Monday, July 26, 2010

White Wine Braised Chicken

I’ve been craving roast chicken.  Bone-in, skin-on, luscious chicken.  It is far too hot to turn on my ancient oven in my tiny, non-air-conditioned apartment; however, I thought I might be able to get away with braising, without suffering the consequences of a sleepless night, as heat seeps from the oven for hours.  Plus, braising has some added benefits that roasting lacks.  A braise, by definition, requires a notable amount of liquid.  Wine just happens to be a liquid, and cooking something in wine always makes food better.  And thus, white wine braised chicken was born. 
It was a fairly simple process, which yielded very delicious results.  First, I seasoned some chicken legs with salt and pepper, and sprinkled them with flour (you could embark in a full-on dredging process if you wanted thicker sauce, but I enjoyed the gently viscous sauce that this process produced).  Then I seared the chicken until it was deeply browned, but not cooked through, and set it aside.
I sautéed sliced onions and cremini mushrooms in the remaining chicken-y goodness, followed by some minced garlic and dried thyme.  Next I added a healthy squirt of tomato paste for richness and color, as well as some diced Roma tomatoes (in the middle of July, it would be a sin to use canned tomatoes).  Then I dumped in half a mere half bottle of white wine, and nestled the seared chicken into this lovely concoction.  The whole mixture bubbled away for about a half hour, and the result was tender, moist chicken bathed in a lush sauce.  I served it on a bed of lemon-herb orzo, and I had no complaints.
What’s lemon-herb orzo, you ask?  Simply toss some freshly cooked orzo pasta with fresh lemon juice/zest, extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and you can see for yourself.  
White Wine Braised Chicken

4 chicken legs, split (bone in, skin on!)
1-2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ onion, thinly sliced
6-8 oz. of cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 dried bay leaf
½ bottle of dry white wine
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

-       Preheat a large, heavy non-stick skillet over high heat* with about teaspoon of olive oil (you want it hot!)  In the meantime, liberally season chicken with kosher salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the flour.  When the olive oil is rippling and starting to smoke, add the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer.  Leave undisturbed for at least 5 minutes (it will splatter, be careful).  Flip and allow to brown on the other side, and then set aside on a plate.
-       Reduce heat to medium.  Carefully remove all but about 2 tablespoons of grease from the pan (I use wadded up paper towels).  Add sliced onions, season lightly with S &P, and sauté until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.
-       Add mushrooms, with a little more S & P, and cook until they start to brown and release their liquid, about 5 minutes.
-       Add garlic and thyme.  Cook for about a minute, and add tomato paste.  Stir, and cook for about 1 minute.
-       Add tomatoes, and little more S & P.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until they start to soften.
-       Dump in half a bottle of dry white wine and a bay leaf; stir to combine.
-       Add the chicken back to pan.  Cover the pot with a lid, slightly vented.  Cook for 20-30 minutes (depending on how big the pieces are, and your fear of salmonella), turning chicken occasionally.
-       Add parsley and enjoy. 

*I actually switched between high and medium-high heat during this process, but my stove is awful.  Medium high would probably suffice for a decent stove.