You should see my freezer. Wait, no, I definitely do not want you to see the inside of my freezer.
Something I find really funny about having a blog is that people assume if I can make what goes on top of the 3 foot wide table where I take my pictures look nice, I must have this lovely, well-organized kitchen. Hmm…let’s see…haven’t had doors on my cupboards in going on a month, I may or may not have a shelf that is covered in honey and dotted with quinoa and various dried legumes, and my ever-exploding freezer looks like some sort of disassembled chicken graveyard. A backbone here, roasted carcass in a ziplock bag there, and a few livers in a plastic container over to the side.
But yesterday, I got a little spare time to spend in the kitchen and felt like I should accomplish more than just dinner. I couldn’t quite bring myself to scrape up the honey-quinoa-lentil disaster though. And the cupboard doors? Eh. I could deal with the chicken.
The backbone and carcasses were easy (chicken stock), but what to do with those couple of livers? They were thrown in there with the intent of making pâté, but I was hoping to come up with a full dinner, not just a tiny batch of pâté. So instead of hoarding chicken livers until I had enough for a proper sized batch, I borrowed some of the flavors I would have used and made braised chicken legs with prunes, brandy, liver, and Dijon mustard. Success! A delicious dinner plus a little space carved out in the freezer.
Hungry? Good, me too. Let’s get cooking. You’ll need a few chicken legs. I used whole legs but you could use just thighs or thighs and drumsticks if you want to speed up the cooking time. What else? Prunes, a giant shallot (or 2 normal-sized ones), a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary, bay leaves, Dijon mustard, and chicken livers. Oh my goodness, I almost forgot the brandy…we wouldn’t want that.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then pop it in hot pan to crisp up the skin. A big cast-iron skillet just can’t be beat when you’re making a meal like this.
Pull the chicken out and start building the braise. Sauté the shallot, add a handful of prunes and a splash of brandy.
Nestle the chicken legs back into the pan, tuck in a few leaves and sprigs, add some chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and braise until the meat is tender and your tummy is rumbling because your house smells absolutely incredible.
Once the chicken is ready, we’ll take it out and put it on a platter while we finish the sauce. We’re going to puree the livers with mustard and then whisk the mixture into the pan juices to thicken them into a sauce. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to incorporate them until went poking around and found this technique used in a recipe for rabbit with prunes. If all this liver talk is making you want to run the other way, don’t feel like you have to use them…or tell anyone the secret ingredient that made their dinner so rich and flavorful.
I’ll admit–it looks pretty unappealing for a minute, but if you keep whisking, you’ll be rewarded with a smooth, luscious gravy.
Spoon the sauce over the chicken and prunes and get in there while the getting is good. And oh boy, is it good.
- 4 whole Chicken Legs, trimmed of excess skin and fat and patted dry
- ½ Tbsp. Butter
- ½ Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1 large Shallot, thinly sliced
- ½ c. Prunes
- ¼ c. Brandy
- a few sprigs fresh Thyme
- 2 dried Bay Leaves
- about 1 ½ c. Chicken Stock (homemade or low-sodium)
- 2 Chicken Livers, deveined
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Season the chicken legs on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat butter and olive oil together in a large ovenproof skillet (I used cast-iron) over medium high heat. Sear the chicken, skin-side down until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Flip and sear on the meat side another 2 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Drain most of the fat from the pan, leaving just a thin coating. Add the shallot, season with a pinch of salt, and sauté until the slices begin to wilt. Add the prunes and the brandy. Allow the brandy to boil off, about 1 minute.
- Add the chicken legs back to the pan, skin-side up, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Add chicken stock to cover most of the meat, leaving the skin exposed, and tuck in the thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Bring the stock up to a simmer, then transfer the pan to the oven to finish. Braise in the oven until the chicken is very tender and cooked through, about 40 minutes.
- When the chicken has finished cooking, transfer the chicken legs and prunes to a warm platter and loosely tent with foil. Remove the thyme stems and bay leaves from the pan juices and discard. Using a blender or mini food processor, puree the livers with the Dijon mustard. Add the liver and mustard mixture to the pan juices. Whisk over medium heat until smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 8-10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and prunes and serve.