March 15, 2014

Beer-Braised Chicken

I know what you're thinking. I'm 18. I shouldn't be anywhere near beer (or any other type of alcohol for that matter). But it's St. Patrick's Day, the public demands beer and recipes involving beer, and the alcohol cooks out anyway. Plus, this chicken is so delicious you'll forget all about laws and suing me and that sort of thing.

This is a one-pot meal; it literally cannot get any easier. Your protein and your side dish cook together, so you don't even have to cook anything else with it. Just cook some bacon, take it out, sear some chicken, take it out, saute some onions, add the chicken back to the pot, and cover it with braising liquid. Stir in the bacon and some potatoes a little later and you're done in less than 90 minutes. It is full of everything delicious: chicken, bacon, and potatoes. Beer, too, but not for me. Why wouldn't you want to make this dish? It is perfect for weeknights when you don't really want to cook, but it is also pretty impressive when you need it to be.

Braising is one of the most fancy-sounding cooking methods but is really one of the easiest to do. Basically, you sear the meat (I do so in bacon drippings), cover it with liquid, and cook in the oven at a low temperature until tender. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are perfect for this recipe because the skin crisps wonderfully when you sear it and the bone keeps the dark meat extremely moist and juicy. It's even better when it's cooked off in bacon fat (trust me on this one).

I also cook the onions in the bacon fat, which is mixed with chicken drippings at this point, too. Doing so absorbs some of the fat so the liquid isn't as greasy and perfumes the onions with that lovely rich flavor. As for the braising liquid, I combine beer, brown sugar, thyme, and a splash of worcestershire with some water so it isn't overly strong. The chicken and onions cook in the braising liquid for about 30 minutes, and then I stir in the bacon bits and the diced potatoes. You can add them at the beginning so you can forget about the dish for a while, but you risk overcooking the potatoes. An easy fix is just cutting them bigger, so you can really do whatever you please.

Potatoes are good however you cook them, and here they complement the chicken amazingly. The onions become tender and saturated with the delicious braising liquid, and of course the chicken is fantastic as well. This one-pot wonder is great for any occasion, especially St. Patrick's Day.

½ lb Bacon
2 T Oil
8 Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
⅓ Cup Flour
⅓ Cup Cornstarch
2 12 oz Bottles Brown Ale
1 Yellow Onion, Sliced
1 lb Red Potatoes, Diced
¼ Cup Brown Sugar
3 Sprigs Thyme
1 tsp Worcestershire

Place a large oven-safe stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside, leaving drippings in the pot. Crumble when cool.

Add the oil to the pot. Combine the flour and cornstarch; season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and brown in the bacon fat mixture. Set aside. Cook the onions in the bacon fat until tender.

Heat oven to 325°F.

Combine the beer, brown sugar, worcestershire, and 2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken back into the pot and pour the beer mixture over it to cover. Add the thyme sprigs. Braise in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the bacon and potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes or until tender.

Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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