If I called this “The best chicken casserole recipe in the world, ever”, I might get a bit of pushback from some purists who would tell me they have a superior list of ingredients. “What about lardons?” may be a valid question too. “Goodness, no white wine?” would be in the mix also. Some people may have views on my method too. However, I didn’t call it “the best chicken casserole recipe in the world, ever”. No, this is better than that. It’s Chicken Casserole Like Mum Used to Make and it really can’t be improved upon.
Thinking about this recipe, I realised that this is about revitalising childhood memories and bringing deep feelings of comfort and security to the fore. It’s not about making the perfect casserole (though, it comes pretty close). Back in the day, growing up in Monkstown, one of six well loved kids, I well remember Mum dusting the chicken pieces and browning them in the large casserole. The whole house would have a lovely aroma of slowly cooking chicken. Recreating that aroma does a lot more than make the house smell of chicken, it brings me back over 50 years to really happy times. But, enough of the reminiscing and on with the menu.
Ingredients to serve six
- 1 large quality free range chicken
- 500 grammes of good quality sausages (8 or 9)
- 2 onions
- 1 litre of home made chicken stock
- 300 grammes or so of carrotts
- Bunch of thyme
- Handful of curly parsley
- Flour to dust the chicken
- Salt and pepper
Side note on convenience: If you really don’t fancy dismembering a whole chicken, you can take the ‘kitchen wimp’ route and buy chicken pieces. However, you will not have the advantage of a carcass from which to make more quality chicken stock. Your choice.
Start by breaking down the chicken. First remove the wings, discarding the wing tips. Then remove the legs and slice into three.
Remove the backbone by cutting it away with a set of strong kitchen scissors or with a chef’s knife, if you are feeling brave. Reserve the various bits (wing tips, backbone, leg ends etc.) for use in stock making.
Heat the casserole on the stovetop. Add the sausages and brown on all sides and reserve.
Season the flour with the salt and pepper. Dust the chicken in the flour.
In batches, brown the chicken pieces in the sausage fat in the casserole.
Peel and cut the onions into eights and add to the casserole. Turn down the heat and gently cook them until translucent. Add back all the chicken and the sausages. Add the stock and the thyme. Slice the carrots (if you are not using baby carrots like I did). Add them to the dish.
Place the casserole in a 180ºC (350ºF) oven for about an hour and a quarter. Take the casserole out of the oven and gently spoon off any excess fat that has risen to the surface. If the sauce is on the thin side, make a roux by mashing together some flour and butter with the back of a dessert spoon. Stir this in in small amounts until the sauce is thickened to your liking.
Chop and add the handful of parsley, reserving a bit for sprinkling over. At this stage, call your diners together and hopefully, you can create some memories that will endure over decades.
This is not the fanciest dish I have ever created. It is one of the simplest. Yet, it is one that has given me lots of pleasure on so many levels. I believe that most of us have these dishes, from our childhood, that evoke deep memories of warmth and happiness. They are worth recreating because they really are part of who we are. Let me know about yours and hopefully, you will cook up a childhood classic for your family too.