Plan on buying only the choicest skinned and deboned chicken thighs you can find. Then smother them down with fresh country smoked sausage, big chunks of mushrooms, fresh crisp carrots, a mirapoix of seasoning veggies, and a rich, tasty, down-on-the-bayou, Cajun brown gravy. Oh, yeah—this ought to be served over a mound of real slow-cooked grits!
2-3 pounds deboned, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons Frank Davis Poultry Seasoning
Kosher salt and black pepper as desired
3/4 stick unsalted butter + ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh, skinless smoked sausage
3 large yellow onions, sliced in chunks*
2/3 cup celery hearts, coarsely cut
1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, chunked
1 cup fresh carrots, medium dice
1/2 cup chicken stock + ½ cup white wine
3 large bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried sweet basil
½ tablespoon white pepper
¼ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
¼ cup scallions, green tops only, chopped
3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/3 cup water
1 baking pan of cooked of grits, 11X14 size
First off, take the chicken thighs, trim off any remaining traces of fat, wash them thoroughly under cool running water, and pat them dry.
Then season each piece well with both the poultry seasoning and the salt and black pepper.
When this is done, set the pieces aside on the countertop for a while on a sheet of waxed paper or freezer wrap.
Next, add the three-quarters stick of butter and the extra virgin olive oil to a 5-quart, black, cast iron Dutch oven, place the pot over medium heat, and get the oil-butter combination to the point of “just starting to brown.”
Then, one ingredient at a time, drop in the sausage, the onions, the celery, the bell pepper, the mushrooms, and the carrots and stir-fry the mixture until the onions begin caramelizing (turns a dark brown around the edges).
When the seasoning vegetables are cooked, remove them from the Dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set them aside in a strainer placed over a bowl (this allows any excess fats to drain off the mixture). But immediately return the drippings to the pot.
Now, using the same butter and oil you used to caramelize the veggies, drop in and quickly fry the chicken pieces over high heat until they brown beautifully.
Once fully seared, however, remove them from the pot and set them aside too.
At this point, with the pot still over “high heat,” stir in the chicken stock and white wine and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
Notice: What you want to do is “deglaze” the pot (take a spoon and scrape off all the “debris” that stuck to the bottom of the pot as the chicken browned).
Then in alternating layers, evenly add back to the Dutch oven the chicken and the sautéed vegetables, along with the bay leaves, the sweet basil, the white pepper, and the all purpose flour.
When all the ingredients are in the pot reduce the heat and smother everything down until the chicken is tender (or until the meat shows signs of falling apart—which should take roughly an hour or so).
Finally, about 10 minutes before the chicken is ready to serve, remove all the pieces from the pot and place them on a warming platter.
Then bring the “pot gravy” to a boil, toss in the parsley and green onions, and thicken the gravy to your taste by stirring in the 3 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 1/3 cup cold water.
All that’s left to do now is to ladle the sauce over a heaping mound of down-home, Southern, made-from-scratch grits with a couple pieces of chicken flanking it!
Oooowhee, Son. . .it just don’t get no better than that!
Now if you don’t want to serve up grits as an accompaniment, there are always mashed potatoes, Cajun steamed rice, or a platter of buttered broad egg noodles.
Yes—homemade biscuits have to go with that!. And for a nice accompaniment serve up a chilled, tossed spinach and cucumber salad laced with your favorite dressing.
To prepare the chicken “au natural,” prepare it without any of the flour or cornstarch thickeners. Simply allow the pieces to smother slowly and gently in the Dutch oven, rendering out their own light, natural juices.
This is a little healthier and lighter version of the dish.
For an even easier version of this dish, quickly sauté the seasoning vegetables until they caramelize.
Then toss all the remaining ingredients into the Dutch oven (in layers), cover the pot, and slide the pot into a preheated 325-degree oven.
Then about an hour and a half later, take the pot from the oven, remove the cover, and place the chicken pieces on a serving platter.
All that’s left is to bring the gravy to a boil, thicken it with a little cornstarch mixed in cold water, spoon it over the chicken, and eat!!
While it’s cooking, you don’t baste it, you don’t stir it, you don’t even check it! Now that’s easy, y’all.
Depending upon how hearty you want your final gravy, you might have to add a little extra cornstarch and water to increase the thickness. Oh, and just for the record, do nothing extra to the grits other than prepare them according to package directions and season them with a little salt, black pepper, and butter.
One serious recommendation: Use quick-cooking, 5-minute grits. No self-respecting true Southerner would ever think of using instant grits! For two servings, use 1-1/2 cups of water, ½ cup of grits, and about an eighth teaspoon of salt with a dash or two of black pepper. For 4 servings, use 3 cups of water, 1 cup of grits, and about a quarter teaspoon of salt plus a healthy shake of black pepper. Grits served with this chicken dish should be slightly thicker than grits served with eggs for morning breakfast. So cut back on the water a skosh.
*If you’re preparing this dish when Vidalia onions are in season, be sure to opt for Vidalias.