Monday, March 24, 2014

Braised Chicken with Olives

This recipe is one I tried last week. As I said in my first post, I'll include the good, bad and in-between. This one was an in-between. That being said, I'll post the recipe I tried, and some thoughts on how to improve it.

I got the idea for this dish from a variety of sources, including All About Braising by Molly Stevens and Saveur. The recipes were more Middle Eastern, using preserved lemons. I needed to use up the ingredients I had in the fridge and decided to try to give it a slightly more French flavor. I used fresh lemon, added some fennel seed and Lillet, and topped it with goat cheese at the end.

Braised Chicken with Olives and Lemon

        4-6 Boneless Chicken Thighs
        1-2 Tbsp Butter
        1 Medium Onion - Sliced
        3 Garlic Cloves - Sliced
        1/3 Cup Olives - Pitted
        1/2 Lemon - Thinly Sliced
        1/4 Cup Lillet
        1/2 Cup Water
        1/2 tsp Paprika
        1/2 tsp Fennel Seed
        1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
        1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
        Salt and Pepper to Taste
        1/2 Cup Kale - Diced
        2 Tbsp Goat Cheese

Rub the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat the butter over Medium-Medium High heat in a dutch oven. You want to heat it enough to sear the chicken, but not hot enough that the butter will burn.

Place the chicken in the hot butter and allow to brown for about 5 minutes. Try not to move the pieces as they won't brown as nicely. Lift the corner of one piece and take a peak. If it is browned, then flip and reaper on the other side. Depending on the size of your pan you may need to brown the chicken in batches.

Once browned, set the chicken aside until later. Remove any excess fat from the pan - you only want about 1Tbsp left. Fry the onion and garlic slices in the remaining butter. Toss in the spices and the Lillet and let it simmer for a minute. Arrange your chicken in the pan and pour the water over it. Cover and turn the heat down to low.

Let the chicken simmer for 15 minutes, then flip the pieces and cook for 15 more minutes. Flip again and add the olives and lemons on top. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
Serve over rice with minced kale and goat cheese.

What Would I Changed?

So, I want to record good recipes, but I also want to show the process involved in developing a good recipe. Learning to cook is all about trial and error and this is an example.

This meal was good, but it could be better. Part of the problem was that it was under salted. I tasted the braised chicken out of the pan and it seemed salty enough, but once I put it over the rice and added the raw kale it was a little bland.

To fix the problem I would bump up the the olives to 1/2 a cup and add salt at the end of the braise. I would also recommend using chicken thighs with bones. I happened to have boneless, so I used what I had, but bone-in chicken adds more flavor and braises better. I would also increase the fennel seeds to 1 tsp. I was worried about the anise flavor becoming overpowering but the other flavors were strong enough to hold up to plenty more fennel. Finally, I like garnishing with something green and all I had was kale. It worked well, but parsley or chervil would be better.

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