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Chicken with Apples

This is a simple version of a classic French dish from Normandy -- Poulet Vallee d’Auge. It is perfect for apple-picking season. If you do not have Calvados and do not wish to invest in this apple-based spirit from this region, simply substitute brandy. A long-reach lighter is best for flambé. Remove the pan from stove to ignite, then return it to the heat.

Serves 4-6

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INGREDIENTS
  • 3 apples, Braeburn or Jonagold
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 4 to 6 pieces (1 piece of chicken per serving) bone-in, skin-on chicken breast and dark meat quarters (leg and thigh attached)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 pound cremini or white mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
  • 1 large fresh bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup Calvados or brandy
  • 1/2 cup cloudy cider
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream
PREPARATION

Peel and core apples, and cut each into 8 wedges. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. When butter stops foaming, add apples and season with a little nutmeg. Lightly brown 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, remove from heat and reserve.

Heat oil, a turn of the pan, in heavy pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, when oil begins to ripple, season chicken with salt and pepper, and add to pan. Cook chicken in 2 batches to avoid overcrowding the pan if you are making 6 portions. Brown chicken on both sides and remove to plate. Add 1 tablespoon butter to drippings; when foam subsides, add sliced mushrooms and lightly brown 6-7 minutes. Add shallots, thyme, bay, salt and pepper, and stir a few minutes more. Add chicken back to pan, pour Calvados over chicken and ignite with a long-reach lighter. When flame dies down, add cider and stock, and cover pan. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Remove white meat pieces; continue to simmer the dark meat 12-15 minutes more. Arrange chicken on a platter and stir crème fraiche or cream into sauce. Gently combine apples with sauce and pour over top of the chicken to serve.

Serve with warm bread and steamed green beans alongside.

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