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COOKING | Magazine

Recipes: Three ways to braise chicken thighs in a Dutch oven

The process helps develop rich flavors in Provençal braised chicken, a Cantonese-inspired dish with shiitake mushrooms and ginger, and a Greek dish with plum tomatoes and mint.

Provençal Braised ChickenConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Chicken thighs and a Dutch oven combine the best elements of one-pot cooking. Flavorful thighs are hard to overcook, and braising them with minimal liquid in a covered pot cooks them gently as the juices concentrate into a richly flavored sauce. It works wonderfully for our Provençal Braised Chicken, with a sauce accented with strips of orange zest, fresh fennel, and saffron. Taking inspiration from the classic Cantonese dish clay pot rice, we braise chicken with shiitake mushrooms and amp up the sauce with ginger, as well as soy and oyster sauces. And cinnamon and allspice add warmth to a savory Greek-inspired braise of chicken with plum tomatoes and fresh mint.

Provençal Braised Chicken

Makes 4 servings

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Think of this dish as bouillabaisse made with chicken instead of seafood. Fresh fennel, garlic, white wine, orange zest, and saffron give the braise a rich, heady perfume and an unmistakably Mediterranean flavor. Any unoaked dry white wine works well here, but ideally look for one produced in southern France, such as white Côtes du Rhône or marsanne. We use strips of orange zest instead of grated zest to lend citrusy notes to the dish. A sharp Y-style vegetable peeler is the best tool for peeling away zest strips, but try to remove only the colored peel, not the bitter white pith just underneath.

Don’t be shy about cooking the tomato paste. Allowing it to brown not only adds color, it also helps develop flavor in the braising liquid.

Serve the chicken with toasted crusty bread drizzled with olive oil.

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, patted dry, and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

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3 medium garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 wide strips orange zest (each about 2 inches long), plus 2 tablespoons orange juice

½ cup dry white wine

¼ teaspoon saffron threads

1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside. In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, fennel, and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, pepper flakes, and orange zest. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste begins to darken and sticks to the pot, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add the chicken, 3 cups water, and the saffron, then stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to medium-low heat and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 15 minutes.

Off heat, remove and discard the zest strips. Stir in the orange juice and about half the basil, then taste and season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining basil.

Braised Chicken With Shiitake Mushrooms and GingerConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Braised Chicken With Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

Makes 4 servings

For this flavorful braise, we take inspiration from the flavor of a classic Cantonese clay pot chicken and rice. The combination of oyster sauce, soy sauce, and shiitake mushrooms packs tons of umami into the dish, while ginger adds a balancing piquancy. Be sure to use low-sodium soy sauce and low-sodium chicken broth (you also can substitute water for the broth) so the sauce won’t end up too salty.

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Remove the chicken skins after searing. We leave the skins on for browning to develop drippings that add depth to the finished dish and to render flavorful fat that’s used for sautéing the mushrooms and aromatics. But the skins turn soggy when cooked in liquid, so remove them before nestling the thighs into the pot for braising.

Serve with steamed rice.

2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil

12 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved

1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (see headnote)

6 tablespoons oyster sauce

¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Thinly sliced scallions, to serve

Sesame seeds, toasted, to serve

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, warm the oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken skin side down, then reduce to medium heat and cook without disturbing until the skin is well browned, about 10 minutes. Flip and cook until lightly browned on the second side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large plate, then pour off and discard all but 3 tablespoons of the fat from the pot. Remove and discard the skin from the chicken thighs.

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Return the pot to medium heat and add the mushrooms and onion. Cover and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to brown and the onion has softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the broth and 1 cup water, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and ginger, then bring to a simmer. Return the chicken and accumulated juices to the pot, then cover and cook over medium heat until a skewer inserted into the largest thigh meets no resistance, about 40 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a serving dish and cover to keep warm. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons water and the cornstarch, then whisk the mixture into the cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then spoon the mushrooms and sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.

Greek Braised Chicken With Tomatoes and CinnamonConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Greek Braised Chicken With Tomatoes and Cinnamon

Makes 4 servings

The rustic, homey Greek dish called kota kapama stews chicken with fragrant cinnamon, sweet-tart tomatoes, and, more often than not, white or red wine. For this recipe, we use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and braise them in a minimal amount of liquid. This way, the chicken cooks mostly in the juices it releases. Without other ingredients to dilute the flavor, the resulting sauce is wonderfully rich and full-bodied. Kota kapama traditionally is served with orzo or other noodles, but any starchy side — from crusty bread to mashed potatoes — works well.

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No need to fuss with the chicken once it’s skin side down in the pot. The skin may stick upon contact, but once it is nicely browned, the chicken will release easily. The pieces will be only parcooked after browning on the skin side; braising will finish them.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ cup dry white wine

8 ounces plum tomatoes, cored and chopped

½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped

In a small bowl, stir together the cinnamon, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Use the mixture to season the chicken all over, gently rubbing it in.

In a large Dutch oven set over medium heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Place the chicken skin side down and cook without stirring until well browned and the pieces release easily from the pot, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken skin side up to a plate and set aside. Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot.

Set the pot over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, and tomato paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until almost fully evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pot, placing the pieces skin side up, then add the accumulated juices. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 35 to 45 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, then spoon it over the chicken. Sprinkle with the chopped mint.


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.