- 1 celery stick
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- fresh thyme sprig
- 1 bottle full-bodied red wine (Shiraz of Zinfandel would be good)
- 600 ml / 1 pint / 2½ cups good chicken stock
- 50 g / 2 oz / ¼ cup butter
- 30 ml /2 tbsp olive oil
- 24 small pickling (pearl) onions
- 115 g / 4 oz piece of bacon or unsmoked pancetta, cut into lardons
- 45 ml / 3 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour
- 2.25 kg / 5 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 45 ml / 3 tbsp cognac
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 15 ml / 1 tbsp tomato puree (paste)
- piece of fresh pork skin, about 15 cm / 6 in square (optional)
- 250 g / 9 oz button (white) mushrooms
- 30 ml / 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- salt and ground black pepper
- croutons, to garnish (optional)
For a really good flavor, complete the casserole up to the end of step 5, then cool and leave in the refrigerator overnight. Next day, skim off the excess fat from the top of the casserole and reheat gently for about 20 minutes before finishing steps 6-11.
- Tie the celery, bay leaf, and thyme together in a bundle, and place in a pan. Pour in the wine and stock and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Melt 15 g / ½ oz / 1 tbsp of the butter with half the olive oil in a heavy frying pan and brown 16 of the onions all over. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onions to a plate.
- Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until browned, then set aside.
- Meanwhile, season 30 ml / 2 tbsp of the flour with salt and pepper. Dust the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour and cook them in the fat remaining in the pan over a medium heat, turning frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown all over.
- Pour in the cognac and carefully set it alight using a long match or taper. When the flames have died down, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- Chop the remaining onions. Add another 15 g / ½ oz / 1 tbsp of the butter to the frying pan and cook the chopped onions with the garlic over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until softened and just turning brown. Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas 5.
- Add the wine and stock mixture, with the herb bundle, and stir in the tomato puree. Lower the heat, then simmer gently, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
- Place the pork skin, if using, rind side down in a flameproof casserole, then add the chicken pieces and bacon or pancetta. Pour in the sauce (with the bundle of herbs). Cover and place in the oven. Reduce the temperature to 160°C / 325°F / Gas 3 immediately and cook for 1½ hours. Add the whole browned onions and cook for a further 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms in another 15 g / ½ oz / 1 tbsp butter and the remaining oil until browned. Set them aside. Mix the remaining butter and flour to make a paste (known in French as beurre manie).
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and onions to a serving plate. Discard the pork skin from the casserole and heat the cooking juices on the hob (stovetop) until simmering. Add the beurre manie, in small lumps, whisking to blend the paste into the sauce as it melts. Continue adding small pieces of paste, allowing each to melt completely before adding the next, until the simmering sauce is thickened to taste. (You may not need to use all the beurre manie).
- Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Garnish with croutons, if using, and serve immediately.