Chicken Braised in Tomato & Garlic

I tried another recipe from The Pioneer Woman and another chicken recipe at that.  The first, a cajun chicken pasta, I made a lot of changes to, and frankly, wasn’t overly thrilled by my version. This one, I made only a few minor changes and… I wasn’t overly thrilled. Sigh.

It seemed so promising; chicken, browned in butter & olive oil then slowly braised in my home-canned heirloom tomatoes, a nice Pinot Noir, plenty of fresh, farmer’s market garlic, and CSA basil dried last summer.  It was so much more fabulous in my imagination, but this was strangely bland. How could it be bland with a whole head of garlic, you say? I don’t really know.  Maybe the garlic should have been roasted in oil first; maybe I needed a more acidic white wine (or some vinegar) in the braise, maybe it just didn’t translate well to boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead of dark meat, skin-on chicken thighs.  I can’t even think of anything to do to improve the recipe (that doesn’t take it out of the realm of this recipe); if I can’t get good flavor out of these ingredients, something is fundamentally wrong.

I want to like Ree’s recipes; I really do.  But I’m 0 for 2 now. I’d better chose the next one very carefully!

Adapted from Chicken with Tomatoes and Garlic by Ree at The Pioneer Woman Cooks

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Chicken Braised in Tomato & Garlic

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp clarified butter (or regular butter)
  • about 2 lb boneless chicken, or 3 – 4 lb chicken pieces with bones
  • 1/2 cup wine (I used a Pinot Noir; white or red will work)
  • 2, 16-oz cans tomatoes (I used home-canned fire-roasted tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled but left whole (about 16 cloves)
  • 1 lb pasta, for serving
  • grated hard cheese, for serving

METHODS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Brown chicken pieces, in batches (do not crowd the pan), about 2 – 3 minutes per side, then remove chicken to a clean plate.
  3. Add wine to the Dutch oven to deglaze; scrape up any browned bits. Add tomatoes, including juice, salt, pepper, basil and garlic.  Stir to combine, and mash up larger tomato pieces with a wooden spoon.  Return chicken to the pot, along with any meat juices. Make sure chicken is mostly covered in liquid (if not, add more tomatoes, wine, or a bit of chicken stock).  Cover the pot and place in the oven to cook until garlic has browned slightly, sauce has reduced slightly, and chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of salted water for pasta. When the chicken has only about 10 minutes left to cook, boil pasta until al dente, drain, and reserve.
  5. Remove chicken from oven; taste sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Serve chicken and sauce over cooked pasta; top with grated cheese.

Serves 6 – 8.

OPTIONS

  1. The original recipe called for chicken legs (8) with skin.  The dark meat and skin may have resulted in a more flavorful dish, but as I’m not a big fan of dark meat, I went with chicken breasts.  Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts would work as well.  The original recipe also called for a ‘good amount’ of fresh herbs; I did not have any on hand so I went with dried basil. The original also called for only 8 cloves garlic (no such thing as too much garlic in my world. In fact, I think it could have used more).
  2. The dish can be 100% local by using all clarified butter instead of olive oil and serving over homemade pasta.

STORE

 Up to 5 days refrigerated.  I store any leftover pasta separately.

SEASON

Year-round, but this pantry staple dish is useful in winter.

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6 comments

  1. Kelly

    Hmmm – too bad it wasn’t good! I haven’t attempted any of her savories, but I found her blog originally because I was looking for a good Texas Sheet Cake. That is a killer recipe with a boiled fudge icing – great for a big event (say, a Christmas party!) I can vouch for that one 🙂
    I’ve wondered about other stuff… it’s either too bad for me, or looks like something I’d make anyways…
    Kel

  2. I have yet to try one of her baked good recipes… but of course, I don’t use white flour, white sugar, etc., so it does tend to change recipes quite a bit.

    Maybe it’s just that quick-n-easy family style dinners don’t appeal to me. But this one really surprised me – the ingredients on their own were so fab. Ah well – live & learn!

  3. Kaela – I can think of a couple of things that might ‘brighten’ this recipe. It’s remarkably like a good chicken cacciatore, and these are the ways that I make that recipe pop:
    – more salt and pepper (unless your ‘to taste’ too-salty alarm triggers over 1 tsp. salt
    – a touch of crushed red pepper, really only just enough to make the tomatoes sing. I’d start with a 1/2 teaspoon, stirred into the pot just before you deglaze it. You’re not looking to hurt anybody, just remind them why they breathe. 😉
    – juice of half a lemon, added to the simmering braise, or just cut half a lemon into wedges and cook with the sauce. Remove before serving.
    – more herbs! Double the dried basil, and stir that into the drippings *before* you deglaze to get every second of flavor out. Toss in some oregano and thyme, too. If you add the green stuff at that point, it’ll break down as the tomatoes and chicken braise, and deepen the flavor of the sauce.

    I love reading Ree’s recipe (because I’m a sucker for a good story) but admit I haven’t cooked one yet. Looking at the one you adapted, I’d probably add some chicken wing parts (I save the tips in the freezer for soups and stews and recipes like this.) Add 5-6 wing tips to the initial chicken searing, braise them along with the rest, and fish them out before serving. They bring a lot of chicken flavor to a dish.

    Savory cooking is all about the improv. 😉

  4. I use a very similar braised chicken recipe that’s from an Alice Waters recipe (my version is here: http://seasonal-menus.blogspot.com/2010/01/braised-chicken.html). It always comes out fabulously; I’m guessing that the issue with your version was the chicken breasts (instead of thighs).

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t like dark meat either until I started braising it. A good braise can really transform chicken legs/thighs. I still don’t like ’em roasted (give me a roasted chicken breast any day), but braised is another story.

  5. Thanks for the good advice, everyone! I know that the issue is likely the boneless breast vs thigh connundrum. Maybe I will try it again using your excellent suggestions; if so, I’ll report back!

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