A French-inspired dish, this Chicken with Leek and Apples delivers a ton of flavour. Special enough for entertaining, but it’s also ready in under an hour, so great for an every day meal, as well!
I hope everyone isn’t tired of Fall apples yet, because I would hate for you to miss this dish. It was born out of the necessity to use up some hard cider in my fridge, left-over from my Apple Risotto, but it was such a lovely dish, I just had to share :)
In case you don’t happen to have some hard cider in your fridge though, rest assured, this dish would be equally lovely with a combination of regular apple cider (or juice) and white wine. Or just ditch the alcohol altogether and increase the stock accordingly. There’s still a love flavour from the fresh apple slices. Lots of options, depending on what you have handy.
As for the chicken, I have taken to this method of browning then baking the skin-on/bone-in chicken thighs. It delivers not only the crispiest skin, but it frees me up to make the sauce while the chicken finishes cooking in the oven. When the chicken is ready, I simply bring it together with the sauce for a little simmer and it’s ready to go. It also is a great way to ensure that your chicken is cooked enough, without having to cook the heck out of your sauce to get it there :)
One thing to note, if you want to preserve your lovely crispy skin, make sure not to cover the top of the chicken with sauce and don’t flip it so the skin is under the sauce. It doesn’t need flipping anyway, since it’s cooked already. The short simmer just brings a little of the chicken flavour in to the sauce and vice versa.
Cook’s Notes for Chicken with Leek and Apples
Leeks are a lovely change from onion, but they are hiding a lot of dirt in between their layers. They need a really good rinse before using. I like to break them up with my hands and toss them around well as the water runs over them in a colander.
You only need one apple for this dish, but your choice of apple is still important. Look for one with bright red peel, to make this dish pretty and pick a cooking apple (any type of apple that you would use in a pie), so that it doesn’t turn to mush as it cooks in the sauce.
As noted above, you can play with the liquid items in the sauce to suit. There are 2 cups in total – 1 cup hard cider and 1 cup chicken broth. If you want to go alcohol free, you can just increase the chicken broth to 2 cups. You can replace the hard cider with white wine (so 1 cup wine/1 cup chicken broth). You can do 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup apple cider and then 1 cup chicken stock. Finally, about 1/2 cup regular apple cider to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth would also work.
Chicken with Leek and Apples
- 1 medium-sized cooking apple (I used Cortland)
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 6 skin-on/bone-in chicken thighs
- 1-2 Tbsp cooking oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 leeks
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup hard cider* (or 1/2 cup regular apple cider/1/2 cup white wine)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup heavy (35%) whipping cream (or a lighter cream mixed with 1 tsp. or so of cornstarch)
- Additional salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Prepare the leeks: cut out the white and light green section of the leek, discarding the bottom stem end and the top green part (or reserving for another use). Cut each section in half from top to bottom, then cut in to 1 1/2-inch long pieces. Place in a strainer and rinse well under cold water, tossing to loosen and clean. Set aside to drain.
Quarter and core the apple, then slice in to thin slices. Heat 1 Tbsp. butter in skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and stir to coat. Increase heat slightly and saute until golden. Remove to a plate.
In the same skillet, heat oil over almost medium-high heat. Pat chicken thighs dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in hot skillet, skin side down. Cook until golden (about 8 minutes), then flip and cook the other side until golden. Remove chicken to a baking sheet (foil lined and greased if you like, for easy clean-uand place in to pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes (20 minutes for smaller thighs up to 25 minutes for larger).
Meanwhile, remove all the fat from the skillet and discard. Melt 1 Tbsp. over medium heat. Add prepared leeks and cook, stirring, until starting to brown. Add the 2 Tbsp. of flour and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add 1/2 of the reserved apples, the hard cider, chicken broth and thyme sprigs. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is done.
When chicken is done, remove from oven. Increase heat under sauce to medium-low. Add heavy cream and remaining apples and stir to combine. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning, by adding salt and pepper, as necessary. Add chicken pieces, skin side up, taking care to keep the chicken skin un-covered by sauce, so that it remains crispy. Allow chicken to cook in sauce for a few minutes, just to marry the flavours a bit.
Serve garnished with additional fresh thyme leaves.