Hope everyone had a great long weekend! As we get into the week and reality sets in (…wine at 1pm isn’t appropriate on a Tuesday?!?!?!) it’s always nice to plan some meals for a few days so that the tempting piece of pizza or donut doesn’t pull you off track.
This recipe of Braised Chicken Thighs with Leeks, Bacon and White Wine is awesome because a) it’s easy and cheap to make b) it’s healthy and c) you can make a large amount and portion for the week, or freeze in batches.
If you don’t have any white wine on hand, or don’t feel like opening a bottle for the recipe, a small amount of white wine vinegar will substitute in it’s place. Generally when you’re cooking with wine, the desired result is the acidity and a slight amount of sugar (the actual alcohol burns off after heating) so a tablespoon or two of white wine vinegar helps replicate that.
If you do feel like cracking a bottle but want to keep it on budget, Cono Sur Viognier from Chile is a great wine for cooking and drinking, and retails for only $10.99 at the BC Liquor Stores.
This chicken is great served on it’s own, or over anything from sauteed spinich, roast cauliflower, a baked potato, polenta, brown rice or pasta. If tossing with pasta, it’s nice to cook the chicken a little longer and then shred the meat so it forms more of a ragu to cling to the noodles.
Or, if you want to get real crafty, remove all the meat from the bones, shredding slightly, then put in an overproof dish and cover with puff pastry for a fancy “chicken pot pie”.
- Chicken thighs – bone-in, skin on, or boneless / skinless
- Butter or Olive Oil
- White Wine
- Bacon, Pancetta or Guanciale, sliced into chunks
- Sea Salt
- Whipping Cream (optional)
- Chicken Stock (optional)
“Guanciale” or cured pork cheek
**As with any braise or stew recipe, the amounts of each ingredient are up to you. If you’re only cooking 4 chicken thighs, 1 or 2 leeks is probably sufficient, but there’s no right or wrong amount. If you have 2 cloves of garlic, just add 2. If you like a lot of garlic, put more. Tasting throughout the cooking process is the best way to gauge how much or little of something to add.**
Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat a large pot or pan (preferably with a lid), add the butter or oil, then add the chicken thighs in batches (skin side down if using skin on). Resist the urge to touch or flip the thighs for at least 3-4 minutes, as you want to develop a very dark brown crust. Using tongs, flip one over to check on browning; if they’re still too pale, keep searing until dark brown. Once browned, flip over, sear the other side then remove all the chicken to a plate and rest.
Wash the leeks, then trim off the top green part of the leeks cutting just below the last little notch where the green transitions to pale white. Slice very thinly.
Add the bacon / pancetta / guanciale to the pan and cook until the fat is redered. Then add the thinly sliced leeks to the same pan and sautee until softened. Add some white wine and scrape up the brown “fond” on the bottom of the pan. This “fond” is actually the caramelized sugars and proteins of the meat, which have undergone the Maillard reaction from extreme heating. They taste great, and by deglazing with a liquid like wine it allows these bits to dissolve into the sauce. Keep cooking the leeks for 10+ minutes until soft and beginning to caramelize. Seasons with salt and pepper.
Add the seared chicken back to the pan with the leeks, top up with a little white wine and water (or chicken stock), cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Chicken thighs are very forgiving, so even though they’re technically cooked through you could continue cooking for longer to get them to a “pulled” state, if you so chose.
Once finished cooking, you can remove the lid and turn up the heat to reduce the liquid, depending on how much is left. If you want to make the sauce more luxurious, add some whipping cream near the end and reduce slightly.