Late spring is one of the best times of year to shop for fresh produce in the Paris markets. The abundance of fresh herbs and delicate mushrooms makes a lovely flavor palette perfect for warmer weather. Braised dishes like this one are a given for the cooler months, but when surprise thunderstorms could still dampen an evening, a braise with lighter spring flavors is very welcome. Cooking the rice with the chicken and vegetables means one less pot to clean at the end of the meal, so when that thunderstorm passes, there’s plenty of time left to enjoy the lengthening evening.
The gentle anise flavors of fennel and tarragon are a delightful pairing with tender chicken and subtly woodsy mushrooms. I used girolles, also known as golden chanterelles, but oyster mushrooms would work just as well. Whether you’re shopping at the Paris markets or somewhere closer to home, be on the lookout for fresh mushrooms with a delicate but distinctive aroma.
Chicken with Fennel, Rice and Spring Mushrooms
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large fennel bulb, diced, fronds reserved for garnish
8½ ounces dry white wine (250 ml, or a little over a cup)
8½ ounces water (250 ml, or a little over a cup)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
5–6 sprigs fresh tarragon
8 ounces (225 g) girolles or golden chanterelles
½ cup (95 g) long-grain white rice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Set a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, with just enough oil to coat the bottom, over medium-high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the oil is shimmering, place the chicken thighs in the pot, skin side down. Cook until the skin is deeply browned, then flip the chicken and brown the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate.
2. Pour off any excess fat in the pot, leaving enough to coat the bottom. Reserve the extra fat to cook the mushrooms later. Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown.
3. Pour the wine and water over the softened vegetables. Stir in the mustard and add a generous pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and nestle the meat into the pot along with two or three whole sprigs of tarragon. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about an hour.
4. Meanwhile, clean and slice the mushrooms. Pick the leaves from two or three more tarragon sprigs and chop them finely. Heat some of the reserved chicken fat in a skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring or tossing occasionally, until the mushrooms are evenly cooked. Stir in the chopped tarragon and remove from heat.
5. Using tongs, pull the bones out of the chicken thighs. The meat should be tender enough that it will easily release the bones. Make sure to remove any tough cartilage along with them. Stir in the rice, cover the pot again and simmer for another 15–20 minutes, until the rice is done. The dish should have a saucy, risotto-like consistency. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking a few more minutes, just until heated through. Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with fennel fronds and any remaining tarragon leaves.
Camille Malmquist is an American pastry chef living and working in Paris. In her spare time, she cooks and bakes at home (believe it or not), as well as tackles the difficult task of trying out as many restaurants and bakeries as possible, then she blogs about her food and travel adventures at Croque-Camille