I ran across My Kitchen Addiction through the No Kid Hungry website where Jen is a featured food blog partner and supporter of the Great American Bake Sale. She hosts a monthly Kitchen Bootcamp, and February’s challenge calls for a recipe using the technique of braising. I have not made much with chicken as the center of the menu lately, and coq au vin came to mind. But I’ve made it soooooooooooo many times. I wanted something more interesting. And, I was participating in a challenge that asks bloggers to prepare a new recipe.
Braising is a classic technique for good reason. It’s just so simple. One pot cooking at its best. Braising results in a flavorful, moist, and fork-tender creation, even with less-expensive, tough cuts since it employs a slow, moist cook. While I've only braised proteins, it can be used successfully with vegetables and fruits also.
A few braising basics:
- Thoroughly sear or brown well-seasoned protein (beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken on the bone, not boneless) in a Dutch oven
- Add a flavorsome cooking liquid since that is where much of the essence originates (wine, stock, but not water. Water has no flavor)
- Ditto for aromatics (garlic, onions, shallots) and herbs, which are added at the beginning of the cooking
- Typically braised proteins are done when so tender it *almost* falls off the bone
- The sauce or gravy is so rich that you want to serve it with the protein
My fondness of cooking with greens – escarole, Swiss chard, turnip greens, spinach, even wilted leaf lettuce in warm bacon dressing – from last summer’s CSA carries on, and I am on a serious fig kick at the moment. The greens and cider vinegar do a nice job of cutting some of the residual sweetness from the port and figs, and escarole would be even more flavorful. We had Chef Gerard Craft’s Caramelized Brussels Sprout Bruschetta as a starter, and I served the chicken and spinach with a creamy polenta. A divine dinner.
Port Braised Chicken with Figs on Wilted Spinach
(Based on a Cooking Light recipe that uses chicken thighs, drumsticks, and escarole.)
For the Chicken:
1 C port
1 C dried figs, halved
1/4 C flour (whole wheat is fine)
Freshly ground black pepper
6 bone-in chicken breast halves, trimmed, with or without skin
2 T olive oil, divided
3/4 lbs. shallots, diced
1 T minced fresh thyme
1/2 t fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 C homemade chicken stock or 1 14-ounce can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 C cider vinegar
For the Spinach:
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 C homemade chicken stock or canned fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 350º.
Bring port to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add figs; remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 30 minutes or until soft.
Combine the flour, about 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag; add chicken. Seal and shake to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add only enough chicken breasts to the pan so that they are not crowded and cook 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove the chicken from pan. Repeat procedure with 1 tablespoon oil and remaining chicken. Return the chicken to pan. Add the fig mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, shallots, thyme, fennel, garlic, and stock.
Cover and bake at 350º for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until the chicken is very tender when pierced with a fork. Stir in vinegar. If you prefer a thicker sauce, combine cold water and a few tablespoons of cornstarch to make a slurry and add to the chicken. Stir well until it thickens. Place mixture in a large bowl, cover and keep warm.
To prepare spinach, heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium heat. Add spinach; cook 5 minutes or until it begins to wilt. Add 1/2 cup stock. Cover; cook 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Serve chicken mixture over spinach.