A conflicted tale of two spring chickens

I learned how to cook chicken with rhubarb.

And then I learned how to cook chicken with mushrooms.

I thought you might like to know.

Story Number One: Rhubarb Chicken

The rhubarb chicken was actually rather conflicted, in the sense that we were conflicted as to whether or not we liked it.

Let me rephrase that: I was not conflicted. I thought it a lovely dish, saucy, sweet and sour, with a kick of heat. The kids, however, didn’t like the heat and John took issue with the “fruity flavor.”

“Chicken should not be fruity,” he stated firmly.

“It’s not!” I wailed. “You can’t even see the rhubarb!”

We were clearing the table and arguing when my brother and his wife stopped by.

“Ya’ll be quiet,” I ordered my family, not wanting them to foil my plan, and then turning to my brother and his wife I asked sweetly, encouragingly, “Would you guys like to do a little taste testing for me?”

“I’m already filled up on beans and rice,” my sister-in-law murmured.

“Um, can I have a piece of chicken, too?” my brother stage whispered.

I snatched them some silverware from the drawer. They helped themselves to some plates.

“This is really good,” my sister-in-law said, scooping the sauce into her mouth. “What’s in it?”

You tell me that,” I countered.

“Alcohol?” Yep.

“Lemon?” Nope.

“It’s sweet and sour…hmm, I don’t know. But I like it.” She took seconds.

“It tastes how barbecued chicken ought to taste,” my brother suddenly declared triumphantly.

Huh? We all turned to stare at him, squinched up our eyes (we had to—he was so far out in left field we could hardly see him), and then collectively pronounced his statement hogwash.

“Bah. That’s hogwash.”

But I was vindicated. The chicken is good, so there, John!

Story Number Two: Mushroom Chicken

The mushroom chicken was another one of those conflicted dishes. Mainly because no one in my family likes mushrooms but me.

But if you saw these mushrooms at the Farmer’s Market wouldn’t you have to buy them, too?

A recipe for chicken with morels and shallots in the latest Bon Appetit (which is hugely improved now that they have new leadership) had been sitting in the wings of my brain waiting for a chance to star in the show that is my kitchen, and the mushroom-laden table at the market was just the thing to get me going.

It’s a classic French chicken dish (or so I’ve read)—wine, cream, mushrooms, and chicken.

Basically, just cream of mushroom chicken dish, but with a lot more class.

And you know what? My husband, mushroom hater that he is, said the dish had good flavor but that he didn’t like the texture of the mushrooms. We’re moving up, people! Full-blown sophistication may be in my family’s future!

Now for the recipes.

Rhubarb Smothered Chicken
Adapted from an Emeril Lagasse recipe from Food Network

No one need know there is rhubarb in this recipe (if they are adverse to the idea of fruit with chicken), but it adds a splendidly zingy zip.

The recipe did not say how much Essence to use, so I put in a couple tablespoons. It gave plenty of flavor. (If you are sensitive to heat, go skimpy on the cayenne.)

3 ½ pounds of chicken pieces
2 tablespoons Essence seasoning (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound rhubarb, diced
2 onions, cut in half and then crosswise, thinly
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme, or a couple sprigs of fresh
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon dried parsley, or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped
S & P, to taste

Combine the Essence and flour in a bowl and toss with the chicken pieces.

Heat the oil in a large pan and brown the chicken pieces—about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the rhubarb and onion, some salt and pepper, and saute for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and white wine and stir well, scraping up the little browned bits from the bottom. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, cover loosely, and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. (At first it may seem that there isn’t enough liquid, but as the rhubarb cooks, it releases more and more water. By the end, the dish was quite saucy.) Immediately before serving, add the parsley and taste to correct seasonings. Serve over rice.

Essence Seasoning:
2 ½ tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon thyme
2 teaspoons cayenne

Mix and store in the freezer.

Chicken with Mushrooms
Adapted from the May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit magazine

The original recipe (and how I made it) called for browning the chicken pieces and then simmering them in the sauce. However, I’m not a huge fan of large pieces of meat on my plate (though I did like them in the above recipe) and the resulting sticky fingers and bits of refuse littering the table. Next time I’ll just poach a chicken, debone it, and toss the meat in at the last minute. I’ll lose some of the flavor from browning, but sauteing the shrooms in a bit of bacon grease would remedy that problem.

1 3-4 pound chicken, poached, deboned, and cut into pieces
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil, butter, or bacon grease
1 small onion, minced
1 pound morel mushrooms (I used white oyster), roughly chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup heavy whipping cream
salt and black pepper, to taste

Pour the oil into a pan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add the mushrooms and saute for another 2-5 minutes, or until they have released a bunch of their moisture and are getting soft. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms and onions to a bowl.

Add the wine to the pan, and bring to a boil. When it has reduced by half, add the stock and bring it to a simmer. Add the chicken pieces, the cooked mushrooms and onions, and heat through. Add the whipping cream and bring to a simmer. Taste to correct seasonings and serve over rice or noodles.

This same time, years previous: the bike question, revisited, baked macaroni and cheese


  • Mama Pea

    One question: Will you come live with us and cook for us all summer? Please? Your husband and children can make it on their own. No really, they'll be fine

  • teekaroo

    Husbands can be a work in progress. Mine will finally eat shrimp and sometimes, fish. He is slowly becoming acclimated to spicy dishes, as well as vinegar. He recently ate a pickled beet! And he asked me to add more vinegar to the cucumber salad a few weeks ago. I'll get him eating tomatoes someday…

  • judy

    I doubt I'll find these mushrooms either not at Aldis's that is where I shop sorry the farmers market does not open this early in MN.Looks nummy tho.

  • Margo

    I think chicken is particularly suited to fruity flavors! It's not got a lot of taste on its own, in my opinion.

    Those mushrooms are GORGEOUS. We adore mushrooms here, so I'm bookmarking this, although I'm doubtful I'll find such cool mushrooms at my market.

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