Spring was finally in full force and the temps were getting warmer by the week, which usually signifies an end to our braising season. But a Sunday in late April was forecast to be cool, wet and windy, which got us thinking that maybe one last hoorah in the braised dish category was in order. However by the time the weekend rolled around, Saturday was the bogus day and Sunday dawned bright and sunny. Mother Nature loves to throw a curve ball every now and then, but it wasn’t enough to make us change our minds about that braised chicken.
And we all know, a good cook needs an assortment of chicken dishes to fall back on. Aside from roasting or frying (in addition to grilling which will happen very soon), braising chicken is a simple technique to master. It is said, chicken thighs make the best braises; and you want to use skin-on bone-in thighs for the best flavor. Though it could be done on the stovetop, this Braised Chicken with Lemon and Olives dish is oven-braised.
The essence is a Mediterranean/Italian hybrid that I was literally swooning over as I savored every succulent mouthful. It’s so simple to make and exudes so much flavor from all of the fabulous ingredients, you’ll want to make it again and again. Because I prefer white meat, I added a couple of bone-in, skin-on breasts along with the thighs. I know, I know, conventional wisdom says the white meat will dry out, but keeping the skin and bones intact provides protection, so I was willing to take the risk.
It seems like most everyone is divided over white meat versus dark meat chicken. Between me and hubby there is a clear divide. He likes the dark meat, preferring the leg or thigh and I am solidly in the white meat camp. Although, while I’m still not a fan of poultry legs, I have been warming up to the thighs. And truth be told, I almost never eat the skin, but I do understand that it’s essential during the cooking process to keep it intact for the white meat to remain juicy.
While I was prepping all of the ingredients, Russ came in from doing an errand and alarmingly said, “It supposed to be thighs, not a whole chicken! Did you buy the wrong thing??” The truth of it was, I was thinking ahead to another dish earmarked for later in the week that called for a whole chicken. Just pulled out the wrong bird is all, but not before taking the “group” photo of ingredients. Crisis averted.
The verdict between the braised breasts and the thighs? Both the dark and white meat were scrumptious and juicy with outstanding flavor notes from the Meyer’s lemon, fennel seed, herbs, garlic and olives—which by the way, become soft and malleable when braised. We both concur, we’re not sure we can wait for the Fall when the weather cools down to make this recipe again… nor should we have to…
- 8 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in, about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds
- Salt and pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped rosemary
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 Meyer lemons, cut in wedges
- 1 cup flavorful olives with pits, a mixture of black and green, about 1 pound
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Season well with salt and pepper and place in an earthenware baking dish in one layer, skin side up. Sprinkle with red pepper, garlic, fennel and rosemary and drizzle with olive oil. Rub seasoning into thighs on all sides. Tuck lemon wedges here and there. Let marinate for 15 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Put baking dish in oven, uncovered, and roast until skin browns lightly, about 20 minutes. Scatter olives evenly over chicken and add broth. Cover tightly and bake for 1 hour, until meat is very tender when probed with a skewer.
- Remove thighs and lemon wedges and arrange on a platter. Keep warm. Pour pan juices into a saucepan and quickly skim fat from surface. Over high heat, simmer rapidly until reduced by half. Spoon juices over chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
To round out the dinner, we served our chicken with some garlicky mashed potatoes and fresh peas drizzled with a Tuscan herbed olive oil.