Last March, I made Diana Henry’s Moroccan Chicken and Rice and was astonished that her throw-everything-into-a-pan-and-chuck-it-in-the-oven technique actually worked: after 40 minutes of roasting, the chicken emerged with golden skin, and the rice was perfectly cooked, its edges irresistibly crisp.
Prior to making Diana’s recipe, I made chicken and rice à la the Canal House ladies, always browning the chicken prior to adding the vegetables, rice, and water. I’ve never minded the process because the recipe overall is so simple, and the end product is loved by all.
But Diana’s method made me wonder which other recipes could spare the preliminary browning step? Last fall I tested the technique with Sally Schneider’s chicken with sherry vinegar sauce, which calls for both flouring and browning the chicken. The simplified process worked like a charm. As I began thinking about other recipes that might work, one of my favorites came to mind: chicken legs with white wine, parmigiano, and olive oil , which has always adhered to the chuck-everything-in-at-once technique, and the result has always been crisp skin, tender meat.
Over the weekend, while searching my email for a chicken and shallot recipe my mother had sent me, I came across a New York Times Cooking newsletter from December 2014. In the letter, Sam Sifton writes about his favorite dish of the year, which came via an Andrew Zimmern tweet: “Brown 8 thighs, 3 C shallots. Add wine, tarragon, Dijon, sim 30 min covered. Remove lid, reduce. Add 2C cut cherry toms.” Andrew’s wife, Rishia, had adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart. Sam made the recipe right away, then posted his adaptation in Cooking, where it has since received thousands of rave reviews.
The recipe, which calls for flouring and browning the chicken before adding shallots, mustard, and white wine, seemed like another good candidate to give the all-in-at-once treatment. I made it immediately, skipping the flouring and browning, jumping straight to the sautéing of the shallots, then adding the mustard, thyme, and white wine. After about 45 minutes in the oven, the chicken emerged as hoped: with burnished skin and meat falling off the bone. This chicken is delicious, but my favorite part about the recipe is the shallots, which further caramelize in the oven and melt into the sauce, infusing it with sweetness. Though the 15 shallots nearly make this a one-pan wonder, I served it with a kale salad and, of course, bread for sopping.
Friends: Is browning chicken necessary? Do you always flour and brown your chicken destined for stove-top or oven braises? I don’t anymore. This said, every so often, if the chicken is large or particularly fatty, I do find the sauce benefits from being skimmed. I do this simply by transferring the meat to a platter, pouring the juices into a liquid measure, letting them sit, then skimming the fat that rises to the top (see pictures below).
PS: More Weeknight Chicken Recipes Here.
Roast Chicken and Shallots
Adapted from this NY Times recipe via an Andrew Zimmern tweet, which read: “Brown 8 thighs, 3 C shallots. Add wine, tarragon, Dijon, sim 30 min covered. Remove lid, reduce. Add 2C cut cherry toms.” Andrew's wife, Risha, had adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart.
Changes I've made include: skip the browning. Ever since making Diana Henry's Moroccan chicken and rice, which calls for a chuck-everything-in-the-oven-at-once technique, I don't brown chicken anymore. Not browning yields crispy skin in said Moroccan chicken and rice recipe as well as in this Chicken with Sherry Vinegar recipe and here with this roast chicken and shallots.
One caveat: If you use large or fattier chicken pieces, your sauce may be overwhelmed with rendered fat. I rarely have this issue, but every so often, if I taste the sauce at the end of cooking, and it tastes too fatty, I'll remove the meat (and shallots, here), pour the sauce into a Pyrex, let the fat rise to the top, and skim it off. I find this easier than browning especially since this step isn't always necessary.
Also, I use thyme because I can't always find tarragon — not similar flavors, but each works well with the other flavors in this dish.
Also, given the season, I do not add tomatoes.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 to 15 whole medium shallots, peeled, halved if large
- kosher salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- a few sprigs tarragon or thyme
- 2 cups white wine
- fresh-cracked black pepper
- 8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs or drummies or a combination
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot or skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, add the shallots to the pot, season with salt, and sauté them in the butter until they begin to soften and caramelize, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Lower the heat as needed if shallots are browning too quickly. Add the mustard and thyme and stir until the mustard coats the shallots evenly and begins to brown. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release any brown bits.
- Meanwhile, season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper on both sides. When the wine simmers, add the chicken pieces to the pan and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until the skin is nicely brown and crisp. Remove pan from oven.
- Using a spoon, swirl around the sauce and take a taste. If it tastes good, serve it. If it tastes fatty, transfer the meat and shallots to a platter, pour the juices into a Pyrex and let them sit until the fat rises, about 5 minutes. Skim off the fat. Return the juices, chicken and shallots to the pan. Return to the oven or bring to a simmer stove top to reheat. If chicken isn't as brown as you would like, you can stick it under the broiler too. Serve immediately with crusty bread and a salad.
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