Note: Alton Brown’s original recipe, below, has you cook the pearl onions and mushrooms with the rest of the preparation the day before and store them overnight. I’ve found this makes them turn slightly slimy by the next day, so I skip that step initially and do it while the chicken is simmering in the oven, right before you’re ready to eat. I save the bacon overnight so I can use it to brown the mushrooms.
24 to 30 pearl onions
4 chicken thighs and legs, or 1 (5 to 7-pound) stewing chicken, cut into serving pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces salt pork, slab bacon, or lardon, cubed
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 (750-ml) bottles red wine, preferably pinot noir
2 lespoons tomato paste
1 medium onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
2 medium carrots, quartered
cloves garlic, crushed
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock or broth
Cut off the root end of each pearl onion and make an “x” with your knife in its place. Bring 2 to 3 cups of water to a boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove the onions from the pot, allow them to cool, and then peel. You should be able to slide the onions right out of their skin. Set aside.
Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the chicken pieces, a few at a time, into a large (1 or 2-gallon) sealable plastic bag along with the flour. Shake to coat all of the pieces of the chicken. Remove the chicken from the bag to a metal rack.
Add the 2 tablespoons of water to a large, 12-inch saute pan over medium heat along with the salt pork. Cover and cook until the water is gone, and then continue to cook until the salt pork cubes are golden brown and crispy, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the salt pork from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, using the remaining fat, add the pearl onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until lightly brown, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. Next, brown the chicken pieces on each side until golden brown, working in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the pan. Transfer the chicken into a 7 to 8-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.
Add the mushrooms to the same 12-inch saute pan, adding the 1 tablespoon of butter if needed, and saute until they give up their liquid, approximately 5 minutes. Store the onions, mushrooms and pork in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Pour off any remaining fat and deglaze the pan with approximately 1 cup of the wine. Pour this into the Dutch oven along with the chicken stock, tomato paste, quartered onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Add all of the remaining wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the chicken in the oven and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the chicken is tender. Maintain a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally.
Once the chicken is done, remove it to a heatproof container, cover, and place it in the oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce in a colander and remove the carrots, onion, celery, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Return the sauce to the pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3. Depending on how much liquid you actually began with, this should take 20 to 45 minutes.
Once the sauce has thickened, add the pearl onions, mushrooms, and pork and cook for another 15 minutes or until the heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, remove from the heat, add the chicken and serve. Serve over egg noodles, if desired.
Cook’s Note: If the sauce is not thick enough at the end of reducing, you may add a mixture of equal parts butter and flour kneaded together. Start with 1 tablespoon of each. Whisk this into the sauce for 4 to 5 minutes and repeat, if necessary.