I had two organic chicken breasts and decided to cook them with oranges. I pondered a while over what else I might add and remembered that oranges go really well with chicory – I often make a salad with them – and so I reckoned that the flavours were bound to work in my chicken dish – and they did! I had a bunch of fresh thyme that I’d hung in the kitchen a few days ago to dry – so I guess it was semi-dried – and decided to add that too. It’s been a lovely sunny day but quite cold – well, it is the end of October. I thought the dish would be a good transition dish with its bright summery flavours but the warming aspect of braising it to give a gorgeous sauce, which could be mopped up with some smooth and buttery potato mash.
Chicken with Orange, Chicory & Thyme – Serves 2
- 2 chicken breasts
- a little flour seasoned with salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 77g diced pancetta
- 2 shallots, finely sliced
- 1 stick of celery, finely sliced
- 1 large head chicory, quartered lengthwise
- 2 oranges, juice of 1 and the other finely sliced
- 100ml white wine
- 100ml chicken stock
- a good pinch of dried thyme or 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of clingfilm. Carefully bash them out a little – but not too thin. This is to even out the thickness but also to tenderise. Cut each breast in half.
Put the 4 halves of chicken breast in the seasoned flour. Coat well and shake off excess.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Fry the chicken pieces on both sides until nicely browning (I seem to have forgotten to photograph that step!). Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon, reserving the oil in the pan.
Add the pancetta to the pan. Stir for a minute or two to colour evenly, then add the sliced shallots and celery. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until softening and very slightly browning.
Move the onion and pancetta mixture to the side and put in the chicory and allow it to colour slightly, turning it a couple of times, to achieve a slightly caramelised effect. Move to the side and add the orange slices, allowing them to colour slightly, turning once to colour both sides.
Add the wine to the mixture. Stir and mix all together carefully. Once the mixture comes to the boil allow it to bubble for about 3 minutes to burn off the alcohol and concentrate the sauce a bit. Add the stock. Mix carefully. Then add the browned chicken pieces, pushing them between the fruit and vegetables. Bring it all to the boil and then turn down to a simmer, put a lid on the pan, and allow to cook gently for about 20 minutes.
At this stage you can either serve straight away or turn off the heat as I did, and reheat a bit later when you want to eat.
I served it with some buttery mash potatoes, sprinkling over just a little parsley at the end.
It was really delicious. The chicken was tender from fairly quick cooking and the initial browning. The sauce was slightly thickened from the flour which the chicken was tossed in. And then the gorgeous citrusy-sweet orange flavour marries so well with the bitter chicory, creating gorgeous flavours that go brilliantly with the chicken. It was a lovely dish with just a touch of ‘special’ for a Sunday evening’s supper. It would also make a perfect dish for entertaining as it can be prepared a little time ahead of eating and warmed through when it’s time to eat (if you’re making it a few hours in advance, cool and refrigerate).