On your next trip to the grocery store, do yourself a favor and skip the boneless chicken breasts. Bone-in chicken is cheaper, tastier, and leaves you with the ingredients you need to make a beautiful and nourishing broth. Pick up bone-in chicken legs, thighs, breasts, or even a whole chicken! If you can, choose organic/pasture-raised meat - it is definitely more expensive, but truly a good value if you use every bit.
This braised chicken dish has got to be my family’s favorite dinner. It is also a terrific starting point for making liquid gold, otherwise known as homemade chicken bone broth, and the world’s yummiest chicken soup (IMO). You can make it with bone-in chicken pieces, such as thighs, legs and breasts, or a whole chicken. If you use a whole chicken and were lucky enough to get giblets, remove them and reserve for broth-making—a ziplock in the freezer works well. It is a good idea to identify and pick out the liver first, as liver will make your broth bitter. You can leave the chicken whole to cook, or cut it into pieces with some big heavy kitchen shears.
You can easily make the recipe below in a slow cooker, or in the oven using a heavy lidded pot, such as a dutch oven. Amounts in the recipe are really up to your taste. I like to fill my pot using lots of carrots and a couple of leeks for a couple of family meals worth of chicken. If you haven’t used them before, leeks and shallots are less pungent and more subtly flavorful than the standard garlic and onions. They are more expensive, though. If you do use leeks, be sure to properly trim and wash them first. You might also want to add a few small potatoes, or some sliced fennel (yummy), or anything else you happen to love that will stand up to long cooking. I tend to be very generous with the tarragon, and if you like, you could add a good squeeze of fresh lemon over everything. Let your nose/taste/imagination lead you.
Braised Bone-In Chicken with Tarragon
- bone-in chicken pieces or whole bird
- other veggies as desired (potatoes, fennel…)
- cumin seed, whole (whole fennel seed is a good option too, particularly if you are adding fresh sliced fennel)
- water/broth/wine/sherry to deglaze (my favorite is Amontialdo sherry, which has a nice nutty flavor, with some water)
- dried tarragon or other spices as desired
- salt and pepper to taste
- Wash the carrots and cut into chunks—scrub them if you need to, but don’t bother peeling
- Peel and chop garlic/onions/shallots
- Wash, trim and slice up leeks, if using, and any other vegetables
- Preheat oven to 325 F (or turn your slow cooker to low)
- In a large hot skillet or deep, heavy lidded pot, add a little oil and lightly brown/sear chicken on as many sides as reasonable, then move to a plate
- To the skillet/pot, add a teaspoon or so of cumin seed, the carrots and any other vegetables
- Cook briefly, stirring, until all are hot and beginning to soften
- Deglaze by pouring in a cup or so of liquid, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan
- Simmer briefly
- If you are using a slow cooker, this is when you move the veggies and liquid to the crock.
- Lay the chicken on top of the veggies
- Season with salt and pepper, and lots of tarragon (2-3 tablespoons for me), or any other desired spices
- Cover and cook in the oven for 2 or so hours, or in the slow cooker for around 8 hours
Note that braising is a moist-heat cooking method. If this is your first time, check and add more liquid if your pot is getting dry. This dish is great served with roasted veggies, such as sweet potatoes, cauliflower, potatoes, etc. Rice or quinoa or lentils are also good choices.
After you have enjoyed your lovely tarragon braised chicken with vegetables for dinner, pick off any remaining chicken, and reserve with remaining veggies, to make soup (optional). Reserve all bones, cartiledge, and other tidbits from the chicken carcass and dinner plates to make broth (not optional). These bits can be frozen in a ziplock until you are ready. (See broth instructions.)