Braising is a perfect one-pot, cold weather cooking technique that doesn't take much effort. The resulting meat is fall-off the bone tender. Adding fresh vegetables and herbs completes the dish.
As the braise simmers, the kitchen fills with a warming sweetness, further helping to banish the cold.
Using bacon with it's smoky flavor and good fat content adds even more flavor to the succulent chicken.
A couple of suggestions about braising: add the vegetables after the meat is tender to avoid overcooking and use on-the-bone chicken to gain the sweet advantage that the bones give the broth.
The dish can be made with chicken breast but I prefer the on-the-bone parts of the chicken--thighs, legs or wings. If you are using wings, disjoint them, using the wing tips to make stock.
BACON BRAISED CHICKEN
If you prefer deboned, bite sized pieces, braise the bones along with the chicken pieces and remove the bones before serving.
You can adjust the amount of broth to your taste. Sometimes I like to serve the braise with a lot of broth so it is almost like a country style soup. If I want the braise tossed with pasta, I'll cook down the broth so it becomes a sauce.
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 60 minutes
2 chicken thighs
2 chicken wings, disjointed, tips used to make stock
2 chicken legs
2 bacon strips, finely chopped
1 cup shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, dried, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled, root and top removed, roughly chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, roughly chopped
2 carrots, washed, peeled, ends removed, cut into 1/2" thick rounds or roughly chopped
2 cups broccoli crowns, washed, separated into individual florets
1 cup corn kernels, off the cob
4 cups chicken stock or 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
In a 3-4 quart stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Add the finely chopped bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon bits and drain on a paper towel.
Sauté the chicken pieces in the olive oil and bacon fat until lightly browned on all sides. Remove the chicken and drain on a paper towel.
Pour the accumulated oil into a coffee tin for disposal. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into the pot, heat and season with sea salt and pepper. Sauté garlic, onions and mushrooms until lightly browned, add the parsley, bacon bits and chicken pieces.
Add the 4 cups of stock or a mix of stock and water. Stir well to combine. Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes or until the meat is tender.
Add the carrots and broccoli florets and, if the volume of liquid is too low, 1 cup of water. Continue simmering another 10 minutes uncovered or until the vegetables are tender.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper as needed. Add the pat of sweet butter if desired.
Serve with slices of fresh bread with butter, freshly made pasta or steamed rice.
Instead of Italian parsley, add 1 tablespoon finely chopped, fresh rosemary leaves to the sauté.
Instead of Italian parsley, add 2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped, stems removed to the sauté.
Add a pinch of cayenne to the sauté.
Instead of broccoli florets, use 3 cups spinach leaves, no stems, washed, roughly chopped.
Along with the bacon, add 1 link, Italian sausage, sweet or hot, cut into quarter rounds.
For the braising liquid, use 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups white wine.
David Latt is an Emmy-award winning television producer who turns to cooking to alleviate stress. He shares his experiences with food and his favorite recipes on his blog Men Who Like To Cook.
by Scott R. Kline