Just look at this picture of perfectly browned and then braised chicken floating in a steaming bath of shallots, white wine, tomatoes, and garlic. Your mouth should be watering. If it isn’t let me just list the one ingredient I left out: red wine vinegar. And as you think of the pungent tartness of this fantastical fermented flavor booster, your salivary glands should be acting like a repeating lawn sprinkler right about NOW!
Here is the mise en place for this recipe, or the “put in place” method documented by the French for the well-run kitchen. I tell my students that the ingredient list of a recipe is your “mise” or your instructions for the prep work for the dish. Go down the list, get everything in place, measured out, chopped, diced, ground, grated and juiced so you are ready to go, just like a TV chef. Then you can pull the recipe together in a less stressful, more efficient way. That’s why cooking on TV looks so easy! Beside the fact that the overworked and underpaid interns do all the prep work, no one is running around pulling parsley from the fridge that still needs to be chopped before the sauce on the stove reduces down to an ointment. The second hard and fast rule for stress-reduced cooking is reading the recipe all the way through (not skimming, actual word-for-word reading) to make sure you won’t encounter a surprise “marinate for 72 hours” in procedure #5 of a recipe you were hoping to get finished for dinner in 25 minutes.
This is a whole chicken, cut up nicely by the butcher at the grocery store (they will do it for you if you ask) into 12 pieces (each breast half into three pieces, the leg, thighs and wings), then patiently browned for about 5 minutes on the skin side, and 1 minute on the other side. I say patiently because you must resist the urge to move or turn these before they are properly browned and crispy. And remember to start with a hot pan, then warm the oil and butter (exclude butter if you are going for heart healthy and use olive oil and canola oil instead), to get the most out of your browning. You want to hear that satisfying searing sizzle when the chicken hits the pan, or else your pan and oil are not hot enough.
The chicken goes into this wonderful broth made by deglazing the pan you use to brown the chicken and garlic with white wine and red wine vinegar. While that’s getting amazing, you soften some shallots.
and keep them company with some gorgeous grape tomatoes…
…and just to throw in another French word…Voila!…you have zee magic.
Then the two pans collide and you have this incredibly warming, and wonderfully tangy, flavorful one (or two) pot meal. Serve alongside polenta, or over rice or pasta or with a big chunk of crusty bread or forego the carbs and serve with a sauteed vegetable or mixed green salad with some parmesan shavings.
Adapted from Jean-George Vongerichten Home Cooking with Jean-George
1 whole (3-4 lb) chicken or 2.5 lbs bone-in chicken parts, breasts cut in 2-3 pieces each
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (may substitute olive oil for “heart healthy” approach)
4 cloves garlic
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 dried bay leaves
1 ½ cup dry white wine
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 medium shallots, diced
4 medium tomatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces (or you may use a container of grape tomatoes, or a large can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or basil
1. Pat dry chicken pieces and generously season with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter (or all oil) to the pot. When the oil is shimmering, but not smoking, add the chicken, skin side down, dark-meat pieces first. Don’t crowd the pot, work in batches if necessary, or chicken will not brown properly. Cook, undisturbed, until the skin is golden brown and releases easily from the pan, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook until the other side is browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate. Repeat with second batch if needed.
2. Add garlic to the same pan and lightly cook for 1 minute without browning or burning. Add the thyme, bay leaves, wine and vinegar and scrape and brown bits and glaze from the bottom of the pan. Bring mixture to a boil (it will boil fast in the hot pan) over high heat. Add browned chicken back into the pot and cover. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes until breast pieces are cooked through. (While chicken is cooking, see instruction #3.) Remove breast pieces and continue to cook the dark meat pieces, covered, for another 7 minutes longer or until meat begins to pull away from the bone. Transfer the remaining chicken to plate with breast pieces.
3. While chicken is cooking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter (oil) in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and swirl it around the pan, stirring contantly and allowing it to brown a bit, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until saucy, about 20 minutes. Don’t rush this process…allow the sauce to simmer and develop for the full 20 minutes.
4. Return the chicken to the Dutch oven in a single layer, if possible. Poour the tomato sauce mixture over the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from the heat. Add the chopped herbs. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes before serving.