I often braise chicken thighs for dinner; they have infinite varieties of preparation and go well with just about any side dish. They are flavour sponges too! In this version I pair the woodsy aroma of rosemary with the subtle flavour of vanilla. Try experimenting with other seasonings for different flavours.
Yield: Dinner for four
8 chicken thighs
4 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil
2 sliced onions
2 chopped carrots
1 bottle of chardonnay
1 vanilla bean
or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 large sprigs of rosemary, needles peeled off
Remove the bones from the chicken thighs by slitting the back of the thigh with a sharp knife. Carefully trim the meat off of each bone. Try to leave the thigh in one piece, but it’s OK if it ends up in several pieces.
Preheat a large frying pan over medium-high heat then splash in the olive oil. Add the chicken and the bones and begin browning. As each piece browns, turn it over. Continue until each piece is golden brown then lower the temperature. This is the best time to add the rich flavours of caramelization before the liquids are added and before the meat begins braising. Take the meat and bones out and reserve while the vegetables are cooked.
Add the onions and carrots to the hot pan and cook them for a few minutes until they slightly soften. This will brighten their flavours considerably. As you stir them, loosen any brown bits that adhere to the pan’s bottom. These are caramelized juices from the meat and will add a lot of flavour to the dish.
Add the chicken meat and bones back to the pan. Pour in the wine – reserving a sip for yourself! You may also use less wine and make up the difference with homemade or canned chicken broth. For this dish I prefer the oaky vanilla-like flavours of California chardonnay.
Slit the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seed paste inside. Mince the remaining pod and add along with the seeds and rosemary to the chicken. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and let braise on the stovetop over medium heat until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the lid and fish out the bones, they’ve added their flavour and can now be discarded. Turn the heat up and reduce the liquid until it thickens into a sauce. Taste; then season with salt and pepper.
Serve over any rice, pasta or grain
The thighs of a chicken are my favourite cut. They’re inexpensive and have way more flavour than the bland breast. I usually braise them because it’s easy and they go with just about anything. I love the way they soak up the earthy flavours of the mushrooms in this dish.