As winter recedes unveiling the first shoots of spring, look for lighter dishes to suit the occasion. Since farmers markets won’t runneth over yet, stick with the first vegetables of the season: spring peas. These lovely little orbs should be prepared so their flavor can shine: simply. Lemon zest lends zippy flavor highlights, while leeks and button mushrooms provide a savory foundation to the sprightly white wine sauce. Roasted chicken thighs are always an easy-to-cook, juicy medium on which to paint.
To Pair: Chablis
As spring marks a welcome turn in temperature, look for a lively white to suit the occasion. With this dish, a focused, flinty Chablis will partner nicely with the lemon and peas, while delivering enough weight to balance the roasted chicken.
Bottles to find: Chablis runs the gamut from simple to extraordinary. The key is budget, although compared to Chardonnay from Cote d’Or, Chablis represents good value. Find anything from William Fèvre – this brand makes good, quaffable petit Chablis on up to Premier and Grand Cru wines.
Total time: 1 Hour
8 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or another oil with a high smoke point
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ cups button mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh peas, shelled (about 2 pounds of pods)
1/2 cup dry white wine or Chablis serving with dish (except Grand Cru!)
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch, as needed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, divided in half
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Kosher salt, for seasoning
Fresh ground black pepper, for seasoning
Over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large Dutch oven. Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add to pan in batches of four to sear, skin side down first. Cook thighs until browned on all sides, 12-14 minutes.
While chicken cooks, clean the leeks. Slice in half lengthwise, and gently separate without pulling apart completely, to rinse out dirt with cold water. Discarding the dark green part, slice remaining white and pale green sections into ½ inch half-moons and set aside.
After chicken has browned, remove from Dutch oven with tongs, place on a paper towel skin side up, and set aside. Drain off half the chicken fat. Reduce heat to low and add leeks in a single layer with several good pinches of salt and black pepper. Sauté for 7-8 minutes, then add garlic and mushrooms. Continue sautéeing until leeks and garlic are golden brown, another 6-7 minutes. Add peas and cook until just warmed through and still firm. Scrape out leek-pea mixture and set aside.
To pot, add wine and chicken broth, bringing to a low simmer. Set chicken thighs inside, skin side up. Cover with lid, and cook gently until thighs are cooked through, about 12-13 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and divide across four plates. Cover to keep warm.
To pot, add a pinch of salt and black pepper, to taste. Boil broth until reduced by 1/3. For a thicker sauce, add 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch-water slurry and stir. Lower temperature and add half the lemon zest, lemon juice, leek-pea mixture, and stir 3-4 minutes.
Spoon leek-pea sauce over chicken. Top with remaining lemon zest. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve.