This chicken was SO wonderfully moist! It received thumbs up from everybody - but especially hubby, which means I'll be making it again and again!
What is braising and what cuts of meat are best suited to being braised?
Braising is a slow, wet cooking method that blends flavors and softens tough textures. The best cuts of meat for braising are those with a lot of connective tissue, that is, the sinew (gristle) and fat that hold the bands of protein together in meat. The connective tissue, during a long, moist cooking process, breaks down into gelatin, becoming soft in texture while retaining its juiciness. Many of these cuts would be horribly tough and unpalatable if they were cooked quickly or with dry heat, since high temperatures make the connective tissue hard and chewy. Braising develops deep, layered flavors and a thick, richly-textured sauce.
Beef cuts most suitable to braising are: chuck pot roast, brisket, rump roast, short ribs, flank steak, skirt steak, eye round roast, top round roast, shanks, chuck eye roast, arm pot roast, shoulder pot roast, cross rib roast, blade roast, bottom round roast and 7-bone pot roast. Veal cuts best suited to braising are: shanks, neck, rib chop, short ribs, arm roast, blade roast, shoulder eye roast, arm roast, round steak, rump roast, breast, riblet, kidney chop and sirloin steak. Cuts of pork that are best braised are: blade roast, picnic roast, sirloin chop, country style ribs and trotters. Lamb is especially good braised, shanks, rolled breast, shoulder roast, shoulder arm chop, neck, blade chop, riblets and sirloin chop are the cuts most used. And the legs and thighs of poultry are good braised, whether chicken, turkey or duck.
Most of these cuts are less expensive, which makes braising a flavorful, satisfying, and inexpensive dinner. Braises are especially easy to prepare if you use a crockpot. Braises are usually served over or with a starch, whether a rice pilaf, couscous, barley, risotto, polenta, wide egg noodles or with biscuits. A mixed salad with a sharp vinaigrette balances the meal.
BRAISED CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOMS
- 4 chicken leg quarters (or 8 thighs) (dark meat works best in this recipe)
- 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
- 2 cups white cooking wine (sold in the sauce & marinade aisle)
- 6 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 dozen small pearl onions, peeled
- 1 pound button mushrooms
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup croutons (I buy the extra large ass't. Caesar croutons, and I don't measure!)
- 1 ounce chives, finely chopped
Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring the chicken stock and cooking wine to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and keep at a slow, steady simmer.
Warm the olive oil and butter in a 7 quart cast iron low-sided braiser (I used an enamel coated cast iron dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dust with the flour. Add the chicken and sear until golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add the onions and mushrooms and sweat, while stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the bay leaves and thyme leaves. Pour in the hot stock/cooking wine mixture, cover with a round of buttered parchment paper (Don't use the lid to the pan, just use the parchment paper and make sure it is pressed right down on top of the chicken and the broth) and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove and discard the parchment paper and bake 10 minutes more.
(to make this parchment cover: use the lid to the pot - lay it on the parchment paper and draw a circle around it. Cut the circle out. Cut a small venting circle in the middle of that for the steam to escape)
To check for doneness, using a small knife pierce the thickest part of the thigh. The meat should feel tender. Remove chicken to serving platter. Scoop out onions and mushrooms and scatter over chicken. Sprinkle the croutons and chives over the top. Serve.