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.
You can use any large, lidded casserole (Dutch oven) for this recipe.
If you can't find fresh wild mushrooms you can use dried porcini. Rehydrate first in hot water.