Mustard Chicken with Bacon and Cream

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This is not a recipe for the faint of heart. It’s a recipe you can only get away with in cold weather–VERY cold weather–and even then you may hear that spiky haired fitness guru from the 90s, Susan Powter, in your head screaming: “Stop the insanity!”

Susan Powter has a point: you’re about to bake chicken with cream (almost 2 cups) and bacon (1/2 a pound). The recipe, like the recipe below this, also comes from David Tanis’s “A Platter of Figs” only I substituted chicken for the originally intended protein: rabbit.

It’s not that I’m rabbit-squeamish, it’s just that I’m rabbit-stingy. Meaning: the rabbit at Key Food (yes, the Key Food across the street has rabbit from D’artagnan) cost $33. One shelf away was a 4 lb Bell & Evans chicken for $12. For 1/3rd the price, I could make the same exact recipe with an equally succulent, though slightly less elegant, protein. Since it was a weeknight, I took the road that was cheaper and, to quote Robert Frost, that made all the difference.

Actually, I’m glad I used the chicken because I’m not entirely sure this turned out. Let me explain, beat by beat.

It starts with a marinade: in a bowl, you mix together 1/4 cup strong Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons mustard seeds crushed (optional; I had them on hand), 1 1/2 cups Creme Fraiche OR 1 1/4 cups heavy cream (I used the cream), 8 garlic cloves sliced, and 1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon or pancetta cut into 1/4 inch lardons, 4 bay leaves. You also add 2 Tbs of chopped thyme and 2 Tbs of chopped sage to the bowl. Here’s your marinade:

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Now take your chicken, cut it into 8 pieces, pat it dry with paper towels and season aggressively with salt and pepper. Now plop into the marinade, stir it all around, and let marinade “for an hour or two or overnight in the fridge.”

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After that, you simply bake it. Preheat the oven to 400. Place the chicken and all the marinade into a baking dish:

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And bake for one hour, turning the pieces as they brown. I actually took the breast meat out early–I found, after cutting into it, that it was done after 45 minutes–but the legs and thighs took the full hour. Here it is, out of the oven:

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Your first impression might make you think this was entirely scrumptious and, indeed, the chicken pieces were pretty divine–with subtle flavors of bacon, sage, and mustard permeated throughout. But, look carefully, and you’ll notice the sauce–which David Tanis has you “spoon over each serving”–is entirely separated. A pale, yellow liquid interrupted with flecks of clotted white. Not very pretty or appetizing.

So, we ended up with very tasty chicken but no sauce. I can’t imagine this was because I substituted chicken for rabbit, but maybe it had something to do with substituting cream for cream fraiche?

Still, when you bake chicken with bacon, mustard and cream, how can you complain? You really can’t. As Tanis suggests, I served the finished dish with the roasted parsnips from the previous post:

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A fatty dish like this in winter is like a down comforter for your soul. Tell the Susan Powter in your head to stop her own insanity and treat yourself before it warms up again.

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