Surprise Chicken Thighs

Sometimes I get caught off guard, and I am completely unprepared for what comes out of the kitchen. Sometimes I really have no idea what is going on in there. Tonight was one of those occasions. When my counterpart asked what I thought of chicken and mushrooms over pasta (with a little leftover lamb to round out the two chicken thighs in the house), I assumed I would be getting a fairly workaday dinner - tasty, to be sure, but nothing extravagant. Well, that is never a safe bet at my house.

While I was relaxing in front of the fire, my counterpart was preparing an exceptional pasta dish. I will provide what details I can, but I did not fully realize what he was up to for quite some time. In fact, by the time I started paying attention, he had the chicken thighs cooked, the lamb reheated, the pasta dough resting, and a little stock going. And this was no ordinary stock. He was stocking our little bag of giblets.

We save our giblets from everything - turkey, chicken, the occasional small game. We keep them in a ziplock bag in the freezer, and every few months we make pate. Regular readers know that we have been eating quite a bit of small game over the last few months - squab, rabbit, pheasant, to name a few. Each of these little delicacies has come with an equally delectable packet of giblets. So, we had quite the exotic collection on hand. Gareth simmered these with some of the smaller lamb bones left from our Christmas shoulder roast, some leek, onion, and bay leaves and made an aromatic stock that became the base for the mushroom sauce.

The mushrooms themselves were sauteed in goat butter and marsala. Once cooked, a little flour and the stock were added, along with Gareth's favorite secret ingredients - sriracha and a little Thai fish sauce, both of which add a little depth to the sauce. The sriracha provides a little spicy zing while the fish sauce brings a little umami undertone that is not readily identifiable beyond a rich, savory quality. That, combined with the irony flavor of the gizzard stock and the robust marsala made for a complex layering of flavors that the mushrooms took with grace and panache, holding the sauce while it clung to them and supporting those flavors with just a little hint of earthiness.

Then, Gareth added the crowning touch. He pulled some of the more tender giblets out of the stock pot, minced them up, and gave them a quick saute in more goat butter and marsala. He added this to the sauce, plus just a splash of cream, and my so-called chicken and mushrooms was ready.

And, because I wasn't paying attention, the only shot I got was plated up and on the table. I could tell by the aroma that I had missed out on a quality cooking experience. Then I tasted it, and as the meaty, savory mushrooms and tender meat and hearty pasta mixed in my mouth, I thought of nothing else until my plate was clean.