Braised Chicken in a Pot (Paleo, AIP, Whole30, Primal) and Tips for a Good Braise
It snowed in Minneapolis this week and BAM, just like that I hopped into winter mode, so fast I took my own breath away. Where just the week before I was sweating it out in my kitchen in a tank top and bare feet, exactly 7 days later I was lighting candles, soaking in a hot bath, pulling on Uggs, and sipping hot tea.
As much as I grumble about our long winters, I’m good at them. More than the cold, it’s lack of color and fragrance I miss the most and there are lovely ways to add both to a day. Like braising! Yay braising! In a pretty blue pot!
Any heavy, covered pot will do of course (I love my Le Creuset pot, pictured). When braising, the best rule of thumb is to find a snug fit. If you have too large of a pan, all the liquid will boil away (even covered) and the end result will be dry, not succulent.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer succulent.
Other braising rules:
- Make sure the lid fits tightly.
- Add some liquid to the pot but not tons. If you have too much liquid, the protein will boil, not roast/steam (which is how I think of braising), and will be rubbery with diluted flavor.
- Include some (but not too much) acid. Whether wine, vinegar, tomato, or citrus, braising cuts of meat are marbled with fat and fattier dishes need a bit of acid for balance and depth. On the other hand, braising with too much acid will compromise texture and add a metallic taste to the dish, so start with a bit and add more to finish if needed.
- Include enough salt. It won’t work to only add salt at the end of a dish – salt works best layered in small amounts throughout the cooking process. It coaxes deeper flavor, enhances browning, and improves texture. I would MUCH rather layer in salt while cooking than use any at the finish. The trick is to use small amounts at a time, knowing you’re building as you go. If you overly salt a dish, know that adding some acid (aka lemon juice) at the end counters the taste of saltiness. Don’t forget that a splash of water can help too (particularly in a sauce or soup/stew).
- Spend the time to brown thoroughly. I know, you’re in a rush. But spending an extra 10-15 minutes to carefully brown the roast or chicken before braising will mean so much more flavor and a beautiful color too. If you’re taking the time to braise, take a little extra time to carefully brown.
- Go low and slow. I (still) know, you’re in a rush. But cranking the heat on a braise will not get you where you want to go. This recipe at 350F is the highest I ever go and that only works for tender cuts, like chicken. If you’re working with a tough cut, sloooooooow it down (to like 250-275F) and be patient.
A note about Instant Pots: I love my Instant Pot but I don’t love it as much for whole chicken, mostly because it makes chicken skin soggy. If you’re only looking for tender meat – go ahead and IP! But for this dish, I think you’ll be happier with the oven-braised version.
I can hardly believe it, but the holidays are right around the corner. GAH! Please join me for my Paleo Holiday cooking class at Kitchen in the Market on Friday, December 8. We’ll be making:
- Squash Soup with Bacon-Cranberry Relish
- Chicken Saltimbocca with Mushroom + Sherry Pan Sauce
- Creamy Mashed Rutabaga with Caramelized Onions
- Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Lemon + Pomegranate
- Baked Coffee Custards with Coffee Caramel
Register here and I hope to see you there!
What else is going on?
I’m working like crazy developing organized, make-ahead, healthy, and delicious recipes (like this one, in fact) for Project Vibrancy Meals meal plans. I have a lot of exciting bonuses for my dear subscribers, including a work-ahead, AIP-adaptable, gorgeous Thanksgiving menu. I looooooove Thanksgiving and I’m excited to share some of my favorite tricks. Stay tuned, PVMers!
It’s not just all cooking, all the time (although it almost is). I’ve found time for exploring the always fantastic Twin Cities restaurant scene, which is every bit as delicious as it was when I wrote my book, Twin Cities Chef’s Table, three years ago.
I’ve lately had fabulous meals at Grand Cafe, Bardo, Burch Steak, Young Joni, Bar Brigade, Corner Table, Saint Dinette, 510 Lounge, and the VERY exciting new Octo Fishbar in Lowertown St. Paul. Octo and the whole Market House Collaborative (Almanac Fish, Peterson Craftsman Meats, and soon-to-open The Salty Tart) is a new food hall concept in the former Heartland space and it basically houses some of the best food in the country.
Not only is Octo’s menu spectacular (the posole is the stuff of my dreams), you can choose a piece of fish or meat from the market and the restaurant will cook it for you. YES. If you haven’t ventured in yet, make the time and plan to do some shopping while you’re there. The remodel is pretty but casual enough for jeans, the bar is tripled in size and happy-hour ready, and you can fill your belly at a variety of price points.
OK friends, have a great week and I’ll be back with more tricks-and-treats soon!
Braised Chicken in a Pot
NOTE: When the chicken is done, carve all of the meat away from the bones and use the carcass to make broth.
One 3-4 pound whole chicken
2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil, divided
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, quartered
3 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 large (or 2 small) fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved, core and outermost layer removed, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 stalks celery, cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices (if celery has leaves, reserve a few of them for serving dinner tonight)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (substitute mace for AIP)
1/2 cinnamon stick
Freshly ground black pepper (skip for AIP)
1/4 cup whipping cream (substitute full-fat canned coconut milk for AIP/Whole30/Dairy Free)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Set a Dutch oven (or other covered pot that will fit chicken snugly) over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and while oil heats, pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt (rubbing salt in a bit).
Brown chicken on all sides, taking your time to get a really nice color before turning. Also take the time to balance it on its sides to brown as many angles as you can. Adjust heat down to medium if pan juices are burning.
Transfer browned chicken to a plate and stuff the fresh thyme sprigs into the chicken.
Return pan to heat and add remaining tablespoon of oil. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add carrots, fennel, celery, bay leaf, oregano, nutmeg (substitute mace for AIP), cinnamon stick, and black pepper (skip for AIP) and stir around for a minute. Add cream (or substitution), lemon juice, and water to the pan and bring to a simmer.
Nestle chicken on top of the vegetables and cover. Transfer pan to oven and bake for 1 hour. Remove lid, baste chicken with pan juices, and bake for another 30 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and very tender (falling apart).
Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Transfer vegetables to a serving bowl (keep warm). Discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick from pan sauce. Season pan sauce with salt if needed. Serve chicken and vegetables in shallow bowls with plenty of pan sauce.