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Flambéed Chicken with cider, chestnuts & Brussels sprouts

by Catherine Phipps from Chicken: Over two hundred recipes devoted to one glorious food’ (Ebury)

Photography: Andy Sewell

Proper winter food this, best served with buttery mashed potatoes or perhaps a large pile of crushed and buttery carrots and swede.  Despite their difference in flavour, I often alternate juniper, allspice and paprika, as they seem to work so well individually with the other ingredients.  So it’s up to you whether you want this to have fruity, spiced or smoky aromatics perfuming it.


1 tbsp olive oil

8 skin-on boneless chicken thighs

25ml Calvados or apple brandy

5mm-thick slice of unsalted butter, plus another for the apples

1 onion, thickly sliced

200g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

100g cooked chestnuts (the vacuum-packed sort are fine, though roasted are best)

Large sprig of thyme

2 lightly crushed allspice berries, or 1 tsp crushed juniper berries, or 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

200ml sweetish cider

50ml single cream

2 firm eating apples, cored and cut into wedges

1 tsp Demerara sugar


Heat the olive oil in a casserole or ovenproof frying pan.  Fry the chicken thighs until well browned on both sides.  Drain off any excess fat.  Heat the Calvados or apple brandy in a small saucepan or ladle and ignite.  Pour this over the chicken.  When the brandy has stopped bubbling and has completely boiled off, remove the chicken from the casserole.


Add the butter and, when it is foaming, add the onion and Brussels sprouts.  Cook over quite a heat for several minutes as you want some colour here:  the cut edges of the sprouts should have patches of brown.


Add the chestnuts, thyme and your choice of aromatics, then season with salt and pepper.  Pour over the cider and stir until you have completely deglazed the base of the pan.  Return the chicken to the casserole, skin-side up and cook on the hob until the sauce has reduced and the chicken is cooked through; probably just another 10 minutes.  Add the cream and simmer for a few more minutes until reduced and slightly thickened.


Meanwhile, heat the 1 tbsp of butter in a separate frying pan.  As soon as it is foaming, add the apple wedges.  Sprinkle over the sugar and fry until slightly caramelised on all sides.  Serve with the chicken.


VARIATION: WITH BOURBON, PUMPKIN AND PECANS.  Replace the Calvados with bourbon and the cider with a light and fruity beer.   Increase the onions to two and take out the Brussels sprouts and chestnuts.  Instead, add 200g chopped pumpkin and ¼ small red or savoy cabbage, shredded, and crumble in a few pecans.  You will need to cook this dish for slightly longer:  make sure the pumpkin and cabbage have taken on some good colour then, when braising, check the liquid levels regularly and top up with a little water if necessary.  Replace the apples with peaches if you like (either are good), fried in butter and maple syrup.  You can flavour this with allspice or paprika, but not juniper.

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