Chicken, Chestnut and Pancetta Casserole

I’ve been in dire need of comfort food lately, and comfort food for me usually involves chicken and rice. Last week I made a quick avgolemono soup (chicken pieces simmered in bought stock, eggs and lemons whisked in at the end, then pre cooked rice added) because I’ve had this cold/flu thing that’s been hanging around the place bothering everyone for weeks. I’m on Day 19 here, and it still won’t let go.

Chicken and rice is one of my favourite things. There’s something about the coating of delicious fat you get from chicken thighs, as it glosses each grain of rice, and coats it in slick, warm, soothing slipperiness.

I fully understand why some people don’t like this sensation but to me, it’s liquid gold.  I prefer the dark meat, and the bits underneath the roast chicken, the ones that have been sitting in the herby, buttery fats, those are mine. Cook’s perks.

I was tempted to do egg and lemon soup again tonight, but I wanted something more filling. I hadn’t really eaten much this weekend, due to coughing, so I felt that a casserole would be a good idea, plus it would do me for dinner on Monday too.

Happily I found precooked chestnuts in the cupboard, and I knew I had a large, thick slice of pancetta in the fridge to use up, so that was that.

1 thick slice of pancetta, maybe 10mm thick, cubed
5 x large chicken thighs, skin ON
40-50g cooked chestnuts (mine were vacuum packed)
1 x Knorr or Oxo chicken stock pot
300ml water
1/2 packet microwave brown rice. (Don’t judge me, it’s easier.)

Cook the pancetta on a very low heat until all the fat has rendered, and the meat has crisped. This took a good half an hour. Don’t be tempted to rush it, you want that flavour all to come out.

Once the meat is golden and crisped, take it out of the pan with a slotted spoon, and put to one side.

Put the chicken thighs skin side down into the pancetta fat. Cook them until the skin has browned all over, then turn them over and seal the other side.

Turn them back over so the skin is uppermost, pop the stock pot in the middle of them, add the chestnuts and the pancetta, then the water. The water came up to the middle of the chicken thighs.

Bring to the boil, turn the heat down as low as it will go, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, then uncover and simmer for another 10-15.

Serve over brown rice.

I have to say, hands down, this is one of the nicest things I have made recently. Savoury, smoky, soothing and filling. Go me. I’m really glad I bought a pack of vacuum packed chestnuts on a whim, months back!

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