Braising Season

October 21, 2008

After a sun-saturated Saturday and a Sunday awash with golden and crimson leaves, the yang to fall’s much more lovely yin has arrived in force. Every morning this week, I’ve needed not only a coat but a scarf too. What was once a pleasant waltz from the train to the gym in the morning has become a hunched speed walk into the wind, my head withdrawn turtle-like into my upturned collar. The previously sweeping view from my office—a little sliver of the lake here, a slice of the Sears Tower there—has been socked in by fog and driving rain. I even found myself leaving work on Monday, caught in a dreary rain storm: without an umbrella. All of this is to say: it’s time, friends, to braise.

If there is an upshot to nasty weather and grim skies and a perpetual chill it is ensconcing oneself in a cozy home and sweeping away the elements with a slow cooked, homey meal that sends clouds of roasty smells into the air, while the hot oven inches the room temperature up a blissful degree or two. It’s an intense craving for just this brand of comfort that keeps me coming back to braises all the livelong fall and winter.

I’ve got a dependable stable of braises all stocked up for winter, but it’s small and I’ve decided to use the less-than-lovely fall (pre-winter?) days to audition new additions to the roster. It’s my kitchen version of baseball’s spring training, you could say: I’m scouting the promising recipes from the farm system. I’ve had my eye on a number of prospects: hearty greens, tiny Brussels sprouts, tough cuts of beef, meaty pieces of fish, even some forays into new-to-me realms like lamb shanks.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

This recipe for braised chicken sat at the very top of the heap. The inclusion of leisurely cooked onions—another one of my very favorite cold weather staples—all but guaranteed this recipe’s success. And the onions were indeed spectacular—cooked into a nearly disintegrating, jammy tangle. And the chicken was tender and succulent, stewed in a savory potion of sage-and-bay-laced apple cider.

It’s safe to say this recipe will feature prominently this braising season. In fact, it’s a clear front runner for rookie of the year. For now, that is. Because braising season is still young.

Cider-Braised Chicken
Adapted from Food & Wine

1 tablespoon pure or extra-virgin olive oil
4 whole chicken legs or bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large Spanish onions, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
4 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 1/2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat oil in a large skillet. Season the chicken with salt and black pepper. Add the chicken to the skillet, skin side down, and cook over moderately high heat until the skin is crisp and browned, about 8 minutes. Turn and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet or large platter, skin side up.

Add the onions to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the sage, bay leaves, and crushed red pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and starting to stick to the bottom of the skillet, about 5 minutes. Add the apple cider to the skillet and simmer over moderately high heat until the cider is syrupy, about 25 minutes. Add the vinegar to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and black pepper. Stir stock and parsley into the skillet. Season lightly with salt and black pepper.

Transfer the onion sauce to a large roasting pan. Arrange the chicken in the sauce, skin side up. Set the roasting pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350°. Roast the chicken until cooked through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Set the roasting pan over high heat and boil the sauce until the liquid is reduced, about 10 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and serve with the chicken.


25 Responses to “Braising Season”

  1. deanna Says:

    What a perfect fall dinner…must give this a try! I love love love carmelized onions.

  2. Amy Says:

    Hmm, looks time consuming but totally worth it. Will have to try sometime soon!

  3. Morisseau Says:

    how many skillets are there in this recipe?

  4. whitneyinchicago Says:

    That looks amazing. I don’t think I have ever officially “braised” anything. The weather has been totally awful, then totally beautiful. I also forgot an umbrella (or even a fleece, any type of outer wear) but luckily I borrowed one from the office before heading to school. I was looking forward to the cooler weather (and busting out the Uggs) but I’m not sure if I am totally ready for full on winter.

  5. deanna: Me too! Give this a try.

    Amy: It’s time consuming in terms of the overall time, but the active time is not too bad (especially if you’re doing other things in/near the kitchen).

    Morisseau: There is one skillet and one roasting pan (or I used one dutch oven for the whole thing, rather than a skillet and roasting pan). The original recipe was for 20, but I’ve adjusted it down to 4 servings. I think I cleared up any confusion in the recipe, but if it’s still confusing, please let me know.

    whitney: Noooo, not ready for winter. Did you see the forecast for 40s next week? Painful. But today is nice and bright and sunny at least.

  6. Numbersix Says:

    Quick question–Do you let the chicken rest while cooking the onion? I’m trying to determine why you first set the oven to 400deg F then reduce the temp to 350–is it to give it an initial hit of higher temp when the chicken/onion mixture is put in the oven?

