Chicken Braised with Bacon and Apple Cider

Warm up with this elegant but easy chicken stew. Our dish was inspired by classic French coq au vin, but the simple preparation (it can be finished in a slow cooker!) is decidedly American and local apple cider adds a distinct Virginia flavor. Serves 4.

Ingredients

8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound good quality, thickly-sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 cups dry red wine
1 sprig fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes with their juices
1 cup hand-pressed local apple cider

Instructions
  1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon in a large deep pot over medium-high heat until the fat begins to render (melt). Add the seasoned chicken and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes a side.  The pot should be hot enough to brown both the bacon and the chicken but not burn them.  Remove the chicken and bacon and set aside.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium.  Quickly add the onion, celery and carrot.  Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Turn up the heat to brown the vegetables slightly.
  4. Return the chicken and bacon to the pot.  Add the red wine, thyme and bay leaf and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, apple cider, chicken and bacon.  Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until the chicken is completely tender and falling off the bone, about 1 1/4 hours.  Do not let it boil rapidly.  Serve piping hot with wide egg noodles, mashed potatoes or polenta.

Slow cooker tip: Transfer the stew to a slow cooker after Step 4.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer in the slow cooker until the chicken is completely tender and falling off the bone, about 3 to 4 hours.

Make ahead tip: This stew is actually better the next day.  It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and re-heated in the oven for 20 minutes at 350°F.

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Willowsford Conservancy

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