Braised Chicken, Mediterranean Style


A bright-tasting stew, light enough for summer.
TIME 1 hour
MAKES 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole cut-up chicken or about 3 pounds parts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions, chopped
2 anchovy fillets or 1 tablespoon drained capers, optional
1 teaspoon minced garlic
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (don’t bother to drain)
½ cup dry white wine, chicken stock, or water
1 cup Ni├žoise or kalamata olives, pitted
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish


Method
1 Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken, skin side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, undisturbed but adjusting the heat so the chicken sizzles but doesn’t burn, until the pieces release easily from the pan, 5 to 10 minutes. Then turn and rotate them every few minutes to brown them evenly. As the chicken pieces brown, after another 5 to 10 minutes, remove them from the pan.

2 Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium and pour or spoon off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add the onions and anchovies if you’re using them and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften and the anchovies break up, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomatoes and turn up the heat just a little. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble and the tomato thickens a bit, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, stir, and let the mixture bubble for another 2 minutes.

3 Add the olives and thyme, along with some pepper. (The olives are so salty that you may not need to add more salt, but if you do, you can always add it later.) Return the chicken pieces to the pan, tucking them into the sauce a bit. Adjust the heat so the liquid bubbles gently but steadily, then cover the skillet.

4 Cook, checking every 5 minutes to turn the pieces, until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes, adding a tablespoon of liquid if the sauce looks too dry. The meat is done when a quick read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reads 155–165°F. Remove the chicken from the pan and taste the sauce; adjust the seasoning, spoon it over the chicken, garnish with the parsley, and serve.

Variations
  • Braised Chicken with Chile and Orange: Skip the anchovies, olives, and thyme. Replace the olive oil with vegetable oil and the wine with orange juice. In Step 2, add a teaspoon of chili powder along with the onions. Continue with the recipe and garnish with cilantro.
  • Braised Barbecue Chicken: Skip the anchovies, olives, and thyme. Replace the wine with beer and add a tablespoon of chili powder and ¼ cup brown sugar along with the onions. Continue with the recipe.

Tips
  • If fresh tomatoes are in season (and ripe), use them, chopped—skin, seeds, and all. Figure 3 cups. For a rich, thick sauce, use roma (plum) tomatoes; slicers will be brighter tasting and more watery.

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