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Rach grew up eating this creamy chicken and apple French-style casserole, which is a favorite of her family's.
"This is a classic from Northern France and my mom especially loves it," Rach says. "She made it for us when I was a girl and now I make it for her."
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 pieces bone-in, skin on chicken—quarter the breast, plus 2 thighs and 2 drums
- Salt and pepper
- 6 slices slab or thick meaty bacon or smoked pancetta, cut into lardon or small dice
- 3 large shallots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped (plus more for topping)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- About 3 tablespoons brandy, cognac or Calvados
- One 12-ounce bottle hard cider, OR ½ cup cloudy cider plus 1 cup white wine
- ½ cup chicken bone broth or stock
- ½ cup heavy cream or crème fraîche
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 crisp apples, peeled and sliced into 8 wedges each
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Crusty baguette, warmed in oven, to pass at table
- Fresh parsley, chopped, for topping
Preheat the oven to 375˚F with one rack below center oven.
Heat oil in large Dutch oven or oven-safe dish with lid over medium to medium-high heat. Brown chicken in 2 batches to crisp skin, season with salt and pepper, remove to platter, drain off all but 2 tablespoons chicken fat then add slab bacon or smoked pancetta and render to lightly crisp, remove to platter. Add shallots, celery, garlic, salt and pepper, bay and thyme, soften a couple of minutes. Add flour, stir, then add brandy and let it absorb. Add hard cider or cider and wine and reduce by half to let alcohol cook off, stir and add stock and let thicken a minute. Add chicken and bacon back to pan, cover and roast 20 minutes, uncover and roast 20 more, pull up to stove top and place over heat to simmer, stir in cream and remove bay leaf.
While chicken is in oven, melt butter over medium heat, add apples and sauté 5 to 6 minutes to tender-crisp, then season with salt and nutmeg.
Stir apple into chicken and sauce and serve with crusty baguette and chopped herbs on top.