Dijon Chicken Breasts and Braised Leeks

I hadn’t made an out of the ordinary dinner in a while, so I began my search for something special on Wednesday morning for a special Friday night dinner.  I really enjoy Smitten Kitchen, and that is where I found this recipe.  She calls them Devil’s Chicken Thighs, and they looked so incredibly wonderful on her post that I could not resist.  Not including marinating time on the chicken, this recipe took me about 4 hours to complete.  It is a time commitment, but well worth it.  I made the leeks in the afternoon and chilled them until that night when I made the chicken.  I started cooking again at 6:30 that night…we didn’t eat until 8:45!  So, make sure you have time.  

Another time consuming aspect of this dish is the prep.  It takes a while to pluck those little thyme leaves from the stems to have a total of 4 tablespoons.  Peeling a dozen shallots, slicing and chopping them…put on some good cooking music and get to work.


I made scallopped potatoes and steamed asparagus to go with the chicken.  The scallopped potatoes recipe is at the bottom of the post.



Devil’s Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks and Dijon Mustard
Adapted from 
Sunday Suppers at Lucques

4-6 chicken breasts, trimmed of excess skin and fat ( 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de arbol, thinly sliced on the diagonal (I used serranos and removed the seeds from one of them)
3/4 cup dry vermouth
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 extra-large egg
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
Braised leeks (recipe below)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken breasts in a large bowl with the sliced onion, 2 tablespoons thyme, chiles, and 1/4 cup vermouth. Using your hands, toss to coat the chicken well. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.


Place the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Heat large saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons butter, and cook until it’s brown and smells nutty. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the brown butter over the breadcrumbs. Wait 1 minute, and then toss well with the parsley and 1 tablespoon thyme.


Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Return the saute pan to medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining tablespoons butter, and when it foams, add the shallots and remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Saute about 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent.


Add the remaining 1/2 cup vermouth and reduce by half. Transfer to a bowl and let cool a few minutes. Whisk in the mustard, egg, chopped tarragon, and a pinch of black pepper.


Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, to bring it to room temperature. Discard the seasonings, and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. After 15 minutes, season the thighs well on both sides with salt and pepper.

Return the same saute pan to high heat for about 2 minutes. Swirl in the olive oil, and wait 1 minute. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until the skin is a deep golden brown.


Turn the breasts over and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Place the chicken on the braised leeks. Turn off the heat and discard the fat. Add the chicken stock to the pan, and scrape with a wooden spoon to release the crispy bits stuck to the bottom. Pour the chicken stock over the braised leeks.

Toss the chicken thighs in the bowl with the mustard mixture, slathering them completely, and then rearrange them over the braised leeks. Spoon any remaining mustard mixture over the chicken thighs.


Top each thigh with breadcrumbs, patting with your hands to make sure they get nicely coated. (You want lots of mustard mixture and lots of breadcrumbs.) Bake about 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through. To check for doneness, piece the meat near the bone with a paring knife; when ready, the juices from the chicken will run clear.

Turn the oven up to 475°F and cook the chicken thighs another 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.


Serve in the baking dish, or transfer to a large warm platter.

Braised Leeks
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

I made these 5 hours in advance.  I halved the recipe since it was just the 2 of us.  Use the same amount of wine and about 1 cup of chicken broth.

6 large leeks
About 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (though I always skimp and use less)
1 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove any bruised outer layers from the leeks. Trim off to the roots, leaving the root end intact. Trim the tops of the leeks on the diagonal, leaving 2 inches of the green part attached. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise.  Submerge in a large bowl of cold water to clean them. Shake the leeks well to dislodge the dirt stuck inside. Let them sit a few minutes, to allow any grit inside the layers to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat the process until the water is clean. Place the leeks, cut side down, on a towel and pat dry completely.


Turn the leeks over so their cut sides are facing up, and season with 2 teaspoons salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, and wait 1 minute. Place the leeks in the pan, cut side down, being careful not to crowd them.  You will probably need to saute them in batches or in two pans.


Add more olive oil to the pan as needed, for each batch.) Sear them 4 to 5 minutes, until they are golden brown. Season the backs of the leeks with salt and pepper, and turn them over to cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them to a large gratin dish, lining them up, cut sides facing up. (Choose a baking dish or gratin dish that can go from oven to table and that will accommodate all the leeks and chick thighs, or use two smaller dishes.)


Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the shallots are just beginning to color. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add 1 1/2 cups stock, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Pour the liquid over the leeks. The stock should not quite cover them; add more stock if necessary.


Braise in the oven 30 minutes, until the leeks are tender when pierced. 

Simple Scalloped Potatoes with Shallots


  •          1 ½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin
  •          2 shallots, sliced thin
  •          Salt
  •          Pepper
  •          All purpose flour
  •          1 ½ cups 2% milk, heated until just warm
  •          2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  •          ½ to 1 cup shredded cheese (I used an Italian cheese blend)

1.       Preheat oven to 375.

2.       Layer potatoes in bottom of 2 quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper, flour and shallots.  Continue layering in this order until all the potatoes have been used. 

3.       Top final layer with salt, pepper and dots of butter, then pour warm milk over potatoes.

4.       Sprinkle with cheese.

5.       At this point you can bake the potatoes for 1 hour, or refrigerate them to bake later. 

6.       If you choose to bake the potatoes at a later time, bake at the same temperature.  Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for the remaining time.