I love recipes that combine the sweetness of fruit with the richness of moist, dark meat chicken or duck. It’s the perfect balance. I look forward to making Plum-Chicken when ripe plums are in season, and Duck à l’Orange is a wintertime favourite. So when I found a recipe for Chicken with Figs in one of my newest cookbooks, The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone, I knew it was a must try. I was sure my husband would love the combination as well, so I planned a quiet date night for just the two of us, and made my version of Chicken and Figs served on a bed of creamy mashed cauliflower. I paired it with a wine we both fell in love with many years ago on a visit to a charming chalet in the snowy Colorado mountains. Carmel Road Monterey Chardonnay, one of the few Chardonnays I adore. It brought back such vivid memories, and set a very romantic and nostalgic mood for the evening. The leftovers made a quick lunch the next day, tossed with cooked egg noodles and more flat leaf parsley.
Figs were one of the earliest foods ever cultivated by man, and are rumored to be the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. The first Olympic athletes ate figs to increase their stamina, and the winners were adorned with laurels of fig leaves after the competition. The Romans ate figs to extend their youth and to fight the signs of aging. Even today a chemical compound found in figs is used to treat diseases that involve skin pigmentation. Maybe we should be eating more of this super fruit! I love the slight crunch that fig seeds bring to this dish, and the bright sweetness that lightens the velvety rich chicken.
If you know me, you know that I’ve been very hesitant to fully embrace the slow cooker. I just abhor the idea of a machine doing the cooking for me. It feels, somehow, as if I’m being robbed of one of the first pleasures of eating: the process of transforming raw and unrefined ingredients into a cohesive and sensual dish. I really do think of cooking in terms of all the senses, and the slow cooker, in a way, removes the sense of touch from the equation. However, there are a few things that can be magically transformed by the low, dense heat of the slow cooker, and chicken thighs are one of those things. They are so moist and succulent that there’s really not much you can do to ruin them. This dish is so elegant, and slightly exotic. Serve it to your guests and I promise, no one will know it came from the slow cooker.
- 12 boneless, skinless organic chicken thighs, trimmed
- 1 small, sweet onion, sliced thinly
- 1 bay leaf, broken in half
- 1/2 tsp dry thyme
- 1/2 cup aromatic white wine or chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 24 small, dried figs (I like Orchard Choice Mission Figlets)
- chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Mashed Cauliflower
- 1 head of cauliflower, broken into large florets
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
- chopped flat leaf parsley
- Spread the onions evenly over the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the chicken on top and season well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the thyme and bay leaf over top. Mix the wine (or chicken broth), vinegar, and honey and pour over chicken. Cover and cook 5 – 6 hours on low (4 hours on high).
- When the chicken is nearly done, remove the stems from the figs and stir them into the slow cooker. Cover and turn the heat to high. Cook another 45 minutes.
- Remove the chicken and figs to a platter and cover to keep warm. Discard the bay leaf and pour the sauce into a small sauce pan. Boil rapidly to reduce the sauce by one half. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the parsley.
- Bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket. Place the cauliflower in the basket. Cover and steam 10 – 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is very tender. Drain and set aside.
- In the same pot, melt the butter with the milk. Add the garlic powder and salt. Place the cauliflower back in the pot and mash with a hand masher until fine and fluffy, and the milk has been completely incorporated. Stir in a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley.
About our guest…
Rebecca is an avid traveler and home cook who is passionate about natural and authentic ingredients, and has a humble respect for the land and people who pour their lives into cultivating the food we so often take for granted. She loves to prepare authentic food from different cultures for her two children, both of whom have severe food allergies. And, through food, she teaches her children about the world around them – both near and far. She shares her recipes, tips, and travel stories at Pure and Peanut Free. Here she shows that everyone can “Live Beautifully (with food allergies)”. Peanut Free Gourmet | Facebook | Pinterest