I’m braisin’ again folks and life is good!
Especially when that nip starts to hit the air…you know, when it becomes crystal clear that those cute, strappy little summer tops you’re still wearing (of course, I live in Alabama and so that helps) are just not going to keep you warm anymore. So up to the attic you go and grab some of the winter clothes you almost forgot you had and realize it’s time to make the summer/winter clothes switch-aroony and your stomach hits the floor because it’s one of those “These are 17 hours of my life I’ll never get back” activities.
Sounds familiar? That was me this past weekend. JUMP TO PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE.
So I rewarded myself by firing up the stove and making this rather snappy braise.
I say snappy because once you snip up some bacon slices (yup, I use kitchen scissors for the job and I no longer hate prepping bacon for recipes) and cook them and brown the chicken, then it’s all passive time as the dish bakes in the oven. Of course, you will need to baste it once or thrice, but you’ll need to come into the kitchen to freshen your drink so it’s not such a bad thing.
And while this is a fairly fast dish to make for the family while dreaded activities keep you tethered to the house for a couple of hours, I invite you to also make it for company. First, it presents itself really well and it smells just as good. Imagine the aroma that will regale your friends and loved ones when they first step through your front door. If that doesn’t say “Welcome! I am so glad you came!” I don’t know what will.
Serve it with a nice salad rich with nuts and cranberries and a nice loaf of crusty bread to sop up the incredibly tasty sauce. Your friends and family will love you even more than they already do. Honest!
But don’t limit yourself to this little jewel, fall and winter scream for all kinds of braises. Here’s 50 suggestions by Saveur, one of the premier food publication. You’re bound to find one that tickles your fancy.
In order to get the chicken skin nice and crispy (which is part of what makes this dish so darn alluring) make sure that the chicken pieces you are using are as dry as can be before you dredge them in flour. I wrap each piece up in a new paper towel and gently rub the surface of both the skin and the exposed meat in an effort to get it all off. Doing this important because it removes any excess moisture and allows the hot oil to do its job and create a beautiful golden and crispy outside. Not doing this inserts that moisture into the oil and robs it of its strength.
This is also, by the way, why you want to cook the chicken in batches. (Two batches should suffice for this recipe.) If the pieces are too close together, the steam that emanates from the inside of the chicken as it cooks has a hard time evaporating. With no space to escape, the steam creates a sort of steam bath. The result is that the chicken begins to boil instead of brown and will not give you that crispy, golden outside.
Worst of all, in both cases, we won’t give the chicken a chance to slightly caramelize on the outside and so we miss out on that additional sweet, savory note it gives to the finished dish.
Ready? Here goes…
making braised chicken with bacon & marsala
Prepare 8-10 big, fat garlic cloves by smashing each one with a large kitchen knife and then removing their skin.
Cut off the tough base and set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 375°. Place 1/2 cup or so of flour on a large flat plate. Rub the chicken gently with paper towels to absorb excess moisture and then place on a serving tray lined with more paper towels to continue absorbing any residual moisture.
See? They look pretty darn dry.
Thoroughly heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and through them in.
Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring, until its fat renders. Remove using a slotted spoon and transfer the bacon bits to a bowl.
Now add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and, working in batches, add chicken.
Cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add just enough olive oil to completely cover the same skillet and lower the heat to medium. Wait a minute for the oil to heat up and then add the smashed garlic.
Add a pinch of sea salt and cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and place in a small bowl.
I learned this technique from The New York Times’ Melissa Clark and have adapted it for this recipe. She calls it ‘the cheater’s” caramelized garlic, and she may be right. But she’s also right when she says that it’s still deliciously caramelized on the outside and nice and soft on the inside, and when you consider that you shave off 50 minutes of cooking (roasting) time, it may just do the trick!
Now add 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of Marsala wine and cook the liquids for 5 minutes so that the alcohol in the wine evaporates.
Return the chicken to the skillet, skin-side up. Sprinkle with half the cooked bacon pieces along with a handful of chopped parsley. Dot with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and cover.
Transfer the skillet to oven and lower the temperature to 350°. Cook, basting every 12 or 13 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and tender, or about 40 minutes.
Remove the lid on the skillet and fire up the broiler on high. Allow the chicken thighs to color a bit further and then immediately remove the pan from the oven. Place chicken on a serving dish and add the remaining bacon and another handful of chopped up parsley and the smashed garlic. Makes 6 servings.