A hearty dish that stands up to the decades
It may be too soon to talk turkey about post-Thanksgiving poultry recipes, but I’ve got a favorite chicken one I’d like to share.
I was introduced to this dish 35 years ago after my husband and I moved to Kalispell from Ohio where I’d been managing a B. Dalton Bookseller in the small town of Tiffin.
I applied for a job at the Village Book Shop in the former Gateway West Mall here in town. The owner, Marylou Woodcock, hired me and just as quickly invited me over to her place for dinner where she made Chicken Chausseur, or Hunters Chicken, a classic French dish.
Marylou was a savvy businesswoman and her original Lilliputian bookshop was at one time the largest selling bookstore in the state of Montana. Charming, intellectual and good-humored, she was the size of a pin and could easily tuck herself into the shop’s loft office space, which she shared with the store’s floor-to-rafters overstock inventory. She later moved into a more spacious shop in the mall’s new wing and fulfilled her dream of adding a cozy reading area complete with gas fireplace, comfy fireside chairs and a Persian rug.
The Village Book Shop attracted a loyal following of customers and was known regionally for its extensive shelf space devoted to Montana books and authors, as well as its delightful children’s book section.
Marylou was dear friends with White Sulphur Springs native and distinguished writer Ivan Doig and his wife Carol, and whenever Doig came out with a new book he promised Marylou he’d come to the Village Book Shop for a book signing.
Doig was a man of great character depth, with a wry sense of humor and an exquisite writing style. I have several books signed by him; the last he signed for me was his 2003 novel “Prairie Nocturne” while he was in town for yet another book signing, and after I’d had the privilege to interview him for the Inter Lake. Over the years other well-known authors stopped by the Village Book Shop. I remember working by myself one evening when Rick Bass and his wife popped in. He was surprised to see the extent of our fine literature section and, having just moved to the Yaak from Mississippi, offered to sign the copies of his own books he’d found there on the spot.
Back to Chicken Chausseur. I was so impressed with Marylou’s I asked for her recipe and have made it at least a couple of times a year ever since. As with most French cuisine, it’s savory and earthy with plenty of shallots, garlic, onions and mushrooms, all simmered in a lemony, sweet and salty white wine sauce. Since the chicken is fried in butter, it’s not going to make it on any health food list … but who cares?
The recipe follows:
2-plus pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup flour, 2 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, ¼ tsp. lemon thyme
4 Tablespoons butter (can substitute olive oil for all or part)
1 medium sliced onion
6-8 cloves of garlic
1 large shallot
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced thick
2-3 chopped Campari tomatoes
Plenty of chopped Italian parsley
Prepare Wine Sauce and set aside: 1/3 cup dry white wine, 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. sugar
Combine flour, salt, pepper and thyme and dredge chicken.
Melt butter in heavy skillet or cast iron Dutch oven on medium high. Saute chicken until golden brown on all sides, then remove to a plate. Add onion and shallot and sauté, then mushrooms and garlic, until soft. Return chicken to skillet.
Pour sauce over all. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.
Community and Entertainment editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org