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Cooking | Magazine

Three recipes that take the guesswork out of braising chicken

Inspired by dishes from around the world, these recipes work wonders.

Senegalese Braised Chicken With Onions and Lime (Yassa Ginaar)
Senegalese braised chicken with onions and lime (yassa ginaar).Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Logo for magazine's cooking column w/ Christopher Kimball and cooks of Milk Street.

Braising is a simple hands-off cooking method that works wonders with chicken, particularly thighs and legs, which yield succulent, tender meat. In Senegalese yassa ginaar, slow-cooked onions melt into a sauce that’s brightened with lime juice and habanero peppers. In Colombia, a quick — and simple — homemade coconut milk serves as a base spiked with allspice, garlic, and turmeric. And in Morocco, chicken thighs and chickpeas soak up savory ras el hanout, a spice blend that includes cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and allspice.

Senegalese Braised Chicken With Onions and Lime (Yassa Ginaar)

Makes 4 servings

With just a few ingredients, yassa ginaar delivers multiple layers of flavor — savory yet sweet with lightly caramelized onions, citrusy with lime zest and juice, meaty from the deeply browned chicken, and spicy from the heat of habanero chili. Our version is based on a recipe in Yolele! by Pierre Thiam, in which the chicken is marinated then seared, then the marinade is used as a base for a flavorful sauce. Bouillon concentrate adds to the savoriness of the dish; our preferred brand is Better Than Bouillon. Serve with steamed rice.

The chicken shouldn’t be marinated for longer than two hours; the acidity of the lime juice will soften the meat. And steer clear of uncoated cast-iron pots. The lime’s acidity will react with the metal, causing the sauce to taste metallic.

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4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided

3 tablespoons grated lime zest, plus 6 tablespoons lime juice

1 habanero chili, seeded and minced

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon concentrate (see headnote)

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks, trimmed

3 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced

Finely chopped fresh chives, to serve

In a large bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons of oil, the lime zest, habanero, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Transfer 2 teaspoons of the mixture to a small bowl and set aside. To the remaining oil-zest mixture, whisk in the lime juice, bouillon, and ¼ cup water. Add the chicken and onions and toss. Cover and let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate up to 2 hours, stirring once.

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Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Set a colander over a large bowl and strain the onions, reserving both the marinade and the onions.

To a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat until barely smoking. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook until well browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Set the pot over medium heat and stir in the onions and ¼ cup water, scraping up any browned bits. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir the reserved marinade into the onions. Return the chicken, skin side up, to the pot, nestling the pieces in the sauce, then pour in any accumulated juices. Reduce to medium-low heat, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the thickest part of the meat meets no resistance, about 25 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a serving platter or shallow bowl. Off heat, stir the reserved oil-zest mixture into the onions, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the onions and sauce around the chicken and sprinkle with chives.

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Colombian Coconut-Braised Chicken and 
Coconut Rice
Colombian coconut-braised chicken and coconut rice.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Colombian Coconut-Braised Chicken and Coconut Rice

Makes 4 servings

Traditionally, pollo con leche de coco is made with fresh coconut milk. We found that canned coconut — both regular and light — to be so rich and heavy that it eclipsed the other ingredients. Instead, we opt to make our own coconut milk using unsweetened shredded coconut and hot water. The process takes only a few minutes and yields a light, flavorful milk that works beautifully in the chicken braise, as well as for cooking the rice. If you have a large enough blender, the milk can be made in one large batch rather than two smaller ones. For a shortcut, coconut water is an acceptable substitute, but the flavor will be less complex.

Use warm water when pureeing the shredded coconut — it slightly softens the shreds so they break down and release their flavor more easily.

4½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut, divided

2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

8 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1½ teaspoons ground allspice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Kosher salt

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

1½ cups long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered

In a blender, combine 2¼ cups of the coconut and 3 cups warm water.

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Let stand until the coconut begins to soften, about 1 minute. Blend on high until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large measuring cup or medium bowl, pressing on the solids. Discard the solids. Repeat with the remaining coconut and another 3 cups warm water. You should have a total of 4½ cups strained coconut milk; set aside.

Set a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and heat until shimmering. Stir in the turmeric and cook until fragrant and the oil has turned yellow, about 30 seconds. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and allspice, then stir in 1½ cups of the coconut milk, the soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, then

nestle the chicken in an even layer in the liquid, cover, and reduce to medium-low heat. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink when cut into, 18 to 22 minutes, flipping the pieces once halfway through.

While the chicken is cooking, in a medium saucepan over high heat, stir together the remaining 3 cups coconut milk, the rice, and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a simmer, then cover, reduce to low, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Gently fluff the rice with a fork and stir in any coconut oil on the surface. Drape a kitchen towel over the pan, replace the lid, and let stand.

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When the chicken is done, use tongs to transfer the meat to a bowl. Bring the liquid in the pot to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced by about half and thickened, about 12 minutes. Pour in any accumulated chicken juices and simmer another minute.

Off heat, stir in the lime juice and tomatoes. Taste and season with salt, then return chicken to the pot, turning to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with lime wedges and the rice.

Moroccan-Style Braised Chicken and Chickpeas
Moroccan-style braised chicken and chickpeas.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Moroccan-Style Braised Chicken and Chickpeas

Makes 4 servings

This skillet braise was inspired by a recipe from A Flash in the Pan by John Whaite. Look for ras el hanout in well-stocked supermarkets, spice shops, or Middle Eastern grocers, but if you cannot find it, substitute an equal amount of the more widely available garam masala. The flavor profile of the dish will become more Indian than Moroccan but still will be delicious. Serve with couscous or rice.

It’s fine if the chicken isn’t cooked through after browning; it will finish cooking after the thighs are returned to the pan with the apricots and chickpeas. Avoid browning the garlic and ras el hanout; their flavors will turn acrid. Cook, stirring constantly, only until fragrant, then pour in the sherry.

3 teaspoons ras el hanout (see headnote), divided

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

½ cup dry sherry

3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, divided

½ cup dried apricots, chopped

15½-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon of ras el hanout, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, then sprinkle onto the chicken. Set a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and heat until barely smoking. Add the chicken and cook until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Set the skillet over medium and add the garlic and remaining 2 teaspoons ras el hanout. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the sherry and 2 tablespoons of molasses; bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the apricots and chickpeas, then nestle in the chicken, browned sides up, and any accumulated juices. Cover, reduce to low, and cook until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 20 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Set the skillet over medium-high and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thick enough that a spoon drawn through it leaves a trail, 3 to 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the lemon zest and juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon molasses. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with cilantro.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.