Braised Chicken and Mushroom Ragu
I was just sitting here thinking of the maybe one time I’ve gotten chocolate and flowers on Valentine’s Day. If it takes more than 7 minutes to locate a possible memory like that…. well, it probably hasn’t happened. Ok. No problem. The beat goes on, doesn’t it?
Here’s one thing I can easily locate in my memory mind, the last time I bought myself flowers – the Thursday before last. And the last time I bought myself chocolate – every time I go to the grocery store. So… we good, friends. We gold.
No literally… we are gold.
We’re in the midst of Mardi Gras down in New Orleans and yes, I have gold glitter on my face. Yes, I’m sitting at home typing this with gold glitter on my face. Yes, I will put more glitter on my face before leaving the house for some parades. And the whole cycle will begin again tomorrow, until you’ll find me on the couch with a bowl of pasta on Wednesday. What a time to be alive and in love with New Orleans.
However much glitter you have on your face, my offering is that you make this deeply comforting pasta, share it with a person you love and drink it all in… the love we live, the glitter we wear, the cheese, the extra cheese, and the carbs on the couch.
Here’s whatcha need, friends! This recipe is all about building layers of flavor, so this might seems like a cacophony of ingredients. My best advice is to get someone else in the kitchen with ya, crack a bottle of red wine (you’ll need it for the recipe too) and enjoy the time spent.
• carrot, celery, shallots, and garlic.
• porcini mushrooms, both dried and fresh
• boneless skinless chicken thighs, seasoned well with salt and pepper
• whole canned tomatoes + tomato paste for richness… we wealthy.
• big tube-y pasta
• chicken stock, olive oil, fresh herbs (lots of those), and what else is going on here?…. Red wine and red pepper flakes. Unpack your whole kitchen. We’ll find a place for it here.
This recipe is from one of my favorite books from last year, Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry.
I don’t eat a ton of meat at home but chicken thighs are my absolute go-to. They’re reasonably priced, super versatile, have enough fat to make them easy to work with in a pan, and are super flavorful.
Ok! With that in mind: we’ll heat the pan, we’ll heat the oil, we’ll sear the chicken top side down until it’s golden.
Here’s the trick to searing meat: don’t be afraid of heat and leave the meat alone. Give it four minutes without pushing it around pan. Let it be, let it brown.
Truth is, I only like mushrooms if they’re aggressively cooked. After the chicken is browned, we’ll add a bit more oil to the pan and brown the mushrooms. We want them deeply golden brown. Let the water cook out of the mushrooms and you’ll start to see some browning action.
Let’s talk about that carrot, that celery, that shallot, and that garlic.
These are them – all pulverized in a food processor. YUP!
We want all of that vegetable flavor to cook down and the vegetables to disappear into the sauce so giving them a head start in the food processor is the way to go.
Also in the mix is a tremendous amount of fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and flat leaf parsley!
Hello, it’s our friend red wine.
And our other good friend, chicken stock.
Look at these San Marzano beauties.
If you’re lucky, San Marzano tomatoes come from near Naples, Italy. They’re canned for our American consumption and my goodness, we thank them for it. When you’re shopping for San Marzano tomatoes in the grocery store, look at the can. Does it say it’s a product of Italy? That’s whatcha want.
A good dose of tomato paste to deepen the tomato flavor.
Just look at all these layers!
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. No reason to be shy.
Remember that chicken?
It’s back in the mix. Back in the tomato sauce.
The mixture will simmer for about 30 minutes. The chicken will cook through and soften. The sauce will thicken (though if it gets too thick, add more stock), and everything will marry to the heavens.
We’ve got our parts. Warm, earthy tomato sauce + al dente cooked pasta + leftover pasta water to bring the mixture together + grated cheese and herbs.
No turning back. And why on earth would we want to?
Look at this place of satisfaction!
May this bring you warmth and love and comfort. It’s the kind of bowl to settle in with. The kind of bowl that inspires you to eat slowly and talk deeply and sink into comfort.
My love to you.
- 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms (optional but recommended)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 1 large shallot, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup chopped fat-leaf Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped and quartered
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock, plus more for braising
- One 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 3/4 pound big tube pasta
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- If using the dried mushrooms, place them in a bowl and pour 1 cup of boiling water over them. Let sit for 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid and roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside.
- In a food processor, combine the carrots, celery, shallot, and garlic. Pulse together until minced. Set aside.
- Season the chicken with salt and black pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown undisturbed for 5 minutes, then flip and brown on the other side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the pulverized vegetables to the skillet and cook until they soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and place in a small bowl.
- Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the mushrooms. Cook until softened and browned, about 6 minutes. Add the vegetables back to the pan with the cooked mushrooms and add the red pepper flakes, rosemary, thyme, and half of the parsley and cook together for 2 more minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste.
- Add the red wine and the 1/2 cup of reserved mushroom liquid (if using). Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the liquid has reduced, about 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock, the can of tomatoes and its juice and the chopped rehydrated porcini if you're using them. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add more chicken stock if the sauce begins to dry out.
- While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount (about 2 tablespoons) of sea salt to the water. Add the pasta dn cook until al dente according to the package directions.
- When the sauce has finished it's simmer, use two forks to shred the chicken pieces. Add the pasta directly to the skillet and toss to combine. Add a few splashes of pasta water to thin out the sauce if necessary.
- Place in bowls and top with cheese and more fresh parsley. Enjoy!