The Normandy region of France, which is North of Paris and lines the English channel, is known for its cream, butter, cheeses, apples, and apple brandy. In this version of Chicken Normandy, or chicken à la normande, we are braising whole chicken legs in apple cider and brandy, and serving them with a sauce made with cooked apples, onions, and cream.
Just the thing for the fall.
We’re using whole chicken legs because the flavor is richer, and the dark meat holds up better to long braising. But you could just as easily use chicken breasts. You can also serve this classic combination of apples, brandy, and cream with other proteins, such as mussels (moules à la normande) or pork.
In this recipe we brown the chicken on the stovetop, then braise the chicken in the oven, and then finish on the stovetop. You can make the whole dish on the stovetop if you wish. In step 6 just simmer the chicken on the stovetop (uncovered if skin-on, covered if using skinless chicken pieces), until cooked through and tender, 15-30 minutes. The reason to do it in the oven is to produce a crispy skin.
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 2 cooking apples (Fuji or Jonagold are perfect for this dish, do NOT use a red delicious), cored and sliced into wedges (you can peel or not)
- Flour for dredging
- 4 whole chicken legs (with thighs)
- 1 large onion, peeled, sliced lengthwise (root to top) into wedges
- 1/2 cup brandy (apple brandy or Calvados if you have it)
- 2 cups apple cider (the cloudy type)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 cup cream
1 Sprinkle salt over the chicken pieces and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.
2 Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large, oven-proof sauté pan over medium heat. Add the apple slices and sauté until they turn a little brown around the edges, turning occasionally. Sprinkle the apple slices with a little salt. Set aside on paper towels to drain.
3 Dredge the chicken in flour and place the pieces in the sauté pan, skin side down. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter. Fry until golden, about 3-5 minutes on medium to medium-high heat on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
4 Add the onions and increase the heat to medium-high. Spread the onion slices out in an even layer to cover the pan. As the onions cook they will release moisture that will help deglaze the pan of the browned bits from the chicken. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until they just being to brown, about 5-8 minutes.
5 Add the brandy to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any remaining browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Let the brandy boil until it has reduced by about half. Add the cider and bring it to a boil.
6 Sprinkle in the thyme. Add just a pinch of salt to the cider. Arrange the chicken legs in the pan so the skin faces up and is not submerged by the cider-brandy mixture. Place in the oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
7 Remove the pan from the oven. (Watch out for the hot handle! I like to run an ice cube over the handle as soon as I remove the pan, to help bring the handle temp down quickly and prevent a bad burn if I forget the handle is hot.) Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside. Place the pan back on a stovetop burner on high heat. Add the apples and boil down the sauce by half.
8 When the sauce reduces to the point where it's a little syrupy, add the cream and turn down the heat. Taste for salt and add some if needed.
To serve, spoon some apples and onions on the plate, top with sauce and a piece of chicken.