Cast Iron Pans Cast iron pan owners swear by them for their even dispersal of heat and non stick nature. However, iron is not as happy go lucky as other metals. Initially, the pan must be seasoned with vegetable oil in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for at least an hour. Each time you heat the pan with oil, it will season till it obtains a beautiful dark color. Don't wash off the black patina thinking it is dirty. In fact, never use soap or scour the pan or you will remove the essence of the pan. Dry your iron pan on the stove with medium heat but watch it so it doesn't burn.
Who doesn't love a creamy mushroom sauce. It was one of my favorites from childhood. I've bumped up the flavor profile from just a can of creamy mushroom soup to include roasted garlic, rosemary and, yes, more mushrooms! Hooray! I might have gone overboard with the sauce but who doesn't love extra sauce. I also prefer thighs over breasts but substitute white meat if you prefer. I would cut the breasts in half with a sharp knife if they are large so people have room for the rice, noodles or mashed potatoes that inevitably accompany a saucy dish like this one.
Start by generously salting and peppering both sides of the chicken thighs. I prefer freshly ground peppercorns over store bought ground pepper. It really helps bring out the pepper flavor which I so love. I also have my grinder set at coarse so I can get big chunks. But to each his own. Set the grinder to the coarseness you prefer. I also like to let the salt sit on the meat for at least fifteen minutes to dry brine it a little. You can even leave it in the fridge overnight if you have the patience. However, this is a quick dinner that can be finished in less than an hour so I tend to take the shortcut.
Heat a cast iron or other thick bottomed skillet on medium to medium-high, depending on your range. This part you'll need to workout on your own as different stoves have different BTUs. On my stove, I like somewhere in between the two settings. I also heat my pan up for a good five minutes to make sure it will sear my chicken thighs nicely. Add the oil, wait a minute and place the chicken thighs skin side down. Cook till light brown and flip. The skin will get crispier in the oven so don't sear it too dark.
While the chicken is browning, chop up the onions and celery. I prefer the onions on the larger size and the celery diced but it doesn't really matter. Just do what you like. Slice the mushrooms to any width but I tend to keep them on the thicker side since I like a bite to them. Yes, I slice my own mushrooms. It only takes a few minutes and you get a much fresher product than those pre-sliced mushrooms that have traveled days to get to the store and sat on the shelf another couple of days. I keep the garlic whole but if they are large cloves, I might cut them in half. The rosemary should be chopped finely to release their aromatics better.
Remove the chicken thighs and add the onions, mushrooms, celery, garlic and rosemary. Cook till the onions soften and the mushrooms start to sweat. Stir occasionally so vegetables are cooked evenly. It's important to salt and pepper the vegetables. Adding unseasoned vegetables to seasoned chicken thighs will not make the vegetables magically seasoned. It's better to season each component as you go.
Once the veggies are partially cooked, mix in the soup, half & half and water. Stir it up a bit and then nestle the chicken in the mixture skin side up, careful not to get sauce on the skin. There's nothing I love more than crispy chicken skin! Place the pan in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes and serve with your favorite sides.
Remove excess skin (sometimes butchers get lazy and there's a big flap of skin hanging off). Generously salt and pepper chicken. Let stand 15 minutes if there is time.
Preheat a thick bottomed pan, add the oil and sear the chicken, skin side down, on medium to medium-high till light brown (about 5 minutes). The skin will finish crisping in the oven. Flip and sear the bottom side as well (just a couple minutes).
Remove the chicken. Add the chopped onions, diced celery, sliced mushrooms, whole garlic and minced rosemary to cook till soft (about 5 minutes). Finish cooking in the oven.
Combine All Ingredients
Mix the soup, half & half and water together in the pan with the vegetables. Nestle the thighs in the sauce, careful not to get the skin sauced.
Place the entire pan in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 30 minutes. If using chicken breasts, the cook time should be less or the breasts will dry out.
I love anything with cream of whatever soup. Must put this on my lists of to do's before the weather warms up.