Braising chicken has become my go-to back up dinner because it is easy, always a crowd-pleaser, hands-off once in the oven, and it offers the opportunity to creatively use leftover fruits, veggies, and herbs. This time I had onions and oranges that needed to be used up, so I added a little rosemary to the combo and it resulted in a dish with a Mediterranean vibe. I have also made this with fennel in place of onions, and with a combo of oranges and lemons. Oregano or thyme would work great in place of rosemary as well.
I used to just braise slowly at 325 until the chicken was tender and done, but my daughter recently asked if we could figure out a way to make the skin crispy after braising. I agree with her that crispy skin is better, so we found a solution–pop on that broiler for the last 5-8 minutes. It worked beautifully!
Season your chicken the day before (salt both sides, pepper if that’s your thing) and refrigerate. If you forget to do this, take the chicken out of the fridge an hour before cooking, and season it then. In any case, let the chicken rest at room temp for an hour before cooking.
While you’re waiting for the chicken to warm up out of the fridge, slice 2-3 oranges (enough to cover the bottom of whatever pan you’re using to braise) into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Slice 1-2 onions the same way.
Pre-heat your oven to 425.
Start the cooking process by browning your chicken pieces in a skillet over medium heat. Now, ideally you would be browning your chicken in your braising dish, but I don’t have one (yet! hint, hint, family!) that is the right size and can go on the direct heat of the burner. I have a Le Creuset dutch oven, but it is just a bit too tall and narrow for braising. So I used a separate skillet and just moved everything over into a roasting pan after I was done browning the meat and cooking the onions.
I like to use dark meat, so we used chicken leg quarters and a few extra drumsticks for my son who eats them like one of those cartoon characters who just sucks the meat right off the bone.
Tips for browning: use a pan or skillet with shallow sides and space the pieces several inches apart (i.e., don’t overcrowd the pan). Following those two rules will help you brown your pieces without accidentally steaming them. Put a little bit of oil in the pan, heat it on medium heat, and start skin side down, then flip and do the other side. Set the chicken aside on another plate.
Move the browning pan off of the heat, and add 1/2 c white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping off the brown bits. Then cook the onions for a few minutes in the deglazing juices, just until they start to turn translucent.
To assemble the braising dish, lay rosemary sprigs on the bottom of the pan–I used about 5-6 sprigs. Cover evenly with the cooked onions, then arrange the orange slices evenly on top of the onions. Lay the chicken pieces on top of the onions in one layer. Add 3/4 cup white wine to the dish, followed by enough chicken stock to come halfway up the sides of the chicken pieces.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 10 minutes or so or until the liquid is simmering (don’t check too frequently or it’ll cool down each time you open the oven and lift the foil). Once it bubbles, turn the oven down to 325 and cook until the chicken is done. Use a meat thermometer or poke the thigh to see if the juices run clear. If they do, it’s done.
Remove the foil and crank on the broiler. Broil for 5 minutes, then check to make sure the skin is not burning. Broil, watching very carefully after 5 minutes, until the skin is a nice golden brown and then remove from the oven and enjoy!