Our Valentine's Days have always been fraught with disaster. The first one was great, but after that, it was like a curse descended onto our V-Day plans. One year, our reservations got lost. Another year, the restaurant had a fire in their kitchen and had to close down. There was a time that our car got a flat on the way to our destination, and I think by the fourth year of this, we just gave up on plans. We got the hint.
This year, I'm giving my Valentine some chicken. Because chocolates are nice, but let's get real, I know my husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and a really good dinner always excites him much more than dessert. It sounds unromantic, I know, but you haven't tasted this chicken. It has an amazing flavor. It has mushrooms, it has onions, it has thyme, and it gets to braise in a magical mix of butter, Madeira and Worcestershire sauce until meltingly tender and fragrant with butter, wine and herbs. The skin gets re-crisped under the broiler, and when you cut into it, you'll want to have lots of crusty country bread on hand to sop up the dark, rich sauce, which might just be my favorite part. Oh, and it comes together with about 15 minutes of work and half an hour of braising, during which you and your Valentine can... well, I'll let you figure that part out. I'm just here for the food.
Madeira Chicken with Mushrooms
adapted from Williams-Sonoma
6 chicken thighs, fat cut off
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 lb. wild and/or cultivated mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup Madeira or dry sherry
1 1/2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
Season the chicken generously on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan or saute pan with a lid, melt the butter on med-high heat and brown the chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add the onion into the pan juices and saute until barely softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until the juices are released, about 5 minutes. Stir in the Madeira and Worcestershire sauce.
Return the chicken to the pan, nestle it in between the mushrooms and onions, cover and braise on medium-low heat until cooked throughout, 20-25 minutes. About five minutes before the chicken is done, pre-heat the oven to broil. Once the chicken is done, put the pan into the oven, uncovered, for 5 minutes to re-crisp the skin. Adjust the seasoning in the sauce, stir in chopped thyme and serve immediately over rice or mashed potatoes with lots of bread to sop up the sauce.