I woke up this morning and I could feel autumn. The low last night was in the low 50s (F) and the air this morning was crisp, the sunshine clean and unburdened by the humidity that plagues a Midwestern summer. I know it won’t last, I know in a day or 2 the heat is returning, but nonetheless I am itching to make fall foods. Bread, braises, stews, apple desserts….
So with that in mind I have a braised chicken to share. I chose to make it without bones because I hate having to worry about the bones when serving it to my kids. The key to not using bones for a chicken braise is to use dark meat or the white meat with the skin. Skinless, boneless white meat will dry out with a long, slow braise like this. If you don’t have couscous you can also serve this with basmati rice.
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 lb skin-on, boneless chicken breasts (could be bone-in if easier)
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T minced ginger
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground allspice
1/2 cup white wine
1 pinch saffron
3 cups chicken stock
2 large onions, thickly sliced
1 1/2 potatoes, sliced into large pieces
5 carrots, sliced into 2-inch pieces
2 zucchini, sliced into rounds (scrape out the fluffy inside if the zucchini are large)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup sliced prunes
2 small lemons, cut into wedges, seeded
juice of half lemon
2 T chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 250 F.
Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy braising pot, such as a Dutch oven (I used 7 qt). Sprinkle salt and pepper over the skin of the chicken breast and lay it in the pan, skin side down, to brown. When it is browned, remove it and set aside. Add the chopped onion with a pinch of salt and brown the onion.
While the onion is browning, bring the chicken stock to a simmer with the pinch of saffron in a separate saucepan (add salt if the stock is homemade). Set aside and keep warm.
Add the ginger and garlic to the onions when the onion begins to caramelize. Let that cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the cumin, cinnamon and allspice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the white wine to de-glaze the pan; bring it to a boil and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Add the chicken thighs, the chicken stock and the chicken breasts, skin side up. Bring to a boil. Place a heavy lid on the pot and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
In the meantime, prep your potatoes and onions. After the 90 minutes are up, add the potatoes and onions to the pan and return to the oven for another hour.
In the meantime, prep your carrots and zucchini (I like my carrots firm–if you like them softer add them with the potatoes). After the hour is up, add the lemon wedges, zucchini and carrots to the pot with the dried fruit. Turn the heat up to 300 F. Cook for another hour and then serve with couscous. Remove the lemon wedges if desired (I leave them in and just avoid them) and squirt with the fresh juice from a half lemon. Taste for additional seasoning, especially salt. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.