I was late, late, late to go to our neighbors’ house to watch their kids the other night, but I had a chicken all defrosted and a crisper full of vegetables that needed to be eaten before our next CSA pick-up.
Thank goodness, Molly Stevens’s The Art of Braising has become part of my cooking lexicon, and I knew what I had to do to make a successful braise come together.
So with very little thought, and a great deal of luck that I didn’t lose a fingertip in the chopping, this came together and got into the oven in a little less than half an hour.
Lazy Braised Chicken with Fennel & Potatoes
Preheat oven to 325.
1. In a dutch oven, or other large pot that can go both on the range and into the oven, melt together until nicely bubbling:
- 1 T. butter
- 2 T. olive oil (not extra virgin, which isn’t for cooking)
2. Generously sprinkle:
- fresh ground pepper – all over
- 1 5 – 6 lb. chicken
Add to pan, and brown on all sides by leaving the chicken in place for about 5 minutes per side on medium heat. Don’t wiggle it around too much or you’ll tear the skin and also not get the bronzing that you want.
3. While the chicken is cooking, prep your vegetables.
- 1 head fennel (I use what I call “the cleaver test” to see what’s tender enough to eat. If my cleaver slices easily through the stalks, I’ll cook with them. Otherwise save them for stock or compost them.)
- 2 yellow onions
- 4 potatoes (I had a mix of white and purple)
- 1 medium eggplant (I happened to have some around – the dish will be fine without it)
4. Here’s one of my new favorite time savers for a braise. Take:
- 3 cloves of garlic
and leave their skins on and don’t chop. Put them aside. You’ll see why in a minute.
5. When the chicken is browned on all sides, remove to a plate. Add a little oil if necessary to get a good covering for the bottom of the pan. Add the vegetables, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are getting nice and fragrant and starting to wilt. Add the garlic cloves whole, just tucking them into the vegetables. The peels have lots of flavor, which they’ll transfer to your braise. And when you uncover the cloves when you eat, you can just squeeze out the garlic itself, which will have been mellowed by cooking and absorbed all those great flavors.
- 1/2 c. dry sherry (or dry white wine)
- 1/2 c. tomato sauce
Then bring to a boil and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Place the chicken on top, cover with a lid, and place in the middle of the oven.
7. Cook for about 2 hours, until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the thigh when pierced. Let the chicken sit for 5 – 10 minutes, then carve and serve with scoops of vegetables.