Braised Chicken with Onions, Rosemary and Sage


If there were 3 things that made living in the burbs best, they would be: more farms, more people willing to eat my cooking, and more ocean. All three are rather important to me – and I managed to do all of them this past weekend. Jackpot.  

I spent the weekend going to various yoga or spin classes. I tried a new place in Norwell that splits a class between half row and half ride (e.g. spin). It was a nice change up – but the real benefit was that it took me past Hornstra Farms on the back roads of Hanover. It was just too picturesque to resist. Big ole barn. Cows. Fresh milk and cheese. Older couples holding hands picking out cinnamon bread? HEAVEN. Other hits? Walk through a marshy trail in Greenbush (2011 visit) and a morning walk for sea glass before yoga. 

For the cooking part of the weekend, I whipped up this meal here, a batch of vegetable soup for the freezer, and a loaf of fresh bread. The fresh bread is my absolute trick card. People love it – and it is just phenomenally easy to make. All you need is a dutch oven and 3 ingredients.

I also made this dinner recipe more complicated than it needed to be. I was having family and friends over for dinner but didn’t want to be hanging out over the stove when they arrived. I wanted dinner ready – and I didn’t want to be monitoring the whether I was about to overcook the chicken. Dry chicken = sad chicken = No repeat dinner guests.

All in this was a really great dinner. I had been planning for a meal that would give me leftovers – and I didn’t get it.  The guests ate every little bit of food I put out there. My little brother even took the rest of the bread home with him.
 Here are some notes:
  • Onions. I have started to transition to “chopping” my onions versus “dicing” them. It sounds a little ridiculous that I’m even calling it out here – but I like the texture it gives recipes… and it is a lot easier and quicker.  In this case, the onions get sort of beautifully caramelized on the top of the chicken and chopped onions are better for that too.
  • Oven. I’ll explain it more below – but I like finishing meals in the oven as opposed to watching the stove. Combined with using a foil pan for cooking, this meal was so low stress for entertaining.
  • Rice. I absolutely love my rice cooker. It was one of 3 kitchen items I didn’t put into storage. In order to give the rice a little more flavor, I added some chicken broth to the pot and a bay leaf. It was not a huge flavor difference but it absolutely didn’t taste blank and that is what I was going for.
  • Broth. For the last few years I’ve been using "Better Than Bouillon" instead of chicken broth - its essentially just a paste version of bouillon cubes. I can’t recommend it enough. I feel like it is less expensive than buying broth and more flavorful that the bouillon cubes. But honestly my favorite part is that I can make as much or little broth that I need and easily amp up the flavor by adding just a little bit more. Also, you don't have to go to Whole Foods for it. I found it at a subpar suburban grocery store that didn't even have diced pancetta.
  • Chicken. I prefer to use thin chicken breasts when I’m cooking this style of meal (e.g. not chicken soup) because I can gauge how well they are cooked through more easily.
Original instructions: Use one skillet and just let everything hang out in there while the chicken cooks in the broth, the broth reduces, and you have a beautiful meal.

My approach: I cooked everything in the skillet, but let the final cooking and reduction happen in the oven.  As a result, the liquid didn’t reduce as much as I was hoping. So I transferred some of it to the skillet again and boiled it down. Then poured it back on top… and served the meal. Sounds like about as much hassle as it was. But I have a solution for that, just use less broth if you go the oven route. 

I’ve adjusted the recipe below to account for my recommendation. 

Stove Instructions 
(Step 1) Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels, and sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper. In a heavy large, deep drying pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken pieces and cook until brown on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Note: Don’t try to cook the chicken to done because it’ll finish later in the process.

(Step 2) Pour off the fat from the frying pan. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add the chopped onion, onion pieces, pancetta, rosemary, sage, bay leaves and cloves. Saute until the onions begin to brown, about 8 minutes.

(Step 3) Stir in the tomato paste. Add the wine and bring to a boil, stirring up the browned bits.

(Step 4) Return the chicken to the frying pan with any juices accumulated on the plate.

(Step 5) Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken breast pieces are cooked through, frequently spooning the cooking liquid over, and turning, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken breast pieces to a plate.

(Step 6) Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve right away.


Oven Instructions 
(Steps 1-3) The same as above but reduce the amount of broth as directed in the ingredients. 

(Step 4) Instead of returning the chicken to the skillet, nicely layer the chicken in a baking dish. 

(Step 5) Pour the skillet contents (onions, broth, etc) over the chicken. You might want to move around the onions a bit so every breast gets a little love. 

(Step 6) Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. The chicken is already mostly cooked, so you are just finishing the cooking in the liquid which will protect it from drying out. This is an estimate here – but use your judgment. 

(Step 7) Serve! 

Based on this recipe from Williams-Sonoma 

Shopping List (serves 8)
10 thin-cut Chicken Breasts
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 large onions, 1 finely chopped and 1 cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm.) pieces
4 oz. (60 g.) pancetta, chopped
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 T. minced fresh sage
4 bay leaves
¼ t ground cloves
6 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups chicken broth (1.5 cups if going in the oven)

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