In praise of the braise

Three French classics cook chicken in wine.

Chicken made with Riesling and served on egg noodles is a hearty fall choice.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Chicken made with Riesling and served on egg noodles is a hearty fall choice.

There’s a wide range of classic chicken dishes, from simple to elaborate, in French cooking. Two from the former category are Chicken With Riesling, one of the famous white wines of the Alsace region, and Chicken With Mustard. With a garnish of bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions, classic coq au vin — which is made with red wine most places but also with Riesling in Alsace — is stew-like and a little more involved.

Taking a tip from New York Times cooking writer Mark Bittman, I prefer a slightly sweet Riesling in my recipes. For all three dishes, buttered egg noodles or spaetzle (I usually toss a little chopped parsley into mine) are the accompaniments of choice.


Serves 4

1 chicken, about 4 pounds, cut into 10 serving pieces, or 3½ pounds bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed, rinsed, and dried

Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons neutral oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 medium shallots, chopped (about 1 cup)

¾ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup Riesling

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Sprinkle chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. In a large, straight-sided saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken pieces skin side down (do not crowd; brown in two batches, if necessary) and cook, undisturbed, until the skin is browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces and cook until second side is golden brown, about 4 minutes longer, adjusting the heat if the chicken threatens to burn. Transfer to a large plate and when cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin.

Pour all but 2 teaspoons of fat from the pan; off heat, add the butter and swirl pan until it melts. Return the pan to medium heat, add the shallots, thyme, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until shallots soften, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, adjust heat to medium-high; simmer vigorously, stirring with a wooden spoon and scraping the pan bottom to dissolve fond, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the Riesling and chicken with its accumulated juices (reserve the breast pieces to add later, if using) and return to a simmer. Adjust the heat to very low, cover the pan, and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 35 to 40 minutes, turning the chicken over and adding the breasts, if using, after 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a serving platter, tent loosely with foil to keep warm, and set aside.

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Adjust the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a strong simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the cream and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Stir in the parsley, taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Top the chicken with the sauce and serve at once.

Jim Scherer

TIP: Cut chicken breast pieces in half for manageable servings and even cooking.



Think of this as a simpler, Alsatian variation of coq au vin. You really do need a heavy-bottomed pot for this recipe to keep the fond from burning after cooking the bacon, mushrooms, chicken, chopped shallots, and flour.

Follow recipe for Braised Chicken With Riesling, making following changes:


1) In a heavy Dutch oven over medium-low heat, fry 6 slices thick-cut bacon (about 8 ounces), cut into ½-inch pieces, until browned, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels; pour off and reserve all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot. Return pot to burner, adjust heat to medium, add 12 medium shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise, and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add 10 ounces baby bella or cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered, and ½ teaspoon salt, stir to coat, and cook, stirring often, until liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

2) Substitute 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 12), trimmed, rinsed, dried, and cut into quarters, for the whole chicken or thighs. Add 2 teaspoons neutral oil to the pot, return it to medium heat, and brown the chicken for about 6 minutes, turning halfway through; remove the chicken to a plate. Pour all but 2 teaspoons fat from the pan. Instead of the butter, add another 2 teaspoons neutral oil to the pot. Add the chopped shallots, thyme, bay leaf, and the ½ teaspoon salt, and cook as directed. Add 2½ tablespoons flour and cook, stirring constantly, until it films the bottom of the pot, about 1 minute.

3) Increase broth to 1 cup. Add to the pot, adjust heat to medium-high, and simmer vigorously, stirring with a wooden spoon and scraping the pan bottom to dissolve fond, until thickened slightly, about 1½ minutes. Increase Riesling to 1½ cups; add it and the chicken with accumulated juices and cook as directed (leave the chicken in the pot at the end of the cooking time). Add the reserved bacon-mushroom mixture and with the heat at medium-high, bring the liquid to a strong simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.

4) Increase the parsley to ¼ cup. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.


If you prefer grainy mustard, substitute it for the Dijon.

Follow recipe for Braised Chicken With Riesling, making following changes:

1) Increase the quantity of chicken broth to ¾ cup and substitute ¾ cup dry white wine for the Riesling.

2) After removing the chicken from the skillet and reducing the liquid to 1 cup as directed, add 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard along with the cream and simmer to thicken as directed.

3) Return the chicken to the pot and with the heat at medium-low, simmer gently in the sauce, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf, add the parsley, adjust the seasoning, and serve as directed.

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