Many years ago as a teenager, I visited Cape Breton Island with my family. There wasn’t a lot of memorable meals on that trip—after all, what teenager wants to spend their vacation driving around in a van with their family! However, I do remember the stunning scenery and one particular dish.
We stopped for lunch on the Cabot Trail in a tiny French-speaking hamlet. It may have been in the Chéticamp area, but it was certainly on the eastern coast. We were hungry, and there was a single restaurant in town, serving just a very few dishes. One, which both of my parents ordered, was a simple stew of chicken and onions, served with mash potatoes. I remember trying their meal, and wishing I had ordered the same. It was so good that my parents asked the proprietors for the recipe. The ladies explained in broken English that you simply dredged the chicken in a bit of flour, salt, and pepper, browned the chicken, added in chopped onions, and let everything simmer in the oven until the onions have virtually melted to form a “sauce.” This is exactly the sort of meal you can imagine early settlers to the East Coast cooking over a fire in a great big 17th century cooking pot!
Since then, the so-called “Acadian Chicken” has become a part of our family meal repertoire. It may not be pretty, but it is filling, simply, and delicious, and especially good on a cold, Canadian winter’s day. We’ve doctored it over the years to suit our tastes, though the essence is the same. Now that autumn has taken a frozen turn towards winter, I cooked up Acadian chicken recently. It is nice served with mashed potatoes or egg noodles, and a vibrant vegetable.
2-3 lbs of bone-in chicken pieces (or one large chicken, cut into pieces)
10-12 medium onions, sliced
1 tbsp oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
Splash of dry white wine (optional)
1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 sprig fresh thyme)
Salt and pepper
1. Add oil to oven-proof dish or roasting pan. On medium-high heat, brown chicken pieces. Set aside.
2. Turn down heat to medium-low. Add onions to pan. Cook 2-3 minutes. Preheat oven to 325F.
3. Add chicken pieces and stock. Add thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. You can also add some dry white wine at this point.
4. Cook chicken in oven with lid on for 1.5-2 hours. Remove lid and continue cooking for 1 more hour or until chicken is falling off bones and the onions have cooked down to create a sort of sauce. If the chicken is too saucy (or you are impatient, like me), you can thicken the dish with a slurry of chicken stock and flour.
5. Serve with mashed potatoes, a glass of wine, and enjoy!
Note: You could probably adapt this recipe easily to a slow cooker. We have often prepped everything and left it in the oven all afternoon to cook around 300F. It is a perfect meal to “fix and forget about it.”