It’s funny the things that inspire us to cook dinner. I was recently scrolling through TikTok (as one does these days) when a video popped up of Emeril Lagasse making a roux. I’ve long been curious about the process of making a true roux; from everything that I’ve read, it’s a long process — you have to stand there, like you’re making risotto, only instead of twenty minutes, it can take up to an hour. But that process of stirring flour into fat and slowly toasting it creates a base for your soup or stew or gumbo or, in this case, chicken sauce piquant, that not only boosts the flavor, but thickens things into a rich and decadent gravy.
What is Chicken Sauce Piquant?
Imagine a stewy braise of fried chicken thigh pieces cooked with all kinds of spices and the holy trinity (celery, onions, peppers), thickened by a roux made with the leftover chicken fat, and then cooked with tomatoes and garlic and chicken broth, and doctored with hot sauce (Crystal, of course). It’s hearty, it’s spicy, and it’s cozy for a cold winter’s night.
I found this recipe in my favorite Cajun cookbook: Donald Link’s Real Cajun. (I’ve shared so many recipes from it on here, I’m waiting for a lawsuit.) On my last trip to New Orleans, I ate at two Link restaurants: Cochon Butcher (their Cubano was outrageous) and Peche (maybe my favorite meal of the trip). I’m a Donald Link obsessive and so, I hope he’ll forgive me if I share another recipe of his.
The Holy Trinity
As you’ll see from this picture, the set-up for this dish is actually pretty simple: in one bowl you toss cut-up chicken thighs with salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, paprika, and flour. In another bowl, you mix together your onion, celery, poblano (the holy trinity, though with a spicier pepper than your normal green pepper), and garlic. Finally, in a third bowl (not pictured), you mix together plum tomatoes, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, thyme, bay leaves, and hot sauce.
You start by browning the chicken in hot oil and that’s a step where you want to take your time. The more golden brown you can get the chicken pieces, the more flavorful your chicken sauce piquant will be. And then comes the moment we’ve all been waiting for.
Once you’ve browned your chicken, you’ll be left with oil and chicken fat at the bottom of the pot. If you don’t see enough, you can add a little more oil (that’s what I did). Then you add the remaining flour from the chicken bowl (and if you need more flour, you can add some too). The goal here is to toast the flour in the oil until you get “a medium-brown, peanut butter-colored roux.” This isn’t like the Emeril video where it all happens very slowly; in this particular case, it should happen in five minutes. That’s probably because you’re starting mid-dish with some flour already toasted in there from the chicken. It’s still very exciting and very fragrant.
Once the trinity goes in, the dish basically becomes a braise. You cook your aromatics until the vegetables are soft, then add the liquids, and finally return the chicken to the pot. That all simmers for 45 minutes until you have a light gravy and the chicken is tender.
Imagine that on your stove just as your friends arrive for dinner. I put a lid on it and just kept there, heat off, and cooked a pot of basmati rice to serve it with; setting the table with all kinds of hot sauce for doctoring.
Needless to say, when I heated it back up and brought it out to the table. it was quite a culinary triumph. A soup, a stew, and a gravy all in one.
So get things together and make a roux this weekend. Your tummy and your friends will thank you.
Chicken Sauce Piquant
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 3 to 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs Donald Link's original recipe calls for a whole 4-pound chicken, boned, and cut into cubes; I think packaged chicken thighs make things a lot easier
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil or lard
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 small poblano chile, seeded and diced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 5 plum tomatoes, diced
- 2 cups canned tomatoes
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoons fresh or dried thyme (if fresh, just the leaves, chopped)
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 dashes of hot sauce
- Steamed rice (for serving)
- Thinly sliced scallions (for garnish)
- Whisk together the salt, peppers, chili powder, and paprika in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and use your hands to toss until evenly coated; set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke slightly. While the oil heats, toss the chicken with flour to coat.
- Shaking off the excess flour from the chicken, transfer the pieces to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides. Fry the chicken in two batches so you don't overcrowd the pan — the chicken should be in one layer, and not on top of each other. Reserve the leftover flour. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a deep plate, leaving the oil in the pan.
- Add the remaining flour to the oil and cook (I added a little more oil and flour at this point, because the leftovers didn't seem like enough — there should be at least 1/2 cup of each). Monitor the heat — you don't want the flour to burn! — and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes to create a medium-brown, peanut butter-colored roux.
- Add the onion, celery, poblano, and garlic and cook 5 minutes more. Add the chicken tomatoes, broth, thyme, bay leaves, and hot sauce. Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a light gravy and the chicken is tender enough to shred with a fork. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt or hot sauce as desired. Serve over rice, garnished with scallions.
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1 thought on “Chicken Sauce Piquant”
Can I just say…I am *so* glad you are writing on here again after so long. It’s been wonderful seeing your posts (and meals!) in my feed.