West country chicken casserole with cider, apple and celery
Now we're firmly into autumn why not try this homely, comforting, very English-tasting casserole from my book Meat & Two Veg? Do try and find some proper ‘dirty celery’ with some soil still clinging to the stalks, if you can. It has so much more flavour
2 level tbsp plain flour
4 boneless (but not skinless) chicken breasts
3 tbsp light olive oil
1 large onion (about 175g), peeled, halved and sliced
1 large carrot (about 125g), peeled, cut lengthways and sliced
2-3 sticks of celery, washed, trimmed and sliced
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
175ml ready-made fresh chicken stock
175ml dry cider
1 large or 2 smaller Blenheim or Cox apples (about 150g) peeled and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chives to decorate
Put the flour in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pat the chicken breasts dry with kitchen towel then coat them thoroughly in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.
Heat a large, deep, lidded frying pan or casserole for a couple of minutes over a moderately high heat. Add 1 tbsp of oil then, when that is hot, half the butter. Place the chicken breasts in the pan, skin side downwards and fry for 2-3 minutes until the skin is nicely browned. Turn the breasts over, turn the heat down and fry the other side for about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate, discard the fat in the pan and wipe it clean.
Return the pan to a moderate heat and add the remaining oil and butter. Add the onion, carrot and celery, stir well, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Stir in the thyme and any leftover flour and stir.
Add the chicken stock and cider, bring to the boil and add the sliced apples. Turn the heat down and return the chicken pieces to the pan, spooning the vegetables over them. Replace the lid and cook at a gentle simmer for about 35-40 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally to stop them sticking and turning the chicken breasts over half way through. Add a little extra cider or chicken stock if needed.
Check the seasoning, adding extra salt or pepper to taste. Serve the chicken on warm plates and top with a few scissor-snipped chives. A few buttered new potatoes would be nice.
What to drink: Cider. What else?!
Image © Jason Lowe.
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