When I was little, the one thing I would go back for seconds (and thirds) at Christmas wasn’t the turkey but my mom’s stuffing. The stuffing was made with rice, chicken livers, pine nuts, herbs and chestnuts – lots and lots of chestnuts. I remember peeling a huge pot of boiled chestnuts – cooked in the pressure cooker – with my mom every Christmas Eve. It was really laborious work but I was amply compensated as I usually ate at least a third of the chestnuts I peeled.
These days the stuffing doesn’t quite hold the same magic (that seems to be the case with a lot of childhood favourites, sadly) but I still adore chestnuts in both sweet and savoury dishes. Luckily they can now be found, year round, already cooked and peeled – though that doesn’t stop me from munching on a few before using. They go especially well with chicken which leads me to this hugely comforting and autumnal one-pot chicken casserole.
This must be one of the easiest and tastiest meals I have ever made. And it really does only require one pot – in this case my new Le Creuset cast iron casserole which has been in daily use recently. You do need to use the best free-range chicken you can find – luckily chicken leg portions tend to be quite reasonably priced. Or you could use a whole chicken and ask the butcher to joint it for you.
The only seasoning I used here is Kikkoman Soy sauce, a little honey, thyme and pepper. The soy sauce really brings out the best in both the chicken and mushrooms – you end up with a herby, very flavourful ‘risotto’. If you happen to have a little brandy you might want to sneak a couple of tablespoons in as well.
- 4 chicken leg portions - preferably free-range
- 4 banana shallots peeled and finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely diced
- 400 g | 14oz chestnut mushrooms stems removed, roughly chopped
- 100 g | 3.5oz wild mushrooms roughly chopped or left whole (I used chanterelles)
- 230 g | 8.1oz white & wild long grain rice mix
- 200 g | 7oz cooked chestnuts roughly chopped
- 500 ml | 2 cups hot chicken stock
- 6 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- a handful fresh thyme sprigs + more to serve
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and freshly ground pepper to season
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and prepare all your vegetables. Combine the soy sauce and honey.
- Heat the casserole over high heat. Once it is hot, lower the temperature to medium and add the oil. Brown the chicken legs on all sides for a few minutes. Set aside.
- Turn the heat to medium-low, add the butter to the casserole and scrape any browned bits of chicken from the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon.
- Toss in the shallots and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until slightly softened.
- Add the rice and stir to coat in the butter. Add the mushrooms and chestnuts and stir to combine. Add the stock and bay leaves; bring to a simmer.
- Position the chicken legs on top of the rice and then drizzle with the honey & soy sauce.
- Sprinkle with some thyme, season with pepper and cover.
- Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes.
- Take the lid off and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the chicken skin gets a little colour. If all the stock has been absorbed then add a splash of water if needed.
- Sprinkle with some more thyme leaves, check the seasoning, and serve.
If you can't find fresh wild mushrooms you can use dried porcini. Rehydrate first in hot water.