April 27, 2006 2:41 AM | By Adam Roberts | 20 Comments

Allow Me To Astound You With My Kitchen Prowess and the Recipe I Made from my New Favorite Cookbook: Devil's Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks and Dijon Mustard from "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" [Plus: Bread Pudding!]


Take a good long look at that picture. Study it, embrace it. What you are about to see, when you click ahead, are all the steps that went into making this dish--the crusty, golden exterior, the deep resonant sauce below: the braised leeks, the browned chicken, the herbed crumbs. This dish was an undertaking but an undertaking well worth it. Are you ready to proceed? Welcome to the world of extreme effort and extreme payoff. Welcome to the world of Lucques. [Cue dramatic music.]

"Sunday Suppers at Lucques" by Suzanne Goin is a book I quickly passed over when I saw it on the table at Barnes & Noble. Why? Well I'd never heard of Lucques, I'd never heard of Suzanna Goin and the recipes--at first glance--didn't seem so special. I'm what they might call "a slow learner."

After much time had passed, I began to read more about the book. What struck me most about the praise was the praise over the structure: this book was built, unlike other books, around 32 separate menus divided by season. So each menu consists of an appetizer, two entrees and a dessert and you suddenly have in your hands the perfect solution to any dinner party crisis. Suzanne Goin (who, after further research, it ends up is a culinary superstar) goes the full length with this book: not only does she create perfect menus, she tells you all about buying ingredients--how to judge them, when to buy them--and she does so without pretension and lots of enthusiasm. Most of the recipes come with personal anecdotes that make them all the more delightful to read.

So ok, ok, enough book-plugging (and, again, like the plugs below this one this is coming from genuine me--Suzanne Goin is not paying me off! But if she offers me a free dinner at Lucques, I'll change the name of my blog to "I Love Suzanne Goin") let's get to the recipe.

There's no way in the universe that I can type out all the steps, it's too complicated. You'll just have to look at the book at the bookstore or--gasp! shock!--buy it yourself. But here is a photo essay and some basic descriptions of what went into making it.

There was the marinating of chicken thighs in sliced onion, thyme, chopped dried pepper and vermouth;


There was the cleaning, trimming and slicing of leeks:



There was the browning of leeks in olive oil in the saute pan:



There was the placing of the browned leeks in a baking dish:


And then there was the addition--to that same pan--of more oil, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper:


Then wine was added as was stock, it was brought to a boil and poured over the leeks:


Into the oven it went for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, bread crumbs were made:


[I just used normal, basic white bread and it worked perfectly well.]

The leeks came out of the oven:


More shallots were browned in butter with thyme, stock was added and vermouth:


The pan was cleared and the chicken was browned:


A mustard mixture was made with the sauteed shallots, Dijon mustard and fresh tarragon:


The chicken was coated in this mustard mixture, placed atop the leeks and then covered in bread crumbs which--incidentally--had been mixed together with brown butter, parsley and thyme. [Are you getting all this? Or is this like the "Tristam Shandy" of recipes?]

Finally, the whole thing goes into a 375 oven for 40 minutes, then the oven is turned up to 475 and the thighs are cooked another 10 minutes until the breadcrumbs are "golden brown."

And it comes out looking like this:



Exhausting, right?

And here it is on the plate:


The verdict?

My guest and I both agreed it was wonderful.

"It's wonderful!" we both said.

And as if I weren't already dead from cooking, I decided to make Suzanne's recipe for chocolate bread pudding. It seemed easy enough: you butter some bread, put it in a square pan atop 3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate.


Make a mixture of eggs, yolks, milk, cream, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg:


Pour it over the bread and bake in the oven at 350 for 1 hour. It comes out looking like this:


I know, I know it looks amazing but I must confess there were not universal raves.

"It tastes good," said one surprise guest who came with her brother who lives in my building. "But it just tastes like what it is." Meaning you can taste the bread, the butter, the eggs, etc. In fact the eggs were a little scrambled in the end product: they had texture, which wasn't good.

