An impressive dish for your Valentine

Consider this a bucket list item crossed off. From the name of the dish to the final product it exudes opulence and sophistication. Of course, any excuse to use wine in cooking, well, is an excuse I don’t need but if I have a reason I’m happy nonetheless. The night I made this dish, was perfect. I received a call from my dear friend Susan in Scotland just before I began cooking. Her melodious voice, so good to hear, was inspiring to me. You know those moments when someone tells you something you need to hear the exact moment you need to hear it? This was one of those times. She just called to tell me how proud she was of me and how much she missed me and it really made me feel light as a feather. It warmed my heart and after a long day it was very much so needed, just like this dish.

I had to set the scene for this meal. I love cooking to music but during the week I often have podcasts going or a film in the background. Tonight though, I poured myself a healthy glass of wine, turned on my favorite French music and got to work. With the depth of Edith Pilaf’s croon through the house, time flew as the chicken roasted, onions sautéed and mushrooms soaked in red wine. Even a Francophile like myself was a bit intimidated by this dish. It is easy to be intimidated by it, no question, but after taking it for a spin, I highly recommend trying it. This is also a great option for Valentine’s Day if you’re looking to make something special for your honey. Marinate your chicken tonight (half a bottle of wine for two) and it will be ready for tomorrow evening!

1 whole chicken, cut up in 8 pieces (or two of your favorite
1 bottle red wine (Côtes-du-Rhône or full-bodied red)
1/2 lb carrots, chopped in pieces
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/8 tsp ground cloves (if you have it great, if not it’s ok)
2 Bay Leaves
10 Sprigs Thyme
16 pearl onions, peeled (frozen from Trader Joes works well)
1/2 lb white mushrooms
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 tbsp good olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
4 oz Pancetta diced (omitted in my recipe)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt & Pepper

It’s best to marinate your chicken overnight in red wine overnight or at least a few hours if you are looking for a “speedy” version. If so, use the entire bottle of wine to do so. This recipe is from David Leibovitz, My Paris Kitchen Cookbook. It’s an autographed copy and I do cherish it. He got this recipe from Anthony Bourdain (another favorite of mine) which David Leitebrought to Paris. So it’s been shared quite a bit as it should be, because it’s pretty damn good.

In a large bowl, mix the onion, carrot, a pinch of salt, cloves, bay leaves, and thyme. Add the chicken pieces and submerge in the wine. Add a touch of water if you need to, but you shouldn’t. Marinate in the fridge for a day, turning once or so during that time. If you only have a few hours, that will work, but you won’t quite get the full wine flavor. Make sure your chicken is defrosted.

When you remove the chicken from the marinade, blot it dry with paper towels. Strain the wine through a fine mesh sieve set over the bowl. Save the vegetables and herbs as well.

Heat two tablespoons of oil and 1 tbsp of butter in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Cook the chicken pieces in a single layer. If you need to cook in batches, that is ok or get two sauté pans going at once. Cook until the chicken is dark brown on one side, about 5 minutes; turn and cook the other side about 5 minutes more. Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate when done. If you are choosing to add bacon, add it into the same pan as the chicken was in for flavor. Here, you can add in the mushrooms. Since I skipped this step, I tossed them in with the other vegetables while I pan seared the chicken after first sautéing them for a few minutes. Add the drained vegetables and herbs from the marinade to a pot and cook until tender, then stir in the vegetables. Add the chicken back into the pot with the strained wine which should about cover the chicken. If it doesn’t, add a little bit of water or more red wine if you have it. Cover and let simmer on medium heat for an hour.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and butter in saucepan and remove your pearl onions from the freezer. When the butter is melted, add in your pearl onions wot salt and cook on medium heat until browned. This took about 12–15 minutes. Pour a bit of water into the saucepan, along with the vinegar, and add a bit more salt and pepper. Then cook for 40 minutes. Then, add them to the pan with the chicken along with any cooking liquid.

In a small bowl, make a slurry with the cocoa powder and about 1/3 cup of warm cooking liquid from the pot. Stir it into the chicken and let it mix in with the sauce — trust me, it’s very good — feel free to add just a little to taste if you’re more comfortable. Stir it back into the sauce with the chicken and cook it for a few more minutes to heat it through.

I used a shallow dish for plating, making sure to get a good amount of the sauce and vegetables in the bowl. Serve this with a side of creamy mashed potatoes and you’ll have it made!

What would I change? The cocoa powder added a hint of sweetness and depth to the wine. I tried it first without it, then with it, and I found I liked it better with the added cocoa. It’s untraditional but if it works, why not? The chicken comes out super tender and juicy, it just melts in your mouth. The wine is there, but not overpowering. The herbs and vegetables blend together very nicely and the pearl onions were divine — seriously, my new favorite onion. This will impress your date and yourself and believe it or not, there is some downtime in between where you can do other things. Just take it one step at a time.

Ciao for now — and Happy Valentines.

Foodie, Francophile and lover of all things European. Sharing recipes as part of my 1 year cooking project.