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"Burgundian" chicken with onions
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"Burgundian" chicken with onions

Where do recipes come from? Sometimes inspiration is as simple as looking into the refrigerator when you don't want to shop, and putting together something interesting based on what's in the larder.

So it was the other night, a relatively cool evening for an Ohio Valley summer, when a package of chicken thighs and a big, sweet Vidalia onion came together to ignite a new idea: Add a Burgundian dimension to a simple fricassee-style chicken dish by fashioning it with the ingredients of a classic French onion soup. Flesh it out with a ration of soup pasta, add a green salad and crusty bread, and a delicious, easy and relatively light summer dinner was born.

Here's how it went:

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

Four to six chicken thighs
1 large sweet yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Black pepper
Dried red-pepper flakes
1 cup beef broth
4 ounces orzo or similar soup pasta
1 ounce grated Parmigiano Reggiano


1. Slice the onion into fairly thick slices and separate into individual rings. Mince the garlic fine. Trim excess fat from the chicken thighs, and remove the skin if you're being extra-careful about fat. (You may substitute other chicken parts or a combination if you prefer, but to my tastes, thighs have the best flavor.)

2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and a light shake of red-pepper flakes - just enough for a piquant accent, this should not be a fiery dish - and cook until the garlic starts turning light golden.

3. Put in the chicken thighs, salt and pepper and brown them well all over. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate and keep them warm. Put all the onions in the pan and cook until they turn fairly brown, bearing in mind that caramelization is key to the good, rich flavor and color of traditional onion soup. Return the chicken to the pan, add the beef broth and simmer over low heat, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring and turning the chicken occasionally.

4. Add the orzo, cover, and continue simmering over very low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the pasta is just done. Stir once or twice just after starting the pasta, then watch it toward the end to prevent sticking as the orzo absorbs most of the broth. Stir in the grated cheese and season with a little nutmeg (preferably freshly grated from a whole nutmeg). Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.

MATCHING WINE: A red Burgundy or New World Pinot Noir in the earthy style feels right for this dish. I pinch-hit successfully with a quality Beaujolais, Jean-Marc Despres 2000 Fleurie Grille Midi.

Discuss this recipe in our online forum:
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This is The 30 Second Wine Advisor's weekly FoodLetter. To subscribe or unsubscribe, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.

Thursday, July 31, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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