Rustic and comforting, this is like chicken stew — only made in a roasting pan in the oven.
“Porcini Braised Chicken Thighs” is a little deceptive. It looks like it’s a breezy one-pan chicken dish. But in all honesty, it will probably take you four pans to make it: a Dutch oven to saute the veggies, a cast-iron frying pan to sear the chicken thighs, a roasting pan to cook the chicken through, and a saucepan to heat the braising liquid.
But don’t let that dissuade you from attempting it. After all, what’s a little more time washing dishes when you can then dig in to enjoy such delightful rewards?
This dish is from the new cookbook, “Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking” (Ten Speed), of which I received a review copy. It’s by James Beard Award-winning Chef Naomi Pomeroy or Portland’s Beast restaurant, and Brooklyn writer Jamie Feldmar. You may recognize Pomeroy as a judge on Esquire’s “Knife Fight” and from her time competing on “Top Chef Masters.” I had the chance a couple years ago to dine with her and a roster of other female chefs at Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine Lab, where the food was mind-blowing, and the conversation about molecular gastronomy thoughtful and insightful.
While appreciative of those techniques and high-tech gizmos, Pomeroy, herself, is more old-school. As she joked, her restaurant opened without even a hood.
Her cookbook features nearly 140 recipes. For the most part, they’re not dishes you’ll whip up in less than 30 minutes. But they’re also not so complicated and intimidating that you’ll feel too overwhelmed to attempt them.
There’s “Figs with Foie Gras Mousse” that’s all of seven ingredients yet looks like it could be a fancy amuse bouche at an haute restaurant. There’s “Lamb Scallopini,” a fresh take on the traditional veal version , and “Buckwheat Crepes with Sauteed Apples and Toffee Sauce” that you’ll want to eat not only for dessert, but breakfast.
“Porcini Braised Chicken Thighs” involves a nifty trick for searing chicken. Normally, recipes will call for chicken to be seared until deeply golden on both sides. In her recipe, Pomeroy instructs you to sear the chicken thighs only on their skin side with a heavy plate weighting them down. Then, arrange them, skin-side up, in one layer over carrots, celery and onion in a roasting pan. Pour in a mixture of white wine and chicken stock, taking care not to submerge the chicken completely but just below its skin so it stays crisp.
Cover the pan with foil for most of the roasting time, then remove it to crisp the skin just before serving. The skin may not rival that of fried chicken, but it definitely is sturdier than the usual limp type found in other braising dishes. Searing the chicken only on the skin-side probably helps keep the flesh tender, too, as the thigh cooks through gently in the broth mixture.
The dried porcinis that are mixed into the vegetable-broth foundation really impart a lovely depth of earthiness.
The dish is more brothy than I thought it would be. But you could always remove the chicken thighs and vegetables, then simmer the broth on the stovetop to reduce it to a thicker consistency, if you like. Or just do what I did — serve plenty of bread to sop up all the wonderful sauce. My husband was actually drinking it up with a spoon.
This is a homey dish just perfect for digging into in winter.
Porcini Braised Chicken Thighs
(Serves 6 to 8 )
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups sliced, peeled carrot, on the bias in 3-inch pieces
3 cups roughly chopped yellow onion, in 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped celery, in 2-inch pieces
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
10 cloves garlic, peeled
3 thyme sprigs
2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves
12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, at room temperature
2 to 3 tablespoons salt
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 cups homemade stock or other high-quality stock
1 cup dry white wine
In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, and celery and sauce for 6 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables get some color. Add the porcini, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves and mix to combine. Turn off the heat but leave the Dutch oven on the burner.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Season each chicken thigh with 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt (depending on its size; a large thigh will weigh about 10 ounces and a small one about 6 ounces), and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Heat a black steel pan or cast-iron pan over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until the surface is rippling but not smoking. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, add 4 chicken thighs, skin side down, and lower the heat slightly, to medium-high. Weight down the thighs with a heavy plate to create an even sear across the entire surface and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until evenly golden but not too dark in any spots. Check after the first 1 to 2 minutes to ensure no black spots are forming and lower the heat as needed. Place the thighs, skin side up, in a single layer on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven. (Note: If you don’t have a Dutch oven large enough to hold the chicken thighs in one single layer, transfer the vegetables to a roasting pan and place the chicken thighs on top.) Repeat the searing two more times with the remaining oil and chicken thighs, rinsing the pan and wiping it completely dry after each batch.
In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock and wine to a simmer. Pour the stock into the Dutch oven (or roasting pan); the edges of the chicken should be submerged but the skin should be exposed. It’s important not to cover the chicken skin completely or it won’t get crisp. You may not need all of the stock-wine mixture to do this.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid (or with aluminum foil if using a roasting pan), place in the oven, and cook for 1 1/4 hours, or until the chicken is completely tender. Turn up the oven temperature to 400 degrees, remove the cover or foil, and continue to cook until the chicken skin is crisp, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven, discard the thyme sprigs as best you can, and serve directly from the pot.
Adapted from “Taste & Technique” by Naomi Pomeroy