Balsamic Braised Chicken Thighs
This is one of those meals that is restorative for me, both from the fragrance during the braise and the memories of the time during which I developed the meal. After a long recovery from surgery years back, I was finally well enough, both to cook and to enjoy eating again. While Tom was at work, I made use of the mishap ingredients already hanging out in my kitchen (yes, the endive was there also, two weeks old and not fit enough to go naked, which is why it got sugar-coated). I have this recipe written in my journal (volume 5), dated May of 2006. I can uncover it’s whereabouts quickly by flipping through pages and scanning for a date nearing that time. This continues to be a favorite chicken dish for my husband Tom, who truth be told, is much more of a breast man (so still not sure what he is doing with me).
The vinegar is nicely offset by its’ sweet counterparts, making for a well balanced mix. The distinct essence of the Balinese long peppers is just subtle enough to add a unique flavor without overpowering the other players.
I like to leave my potatoes whole, but you could just as easily cut them in half depending on their size. A mix of colors might be nice here as well, such as purple and red, to add more visual interest. This goes together quickly, making it great for a weeknight but is elegant enough for a dinner party.
INGREDIENTS (for braising liquid)
1 1/2 cups Prosecco (you could also use sparkling wine or vermouth)
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon (approximately 2 generous TB)
1 TB fig paste
1 TB honey
2 TB Dijon mustard
1 TB chicken demi-glacé (if solid, cut a 1/2″ x 3/4″ chunk)
1 TB chopped fresh rosemary
3 Balinese long peppers (optional)*
PREP (the braising liquid)
Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a light boil.
Reduce the heat and let simmer, uncovered, until the flavors meld (approximately 10 minutes).
*Long peppers are very fragrant but not a typical ingredient. I have a box in my pantry that I got several years ago from a specialty food store. I use them when I want to add an exotic flavor that is not over powering; this is why I use only two or three at a time and why they remain in my pantry (still effective after all these years, by the way). You can omit them and this dish will still be tasty, but lacking that extra layer; like the bracelet that would add to the outfit, but not make the outfit.
INGREDIENTS (for chicken)
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 TB olive oil for sautéing
2 sweet onions, skin peeled, cut into 1/4 inch slices
25-30 small baby Dutch potatoes, rinsed
2 Belgium endive, rinsed
1 tsp natural sugar
Rosemary sprigs and lemon wedges for garnish
PREP (the chicken)
Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs
Season chicken with sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the semolina flour to coat thighs, shaking off excess.
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed, low-side Dutch oven until hot. Add the olive oil and brown the chicken thighs on one side. Turn the thighs over, cook for one minute then add in the onions. Be sure that the onions end up slightly under the chicken. Pour over the braising liquid then add the potatoes, pushing them to submerge in the liquid.
Bring the liquid to a simmer and transfer to a 375 degree oven (not covered). Baste every 15 minutes for approximately an hour.
After 45 minutes, add the Belgium endive and let cook for 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove and cut them in half lengthwise. Set aside.
When the chicken is done (it should be tender and juices clear), remove the pan from the oven, cover and let rest for 10 minutes while you finish the endive.
To finish the endive, heat a sauté pan to hot. Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of the pan and set the endive in cut side down. Allow this to sit, undisturbed for a few minutes as it caramelizes. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper. Squeeze in the lemon juice.
Divide the potatoes and onions among four plates.
Top, slightly askew, with one or two thighs. Put one endive half alongside.
Spoon over some of the sauce and garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a wedge of lemon.