I’ll be honest. This recipe came about when I was struggling to figure out what to make for dinner. I scrounged in the fridge and cooked with what I had. But I accidentally came up with something that mimics flavors used in Europe before the European conquest of the Americas.
Before trade between the Americas and Europe, many of the fruits and vegetables we think of as key to European cuisines weren’t available. No potatoes, no peppers, no tomatoes. Cooks prior to that era relied on a different set of spices and flavors. This dish utilizes some of that. This is essentially an agrodolce – a traditional Mediterranean sweet and sour. In this case, the sour element is red wine, and the sweetness is imparted by the addition of dried fruit – figs. Mushrooms add depth, a salty funky brightness from the olives, and garlic brings in a savory note. I add just a pinch of five spice powder (standing in for the more traditional quatre epices or similar blends) which is sort of a je ne sais quoi spice element. You don’t really taste the spice in the final dish, but you would notice its absence. Completely accidentally, it’s a well-rounded dish
Chicken thighs cooked with red wine, olives, mushrooms, figs, and garlicCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
An easy, flavorful braised chicken.
4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
8 oz white button mushrooms
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups red wine
1 head garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1/8th tsp five spice powder
12-16 firm green olives
8 dried figs
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Peel, and trim the garlic (or use 10-12 cloves pre-peeled)
- Clean and slice the mushrooms.
- Slice the dried figs in half lengthwise.
- Preheat an oven proof pan over medium heat.
- Season the chicken thighs with the salt and cook, skin side down at first, over medium heat until the skin is crisped and most of the fat is rendered.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- Drain all but 1 tbsp of the fat.
- Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan with a pinch of salt and cook until softened.
- Add the five spice powder, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves to the mushrooms and cook 1 minute.
- Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up.
- Add the stock and red wine.
- Arrange the figs, olives, and garlic closed around the pan making sure they’re between the chicken pieces and will be fully submerged once cooking.
- Bring the pan to a simmer and transfer to the oven to cook uncovered until the chicken is nearly falling from the bone – 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the thighs.
- Serve with mashed potatoes, polenta, or other starchy sides.