Chicken Jardiniere, (jardiniere is French for “gardener”), is a simple French country stew that uses fresh seasonal vegetables. Its American name, “braised chicken with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and peas,” is more explanatory but definitely not as romantic, hence my choice of the French pronunciation.
The recipe comes from Jacques Pepin, legendary French chef who helped popularize French cooking on PBS along with Julia Child. Unlike Julia, Jacques was born and raised in France. His mother owned a small restaurant and when Jacques was six years old he began working in her kitchen. Today, over 70 years later, he still remembers helping to make his mother’s chicken jardiniere. She used butter to sauté the chicken and she left the skin on. Fortunately for us, Jacques now takes a lighter approach by skinning the chicken pieces and sautéing them in a small amount of oil.
This is not a haute cuisine dish. Rather, it has been the traditional, much beloved dinner fare for generations of French families. It’s simple: everything goes into one big pot and simmers on the stove for less than an hour. The original recipe calls for pancetta, which is Italian bacon. I’ve substituted regular bacon because it’s widely available. If you’ve got a source for pancetta, (lots of supermarket delis carry it) go ahead and use the real thing.
Do not make the mistake I did of dumping in all the vegetables, including the peas, at the same time. The peas should be added just before serving to preserve their bright green color. Take a look at the photo above — you’ll see some bright green peas, added at the end of cooking, and some brownish peas. They’re the ones I couldn’t fish out of the pot.
I left the baby bella mushrooms whole, as Jacques didn’t give instructions to prepare them differently. Halve your mushrooms if they’re on the large side. His recipe uses white wine and water; the next time I make this (tonight, in fact) I’m going to use chicken broth in place of the water. Finally, given the simplicity of its ingredients, be sure to taste and adjust salt and pepper before serving.
Chicken jardiniere is a complete meal, so much so that when Jacques was asked what to serve with it, he replied: “a knife and a fork!”
2 1/2 oz. bacon, cut into thin strips
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 chicken legs, left whole or cut into 2 pieces and skin removed (about 2 1/4 lbs.)
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
12 small red potatoes (about 8 oz.) peeled
8 small baby bella or cremini mushrooms (about 5 oz.) washed
12 small pearl onions (I used frozen)
1 1/4 cups carrots, sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1 fresh thyme sprig (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
1 cup frozen baby peas
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Saute bacon in the oil in a large Dutch oven (the pan should be large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer) over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and sauté them, turning once, for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Sprinkle with the flour, salt and pepper and move the chicken around to distribute the flour evenly. Cook for 1 minute, then add the wine and chicken broth and mix well.
Add the potatoes, mushrooms, onions, carrots, garlic and thyme and mix well. Bring to a full boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes. (The stew can be prepared ahead to this point and reheated to serve.)
Just before serving, add the peas to the stew and cook for 2 minutes.
Serve the stew sprinkled with the chopped parsley.
Serves 4 (one chicken leg and thigh and 1 cup of vegetable mixture)
WW Points per serving: 9