Smothered chicken is one of the signature dishes of the South and as such it’s been subject to a lot of tweeking – some good, some not so good. Recipes you find in the old cookbooks will often just direct you to cut up or spatchcock the bird, season, flour & brown it, cover in water and run in a slow oven till it’s fork tender. No need for broth, the water turns into broth as the chicken cooks and the broth is thickened by the flour on the chicken.
Effete weenies can toss in a bay leaf or some sage and decorate the finished dish with parsley but at the core it’s salt, pepper, bird, and low heat to the finish.
My tweeks are visible below, the most important one being the teaspoon of vinegar you add at the end which adds just a bit of bite to a pretty unctuous dish. I don’t add garlic but the celery and onion are a must for me and the teaspoon of tomato paste gives a little flavor and a beautiful mahogany color. Any poultry seasoning that your family likes will work well in this prep and I add marjoram when I have it because it tastes wonderful. When I run out of seasoning mix I add only it and it’s wonderful. Another sort of French variation on the theme would be to add only tarragon, but that’s on you.
For the prep you need to make sure the pan is fairly hot when you drop the chicken into the bacon grease and if your bacon didn’t produce much grease add a little vegetable oil or butter. Once in the pan leave the chicken alone, letting the skin side form a crust. After a minute or two gently shake the skillet and if the chicken has formed a crust it will release and you can turn it over, cook for a couple then remove. You want that browning because it adds flavor.
Next add your onion and celery and saute for two or three minutes on medium heat until somewhat softened. Next stir in the tomato paste and herbs, then add back the chicken, bacon bits and water. Cover and put in the oven for about half an hour or until it tests as tender.
Arrange the chicken pieces on a platter that you’ve covered with hot rice. Now you will check the sauce for seasoning and add the vinegar. Once it’s perfect pour the gravy over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley or chives and serve to your hungry tribe.
- 2 strips of bacon
- 2 lbs. chicken thighs (about 4) plus flour for dredging
- 1 cup onion, diced
- ½ cup celery, diced
- 1 tsp. tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
- 1 tsp. marjoram
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp. vinegar (any kind)
- White rice
- Cut up bacon and fry in a braising pan or dutch oven until brown, then remove.
- Salt & pepper chicken then dredge in flour.
- Place skin side down in the bacon fat and brown. Turn over & brown on other side then remove.
- Add onion, celery and saute until soft (about 3 minutes).
- Add tomato paste to center of pan & cook for a minute, then add seasonings.
- Place chicken back in pan and cover with water.
- Cover and put in a 325 oven for 30 minutes until fork tender.
- Remove chicken to a platter & check sauce for seasoning. Add vinegar.
- Serve with white rice & garnish with parsley.