It’s the most eating-est time of year, but not just because of all the shortbread and turkey dinners and Turtles—some of our favourite December things are the weekend morning we gather around my mom’s dining room table to make crackers for Christmas dinner, the afternoon Christmas carol jam, and the night we invite everyone over to watch Elf and Christmas Vacation, and plunk down a big pot of meatballs, or my grandma’s beef carbonnade, or something easy we can all dig into, in the middle of the table. I love that there are just more people around for dinner more often these days, which means those one-pot meals that are so comforting (and genuinely satisfying to make) are pulled into service for home entertaining of the more casual sort—the ones where everyone brings their own slipper socks.
Smothered chicken is an old, classic recipe. I love the idea of it. You can make it with a whole spatchcocked chicken, like Craig Claiborne wrote about in the New York Times, or you could do chicken pieces, which is I think the most common, or you could just do chicken thighs, which I’m a fan of for their flavour + price point. It’s quicker than stews or braises, but tastes like it has been in the works all afternoon—you brown the chicken, then brown some onions and mushrooms, and make a quick gravy right in the pan with a splash of cream, then return the chicken to the pot, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for another 15 minutes or so, until the chicken is ridiculously tender. Best of all, smothered chicken is an excuse to boil some egg noodles. And even if you didn’t grow up with it, it comes with built-in nostalgia.
So All-Clad Canada sent me a fancy new pan—the Tri-ply Stainless 4QT (!!) Weeknight pan (link) is a beauty, heavy-bottomed and deep, with a nice flat, tight-fitting lid—something I didn’t realize I was missing with my cast iron skillets. It’s completely ideal for this kind of thing—sort of half skillet, half pot, suitable for the way I cook—curries, braises, smothered chicken and anything I want to start on the stovetop and finish in the oven. I’m contemplating making my mincemeat in it this year—I love the thought of making it in a wide, light pan with a broader surface area. A pot of meatballs simmered in sauce will be its next big gig, but first I gave smothered chicken a go, and I might just try the same with turkey drumsticks to bring to my drumstick-loving mother in law who every year thinks maybe this is the year we shouldn’t do a whole turkey.
Here’s to a season full of buttered egg noodles and delicious things to ladle on top.