The beta spouse was whining.

“Your dinners are boring,” he complained. “Why can’t you make new things?”

In my tender 20s, his rant just made me cry. Today, I would have set him straight.

“You know, bub,” I wish I’d said, “you can cook, too.”

Yet I must admit … Mr. Beta spoke the truth: Dinner possibilities are finite.

Techniques, however, can make them seem endless.

Like last night. A thawed chicken promised choruses of “chicken again?” So I cracked open David Lebovitz’s “My Paris Kitchen,” a lovely Christmas gift from Husband 2.0. After spending the holidays reading Lebovitz’s charming recipes and stories of living in France, I was itching to cook something from the book. Plus, a tribute to Paris seemed in order, even if it was a small offering from my Maryland kitchen. (Je Suis Charlie.)

“What’s for dinner?” the little boy asked as I quartered a chicken.

“Chicken!” I said.

He rolled his eyes, then helped me slather Dijon mustard on the poultry pieces. He browned bacon in a pan while I diced an onion and picked fresh thyme leaves. Together, we browned the cut-up chicken and deglazed the pan’s (very) dark bottom with a healthy glug of vermouth.

Served on a bed of asparagus and alongside crispy frites (thank you, David), the chicken was deeply delicious — almost caramel-like in its mustard- and sour cream-laden sauce.

“Oh, yum!” Husband 2.0 exclaimed. “What is this?”

“Poulet,” I said, grabbing onto one of the few French words I know. “Poulet in a pot!”

Everyone ate dinner.

And no one whined.

Chicken with Mustard, or Poulet a la Moutarde (“My Paris Kitchen”)

chicken browned

David Lebovitz’s original recipe calls for a combination of drum sticks and thighs and a healthy dollop of creme fraiche. I only had a 2 1/2-pound chicken and sour cream. No matter … the recipe still worked, and dinner was delicious!

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken legs
  • 1 cup diced bacon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 2-3 tablespoons creme fraiche

chicken mustard2Mix 1/2 cup of the Dijon mustard with the paprika, a few grinds of black pepper and about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Slather the mixture over the chicken.

Brown the bacon in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until it just begins to brown. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

chicken onionRemove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease in the pan and add the diced onion. Saute it for about 5 minutes, just until it becomes translucent. Add the thyme and cook for another minute, then scrape the onion and thyme into a large bowl.

If your pan is dry, add olive oil to glaze, then place the chicken — skin-side down — in the pan. Brown well, then turn the chicken over and brown the other side. DO NOT RUSH THIS STEP. You want the skin to be crispy; otherwise, it gets soggy by the time the dish hits the table. Also, you want the bottom of your pan to be quite dark with chicken bits and drips.

chicken deglazedRemove the browned chicken to the same bowl as the onions and thyme. Pour the white wine into the pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrape all the darkened bits off the bottom. When this is done, add the chicken, onions and bacon to the pan and cover it with a tight-fitting lid. Adjust the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, turning the chicken often.

chicken dishThe chicken is done when you can easily pierce it with a fork and the meat is no longer pink. Move it to a platter and take your pan off the heat. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of Dijon, the grainy mustard and the creme fraiche. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve it immediately.