A Perfect Fall Meal
There's nothing like braised anything when the weather gets cooler and you're not out firing up the grill. Not that braised meals aren't perfect any time of the year. They are, but the fall and winter is when I am looking for something more hearty. Nothing satisfies that hunger more than a seasonal braise.
Braising is a simple technique where you brown a food, add a cooking liquid and let the food simmer in the oven covered until it breaks down and becomes tender. No magic. Just sear and simmer.
It works especially well on tough cuts of meat. We've all heard of pot roast and braised veal shanks or leg of lamb. One of my favorite dishes is braised chicken with whatever herbs and spices I might have lying around. I'm especially fond of braising chicken with leeks or fennel. Check out chicken thighs with sausage and braised fennel.
Please visit my web site for a more detailed explanation on braising, what cuts are best and the science that makes it work.
I adapted this recipe from December issue of Fine Cooking, one of my favorite culinary magazines. I made a few changes but the process is pretty much the same whenever you braise chicken. The difference comes from the ingredients used. At the end of the recipe I have some suggestions for leftovers.
Braised Chicken with Apple Cider, Apples, Pears & Mustard
The recipe calls for using hard cider, which is alcoholic, but I used fresh sweet apple cider because that's what I had and to be honest, I misread the recipe. I'm not sure why they say don't use fresh apple cider, the recipe turned out great.
Braised Chicken with Apples and Pears
- 6 chicken drumsticks
- 6 chicken thighs bone-in, skin on
- salt & pepper for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus a little more
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 apples I used Rome apples
- 2 hard Bartlet pears if too ripe, they will fall apart when cooking
- 2 cups apple cider fresh
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- 3 sprigs fresh marjoram
- ¼ cup half and half
- fresh marjoram chopped for garnishing
- Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry. Season with salt & pepper.
- Peel & core the apples and pears. Slice them into sixths or eights.
- Chop some fresh marjoram for garnish.
- Preheat your oven to 350° F.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter. When hot but not smoking, brown the chicken pieces a few at a time being sure not to crowd the pan with too many pieces or they will steam. Depending on the size of the pan, you may have to do this in batches.
- When all sides are browned, remove the chicken from the pan and transfer it to a plate to reserve. Pour out most of the butter/oil fat from the pan, but leave about 1 tablespoon for browning the apples and pears.
- Over medium-high heat, cook the pears and apples for about 4 minutes. Transfer the pears and apples to another plate to reserve.
- Add the cider to the pan to deglaze. Bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrape any bits of browned chicken from the pan. This stuff is called fond or sucs.
- Add the mustard and using a spoon or whisk, stir the mustard into the cider.
- Return the chicken pieces along with any juices that may have leaked out back to the pan.
- Add the marjoram sprigs, cover and place the pan into the oven on the middle rack.
- I didn’t have a sauté pan big enough for all the chicken pieces so for this step, I transferred everything to my Le Creuset Dutch Oven, one of my favorite pieces of cookware.
- After 10 minutes in the oven, I added the apple and pear slices to the pot and continued braising for another 30 to 40 minutes. The meat was so tender it was about to fall off the bone.
- I carefully removed the chicken and fruit to a plate with a slotted spoon, removed and threw out the marjoram sprigs and started the hardest part to this recipe – defatting. There’s just no easy way to get rid of the fat that comes off the chicken. I’ve tried those defatting gadgets, paper towels but nothing really works so well that it removes the fat and isn’t messy.
- If you have the time and don’t have to serve this up as soon as it’s finished, I highly recommend you transfer the liquid to a small bowl or plastic container let it cool and then place in the refrigerator over night.The next day you’ll have a layer of fat on top that you can easily remove and be left with nothing but incredibly flavored braising liquid. When I made this, I didn’t have the luxury of time so I defatted by hand and made the best of it.
- I transferred the liquid to a saucepan, brought it to a boil and then reduced the heat to medium, added the half and half and continued reducing until the sauce was my desired consistency.I could have made a roux (fat and flour) to thicken the sauce, but I think you get much better flavor by reduction.
- To serve, plate the chicken, top with a little sauce and sprinkle a little of the chopped marjoram on top. This is one delicious meal and even better if you let it sit for a day before serving.