once the chicken is done, take the pot out of the oven and uncover it. Remove the chicken legs and carrots to a clean plate. Place the pot back on a burner over medium-low heat, simmer until it's reduced to the consistency of a thin gravy. Remove the pot from the heat and let rest for about 5 minutes, then stir in the creme fraiche.
Spoon the leek gravy into a rimmed plate. Serve the chicken, potatoes & carrots on top of the gravy.