Few scents evoke an emotional response like that of bread as it rises to perfection in a hot oven. Taste buds awaken, eyes widen, stomachs rumble,...
When a chill fills the air, few meals up the comfort factor more than a succulent, warming braise…that fork-tender cut of meat bathing in some sort of aromatic bath of stock, or perhaps wine and plenty of aromatic, fresh herbs. These easy dishes may appear to be a lot of work but with just a few key things to remember, braises are as simple as they come. An added bonus is the beautiful aroma that wafts from your stove filling your home with lip smacking goodness.
Given it is that season for resolutions, one of my personal goals is to practice various cooking techniques one by one. I simply love being able to transform a pile of market goodies into a soul satisfying meal. Having learned my ‘technique’ only from my mother or books, I love pouring over articles or recipes that teach me the technique and science behind cooking. And with the colder weather setting in and a quiet lazy afternoon ahead, I set my sights on braising.
Braising only requires a few simple but important steps to create a wondrous meal of mouthwatering goodness. Tough cuts of meat become succulent, tender, fall-off-the-bone delicious. The first important step is making sure you brown your meat VERY WELL. The tendency to quickly turn and flip your meat in the pan is a no-no. Let it sit and sear. The more color the greater the depth of flavor. You will deglaze the pan to add all those yummy brown bits to the broth.
Secondly, choose your braising liquid and up the flavor profile. Here in this Italian inspired braised chicken, I used 2 types of vinegar along with stock and wine to create a tasty bath for my chicken. You could add tomatoes or perhaps raid your liquor cabinet for additional flavors. Change up the herbs to suit your mood.
Then you simply put it in the oven on low heat and sit back and wait for the tender goodness. Braises are fantastic as a make-ahead dish (and even taste better the day after). Pop it in the oven on a lazy Saturday afternoon and serve it up for Sunday dinner. Simply defat any solidified fat on the top, reheat and serve.
Enjoy your pot of soul satisfying, simmering goodness….
Balsamic Braised Chicken with Pancetta and Garlic
• About 2 pounds cipolline onions
• 3 – 4 pounds skin-on bone-in chicken pieces
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 6 ounces pancetta, diced
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
• ¾ cup red wine vinegar
• 1 cup chicken broth, low-sodium
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 3 bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons butter
• Fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the unpeeled onions and cook until tender, about 6 minutes depending on size of the onions. Drain and let cool. Trim and peel. Set aside.
Season the chicken parts with salt and pepper. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or ovenproof heavy pot over medium high heat. Arrange half the chicken in the pot in a single layer and cook, turning once, until nice and brown, 10-15 minutes per batch. Transfer first batch to a plate and repeat until all the remaining chicken is browned.
Pour off fat from the pot, leaving only about 1 tablespoon of fat in the pot. Heat the pot over medium low heat. Add the pancetta to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and pancetta browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta and drain on paper towels.
Add the onions to the same pot and cook until beginning to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in both of the vinegars. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Be sure to scrape up any yummy browned bit from the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 3 minutes until slightly reduced.
Add in the broth, wine and bay leaves. Stir to incorporate. Add in the reserved pancetta and chicken, skin side up, including any accumulated juices from the plate.
Cover the pot snugly with heavy duty foil. Put the lid on top and cook in oven about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the chicken is very tender.
Let rest 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and onions to a serving platter. Discard bay leaves. Skim fat from the cooking liquid. Boil over medium heat until slightly reduced. Stir in the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter parsley on top and serve!
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com.