This slow-cooked, luscious comfort food classic, based on the French “blanquette de veau,” uses chicken instead of veal shoulder and is rich with a final velvet coating from tangy crème fraîche (although heavy cream will do), lemon juice and egg yolk.
Not meant to be a flavor kick in the mouth, the depth of flavor comes mostly from a rich chicken stock — but a final hit of lemon zest, garlic and parsley or celery leaf adds some punch. Serve with steamed rice or hot buttered noodles. A chilled rosé or white Burgundy pairs well with this dish.
Velvety French Chicken Stew
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black (or white) pepper
1/2 medium onion
3 whole cloves
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pint cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
7 ounces frozen pearl onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (8-ounce) container crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Juice of 1 lemon (reserve zest for garnish)
1 large egg yolk
Garnish: zest of 1 lemon plus 2 to 3 garlic minced cloves plus 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or celery leaves
Rice or buttered noodles, for serving
1. Place chicken in a large pot and add water to cover by at least 2 inches. Set pot over medium-high heat and add onion stuck with cloves, celery and 1/2 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, skimming froth as needed and reduce heat to medium. Let cook, about 50 minutes. Turn off heat and let chicken rest in hot liquid 10 minutes. Remove chicken from pot to a large bowl to cool. Leave pot on stove. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones into a medium bowl and return bones and carcass back to pot; add more water to cover carcass and bones and let cook over medium-high heat 30 to 40 minutes, adding a bit more water as needed, being careful not to add too much. The goal is to make a quick-ish flavorful broth. If you have more time, let broth cook an extra 15 minutes or so, adding water as needed. You’ll need about 6 to 7 cups liquid for the stew.
2. While broth is cooking, heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add mushrooms and allow to cook about 5 minutes, without too much browning. Add pearl onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, another 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
3. Place a large colander over a bowl and carefully strain broth, discarding carcass and solids. Measure out 7 cups broth. Add butter to pot with mushrooms and onions and turn heat to medium. When butter melts, sprinkle flour over, stirring constantly until a thick paste forms. Add one cup broth and whisk to remove any lumps. Add remining broth. Tear chicken into small pieces and add back to the broth, stir, and cook over medium-low heat 20 minutes. Stir in crème fraîche or heavy cream and allow chicken to simmer another 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in nutmeg and lemon juice; adjust seasoning, adding more salt and some pepper. When ready to serve, remove one cup hot broth and stir in egg yolk; gently whisk broth and egg yolk into pot until well combined; remove from heat to avoid scrambling the eggs and serve over hot rice or noodles and garnish with lemon zest, garlic and parsley.
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