It was a brilliant dish for a cooking class—one of those fail-proof dishes that make you look good without having to overthink it.
There was also the added bonus of worry-free, wine sipping time to make our side dish while the oven worked its magic.
Braising makes heroes out of home cooks with its uncomplicated WOW factor.
Four basic steps—sear, saute, deglaze, braise—build layers of flavor, rewarding you with tender meat and savory sauce.
In this case, when serving skin-on chicken pieces, we add one more simple step to the process for the ultimate in taste and texture.
A quick session under the broiler to crisp the skin puts it over the top; because crispy chicken skin is always 100% better than soggy skin. Amen?
Since you’re doing all you can to get the chicken just right, let’s talk sauce.
5 Tips for Awesome Fail-Proof Sauces:
- Whenever possible, start your sauce in the same pan the protein was browned in. A little oil with aromatics (onions, leeks, shallots, carrots, celery, garlic) will help to lift any browned bits (a.k.a. fond) left behind by the seared proteins.You want every bit of those flavorful bits—otherwise known as the Maillard reaction—to give sauces deeper color and more flavor dimension.
- Let the onions (shallots, leeks, etc.) really do their thing before adding garlic so it doesn’t burn. Onions need time to soften and depending on the type of sauce you’re making, time to caramelize—yes, we like all the Maillard reaction we can get.Depending on the type of pan, it can take 10 minutes or longer for the edges of the onions to brown, so wait until this happens before adding garlic. If added too soon, the garlic can burn, giving the sauce a bitter flavor.
- Start with oil, add butter later. If cooked too long on the front end, the milk solids in butter can burn before the aromatics are softened. Adding butter toward the end at lower temperatures to finish the sauce will also help create that coveted silky texture.
- Choose crisp, well-balanced wines such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Unoaked Chardonnay for white sauces so the acid brightens the sauce without any bitterness. Avoid “cooking wines” due to salt and other additives you don’t need or want.There’s no need to buy expensive wine for sauces, but it should be something you’d gladly pour for sipping (a nice reward for all your sauce-y skills). Small (187 mls) mini bottle 4-packs are easy to store in the pantry and boxed wine is convenient if there’s more than sipping involved.
- Prefer not to use alcohol? Substitute with non-alcoholic wine or chicken stock with a dash of lemon or balsamic vinegar.
- Homemade stock is infinitely better than any broth or stock you can buy. It will add body and richer flavor to sauce where broth or stock is indicated.
- Bonus: Garnish with fresh herbs—chives, basil, thyme, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, mint, rosemary—just before serving to enhance the cooked herbs and add an appealing color contrast.
A note about stone ground mustard and cream.
In this Stone Ground Mustard-Braised Chicken Thigh recipe, mustard and cream both work to thicken and stabilize the smooth texture of the sauce. Based on your preference, add more mustard for tang or more cream to subdue the tang.
We like mustard, so two tablespoons of cream is all we need. Stone ground mustard, spicy brown, or old style whole grain mustards all work equally well in this recipe.
Dijon or German can be substituted by adding a little less, to taste, or increasing the amount of cream to balance the tangy-er notes. Basically, if you like it plain, you’ll like it in the sauce.
- 2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs , skin-on
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 cup stone ground mustard
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme , tied together in a bundle
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Parsley , whole leaf or chopped for garnish (optional)
- Heat oven to 375°F. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven, or 12-inch skillet with a lid, over medium heat.
- Sear chicken skin side down until golden brown, about 5 minutes, without moving so the fat renders and skin crisps. Once nicely browned, turn and sear the other side for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a platter and set aside.
- In the same pan, cook the shallots over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.
- Add the wine, stock, mustard and thyme to the pan and bring to a rapid simmer. Return the chicken to the pan with any juices, cover with lid, and tranfer to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and reaches 165°F internal temperature.
- Once the chicken is done, remove from the oven and turn the broiler on Hi. Transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet, skin-side up, and return the pan to the stove top.
- Add the cream to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. While simmering the sauce, place chicken under the broiler to crisp skin, 3 to 4 minutes. (You can remove the thyme stems at this point.) Serve chicken with the sauce and garnish with fresh parsley.