A classic French casserole, this one pot slow cooker dish combines chicken drumsticks, leek and lentils cooked in a white wine and mustard sauce.
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A casserole is not just delicious comfort food – it’s also great for fitting into a busy day. This easy chicken casserole is a great dinner for when you want to start the cooking ahead of time and then have it baking away in the oven while you get on with other things. Then, when you’re ready to serve, lift the lid and inhale the inviting aroma of a classic French casserole, with chicken, bacon, lentils and vegetables cooked in a white wine and mustard sauce. The word casserole, which comes from a French word for pan, applies to both dishes made by cooking meat or vegetables and liquid in in a big dish or pan at a low temperature, until everything is tender and tasty, and also to the pot itself. A casserole pan usually comes with a lid. Cooking with the lid on helps keep in moisture, while cooking with the lid off can create thicker sauces or allow for browning. Many recipes, including this one, do both, to create the perfect end result. This cosy one-pot recipe makes enough for six, so it’s perfect for a larger gathering, or to have dinner and delicious leftovers too. The chicken is wonderfully tender, and you’ll love the rich sauce.
This recipe is perfect for when you want to tick ‘get dinner ready’ off your to do list well in advance. The total cooking time is two hours – most of it hands-off, with the casserole happily baking in the oven while you do other things. (If you’re after a speedy version, try this one-pot stove-top bean and chicken cassoulet, which has heaps of hearty flavour and is ready in less than half an hour).
Start by turning on the oven, so it heats to 150°C while you start cooking. Heat half a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, flameproof, ovenproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken, in batches, until golden brown all over (that will take about five minutes each side). This browning step is one of the keys to the flavour of this lovely dish. Set the chicken aside and heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the onion, leek, bacon and garlic and cook, stirring, for about five minutes or until the onion has softened. Add the wine, bring to the boil and cook for a few minutes, until the wine has reduced by half. Pop the chicken back into the pan, along with the lentils, potato, carrot, stock and mustard, and stir gently, then bring to the boil.
Take the pan off the heat, put the lid on and bake in the pre-heated oven for an hour. This is where the magic happens – long, slow cooking at a low temperature creates juicy tender chicken, and the vegetables take on flavour from the mustard and wine sauce, too. After the hour is up, take off the lid and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
To serve, stir in the crème fraiche and scatter over the tarragon.
Casseroles are wonderfully versatile, and while this dish is made with ingredients you can easily find at the supermarket, you can also make changes to suit what you like, or what you have on hand. Thighs and drumsticks are best for this style of low, slow cooking, but you could also make this with chicken breast fillets. You’ll need to reduce the cooking time. The exact time needed will depend on the size and thickness of the chicken breasts, but we suggest cooking for about 30 minutes, covered, and then checking to see if the chicken is cooked through. If it’s almost done, cook for a short time with the lid off – about 10 minutes – to thicken the sauce slightly.
No white wine? You can easily use chicken stock or even beef stock instead. Vegetable stock will work too, although the flavour may be lighter. You could leave the bacon out if you don’t have it, although we love the extra flavour it adds. If you don’t have Dutch carrots and baby potatoes, you can use standard carrots, peeled and cut in halves lengthways, then cut into 3cm pieces, and peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks. Or use other study vegetables – swedes, turnips and parsnips would all work well. Cut them into 2-3 squares and add at the same part of the recipe. You could also use frozen peas. These require very little cooking, so just stir them in about 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Crème fraiche is a thick cultured cream with a mildly tangy taste; it’s a little less tart than sour cream, so if you want to use sour cream instead, trying adding just a few spoonfuls and check the taste before adding more. You could also use thickened cream, which will give a slightly different flavour, but add the same lovely creaminess. (No cream? Try this easy skillet French-style chicken, a hearty dinner cooked on the stove top, that’s made without cream but has lovely rich flavour.)
You can also change the tarragon to other herbs – a scattering of thyme leaves or chopped parsley would also work well with the flavours in this dish.
This recipe is a great example of how long, slow cooking creates deep, delicious flavour. Another favourite that makes the most of that magic is this French onion beef casserole with garlic-butter potatoes, which features a delicious beef stew topped with a layer of potato, caramelised onion and cheese. Another cosy idea that’s great for cold days is Colin Fassnidge’s oven-baked pork and bean stew, which has a wonderful flavour from garlic, bay leaves, star anise and soy sauce. If you have a slow cooker, try creamy chicken with pumpkin and mushrooms or a hearty veggie and pasta soup, or find more ideas in the slow cooker recipe collection. If you’re after the full flavours of a casserole – and with plenty of delicious sauce, perfect for mopping up with some crusty bread! – but with a shorter cooking time, three that fit the bill perfectly are this French-style seafood stew, this quick tomato and fish casserole and this Mexican-style veggie stew.
Energy: 2734kJ/654 Cals (31%)
Protein: 48g (96%)
Fat: 38g (54%)
Sat fat: 13g (54%)
Carb: 19g (6%)
Sugar: 6g (7%)
Fibre: 7g (23%)
Sodium: 1067mg (53%)