There is nothing about life in Rabat that reminds of my favorite holiday – Thanksgiving (of course!). No shelves full of marshmallows, cinnamon, and yams. No turkey stuffing. No apple pie. No leaves changing colors. No pumpkins, and definitely no cranberries. I knew this when we moved, and I thought I was ok with it until I heard a random Christmas carol playing on a re-run of Mad Men and I got all teary eyed. What?!? Thanksgiving is only 2 ½ weeks away? What are we going to do? And Christmas? Don’t even get me started.
Seeing the waterworks, my dear husbandy got into crisis prevention mode and enticed me with weekend getaway options. I’ll admit, it seems absurd to cry when you start talking about a weekend trip to Paris. It might sound extravagant, but Paris is only 2 hours away by plane and there are discount flights daily from Rabat. He started the trip planning research and I went into the kitchen to evoke some Fall flavors into our dinner. Food makes everything better.
With apples in abundance, I decided to incorporate some apples, fennel, carrots, and chicken into our dinner. This was inspired by a recipe from the Food Network Magazine. As always, I modified the recipe and added more vegetables and opted for bone-in skinless thighs rather than skin on thighs, just to make it a little healthier. I also serve this without thickening the sauce with flour and butter but if you prefer a thicker gravy, you can thicken up the sauce with a little butter, flour, and ¼ cup a cream after you take the dish out of the oven. This would really amp this to a luxurious indulgence instead of erring on the side of a healthier weeknight dinner. With a side of mashed potatoes and green beans, the American flavors provided comfort to my holiday homesickness.
CHICKEN WITH APPLES AND ROOT VEGETABLES IN A MUSTARD SAUCE
8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into large chunks
1 large fennel bulb, cut into large chunks
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 cooking apples, cored and cut into chunks (I used 2 Mutsu apples)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper the chicken generously. In a Dutch oven or other oven safe skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, (I usually do this 3-4 pieces at a time), brown the chicken, about 4-5 minutes per side. The key here is don’t flip the chicken until it’s ready. Just put it down, walk away, and flip ONCE. You want a nice golden sear on the chicken. Transfer chicken to a plate. No, it won’t be cooked all the way through, don’t worry.
Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
In the same skillet or Dutch oven, pour off any excessive drippings or add olive oil to give yourself about 2 tablespoons of oil/drippings in the pan. Add the onion, fennel, carrots and apples and cook until just softened about 5 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of black pepper, mustard, broth and thyme.
When the broth comes to a boil, nestle the chicken pieces back into the pan and finish braising the chicken in the oven, covered, for about 20-30 minutes.
If you want to make the sauce into thick and indulgent gravy, transfer the apples, veggies and chicken to a serving platter with a slotted spoon and bring the juices to a simmer on the stove. Combine 1 teaspoon of softened butter with 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour. Whisk in ½ of the flour-butter paste into the sauces to thicken, adding more as needed. Taste for salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and whisk in ¼ cup of cream and pour the sauce over the chicken, apples, and veggies.
Ta-da! The perfect Fall dinner for eating in instead.