Top | An Apple Harvest
Braised Chicken, Norman Style
(recipe, Frank Browning & Sharon Silva)
In the past, restaurateurs in Normandy automatically placed a bottle of hard cider on the table, the same way a carafe of water was — and still is — commonplace elsewhere in France. And, like the water, it never appeared on the bill. Alas, to our dismay, that civilized custom slipped out of fashion more than half a century ago. In tribute to a tradition abandoned too soon, we suggest you open a good dry Norman cider to sip along with this chicken.
- 6 chicken thighs
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or 2 pinches dried sage
- About 1½ cups dry or semisweet hard cider, or as needed
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp. Calvados (optional)
- Fresh sage leaves for garnish
- Rinse the chicken thighs and pat dry. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
- In a heavy enameled casserole or deep frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chicken thighs and brown well on both sides, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and pour in enough cider to cover all but the tops of the thighs. Bring to a simmer, decrease the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until tender and opaque through when pierced with a knife.
- Remove the thighs to a warmed platter and keep warm. Add the cream to the cooking liquid, raise the heat to high, and boil for 4 to 5 minutes, or until rich and creamy. Add the Calvados for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
- Spoon the sauce over the chicken thighs and garnish with the sage leaves. Serve at once.
Add about ¼ cup finely diced Bayonne or other salt-cured ham when you brown the thighs.
About 6 ounces fresh mushrooms such as chanterelle, cremini, or domestic white, sliced and sautéed in butter until tender, can be added with the Calvados.
* For a rich garnish, sauté unpeeled rings of Jonathan or eastern Golden Delicious apples in unsalted butter until golden, then flame with a little Calvados before strewing them over the finished dish.