  7. Numbersix: I scratched my head over that too. I let the chicken rest on the counter while cooking the onions (i.e. not in the 400-degree oven, which seemed to me to be a great way to get very dry chicken). So I assume that, yes, the two temperatures were directed in order to achieve an initial high temperature (400) and a gradual decrease (to 350). That’s how I read (and followed) the recipe and it worked for me.

  8. andie Says:

    yum. definitely cataloging this for a future dinner.

  9. jamie Says:

    this looooks mouthwatering good!

  10. gkbloodsugar Says:

    I wish it was braising season all year round. This looks awesome.
    Great colour.

  11. Alex Says:

    Just found your blog this morning, and am gonna make this as soon as I get off work.

    Three cheers for Chi-town!

  12. Morisseau Says:

    thanks for the revision. sounds like the ideal recipe for a dutch oven.

  13. eggsonsunday Says:

    I also adore braises…I was so happy when cooler weather arrived! This looks *fabulous.* I like how you shot the apple cider container. I’ve been so busy lately that I have been really behind on reading all the blogs I usually visit, but I wouldn’t miss yours for the world! 🙂 –Amy

  14. Irene Says:

    Love chicken and caramelized onions. Also, I love the way you describe food, it made my mouth water. 🙂

  15. Alex Says:

    I tried the recipe with a dutch oven (as was suggested) and it came out wonderfully. The chicken was falling off the bone. I put it over rice with some sauteed spinach on the side — it made my night. thanks again for the recipe!

  16. andie: Save it for the perfect rainy, miserable day. Enjoy …

    jamie: Thanks!

    gkbloodsugar: Me too!

    Alex: A fellow Chicagoan! I’m so glad you liked it. And thanks for the second opinion on the dutch oven.

    Morisseau: No problem.

    Amy: Awww, thanks!

    Irene: Thank you!

  17. Melissa Says:

    I’ll probably use my Dutch oven as well. Another one for my list Kristin. I’m starting to jot a whole lot down from you. 🙂

    I adore braising. And like you, I can use a few new ones in my arsenal.

  18. Suzanne R Says:

    Yum- I made this tonight with organic skinless chicken thighs. I made it in a dutch oven, and made a few minor modifications. I used 2 TBS balsamic vinegar, as I didn’t have cider vinegar. I didn’t add the stock until after the chicken was done (approx 45 minutes at 300 degrees) . I put about 1 cup of stock and a little wondra flour and it reduced to a beautiful gravy- I added the parsley at the end an spooned the sauce over the thighs. I served it with couscous and some sauteed red cabbage, shredded carrots and shredded brussels sprouts. It was outstanding-
    I would consider making this for company- just great!

  19. Melissa: A fellow braising fiend! We have quite a bit in common, us two. : )

    Suzanne R: Wow! That sounds like an incredible dinner. I’m so glad you gave this a try. Thanks for reporting back with your variations.

  20. Suzanne R Says:

    Thanks for the great recipe! I have bookmarked your blog and look forward to making some more of your creations-

  21. This just looks spectacular. This is bookmarked. Love the flavour combinations here.

  22. Danielle Says:

    I just- literally, just got done eating and am watching the boyfriend do the dishes- made this chicken, and I cannot tell you enough how absolutely incredible it came out. So succulent, so full of flavor… And reading your blog, I definitely know how much comfort great recipes can bring to a law student, as my boyfriend is a second-year. I told him about the blog and he was just as impressed that you had time to cook while in school- praise from both of us!

  23. Suzanne R: Let me know how they go!

    js: Thanks!

    Danielle: The perfect Sunday night dinner, isn’t it? Tell your boyfriend that I didn’t start the blog until my third year, which makes a world of difference.

  24. casacaudill Says:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was phenomenal! I used thyme instead of sage b/c it’s what I had on hand. I used a Le Crueset pan since I didn’t want to have to deal with multiple pans and it was a perfect one pot meal. I can’t wait to make this for my family when they come visit for Christmas.

  25. Mint Says:

    So I made this last night…and forgot to add the chicken stock.

    Not a problem at all!! Also, I didn’t have time to broil the liquid in the pan, but again, it didn’t matter! This came out pretty awesome! Thanks for the fun recipe, and guiding me through my first broiling experience!

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