But no matter. I'd conquered the mighty chicken dish and if my bread pudding was a failure, I could still go to my grave a hero. [And, just for the record, the next day--after spending 24 hours in the fridge--the remaining bread pudding tasted wonderful. So there!]

I hope this post has inspired you though I'm afraid I may have frightened you. All these steps for ONE recipe? I know, but sometimes the journey is the destination. And sometimes the destination is the destination too. Here it's both.


for those of you looking for the cookbook on amazon, the author is Suzanne Goin (no "g"). But no matter, great looking dish.

The other thing you can do to get the recipe is go to the *library*. If your library doesn't own the book, they'll either order it or borrow it from another library. No need to buy it if you don't want to.

This looks fabulous! I think I might have to buy that book just to make this dish.

i love this book! she's just so down to earth and the book is so easy to read. she also supports organic and no-chem produce by buying most of the veges at farmer's markets. yay.

I actually said "DAMN!" out loud in my cubicle when I got to that picture of the browned chicken thighs -- they look amazing! Good on you, AG, another triumph...

Adam, do you think this could be made with chicken breasts instead of thighs?

Christine, I would venture that no, you cannot make this recipe with chicken breasts. Reason being, if you brown the white meat and then bake for 50 minutes, you are going to get chicken breasts that are tough and overdone. This treatment only works well with dark meat, which benefits from long cooking times.

Thanks, Shawn...I figured as much.

Adam, would you please post the recipe?

this is an amazing book--great design, great recipe. anyone have any idea what the fruit (?) is that is pictured on the cover? my guess is that it's loquats.....but i'm not sure

Looks like fresh dates to me. (on the cover that is.)

ha-i think you're right--fresh dates!
(loquats have thicker stems.)

"...sometimes the journey is the destination. And sometimes the destination is the destination too". That's deep... I'll have to contemplate over that quote... ;-)

I cooked the version of this recipe that was featured in The New York Times. The taste was wonderful, but everything looked weird. Their version doesn't say exactly when you put what where, and how come the chicken turns up several different times at different locations??? Your version is much clearer. Thank you! I'll try your version. Martha

I just cooked the dish using just your words and photos (I don't have the recipe details) - delicious - like painting by numbers!

I tried it tonight too based on the photos and your instructions. I had to guess the quantities of liquids & spices but I think it came out pretty well! My leeks kept falling apart though when I was browing them. Any ideas on how I can keep them from doing that? Also, how would the recipe suffer if I didn't brown the leeks but just roast them?

this recipe was amazing! i cooked this for a football party I had this weekend and it was easy to make and everyone loved it. It was great because I just got my food from Celebrity Foods and i was wondering what i was going to make at the time...i am glad i made this because it was a big hit!

After seeing your wonderful pictures, I made this following the NYT recipe and it was definitely worth the effort (took pretty much all day). Then I tried making what I'll call the "weeknight" version, which took less than an hour. While nowhere near the flavor complexity of the original, it was still a pretty good approximation. Since the full version was for a dinner party and the weeknight version was for my three young kids, I thought it was worth the time savings. In case others are looking for good creative meals that can be made between soccer practice, homework and 8pm bedtime, here it is:
- Skip the marinating, unless you happen to plan far enough ahead
- Make the leeks the same way as the recipe (make note of the recipe's directions to keep the roots intact, this keeps them from falling apart as you cook them)
- While the leeks are baking, brown the chicken as directed.
- I replaced the mustard sauce with a prepared garlic mustard aioli from Trader Joe's (I know, totally cheating, but it was pretty good)
- Cover with store-bough bread crumbs, combined with the butter and herbs
- Bake as the recipe instructs.
There you have it -- "Weeknight Suppers ala Lucques". On the other hand, I've eaten at Lucques on a weeknight, and I'm pretty sure Susan Goin doesn't cheat like this even then...

Hey Adam, did you use a water bath with the bread pudding at all? If you didn't, that might be why they scrambled. Bread puddings are pretty much custards and can always benefit from a water bath when cooking.

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