With the cooler weather we were having a couple of weeks ago, and all sorts of squashes making their way onto the stands, I thought a braised chicken dish would seem fitting since fall has arrived. I served it over cauliflower rice, with a side of roasted carrots tossed in rosemary, and a new bread recipe (good enough for sauce-dipping) that was a hit (will share soon). It was a delicious Friday night dinner for the suddenly chilly weather we were having and one I will be making again soon. And the spiced applesauce bundt cake, that I am still thinking about. Surprisingly, dinner wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be, with an inch of room for dessert (there’s always room for dessert).
Not long after, Mother Nature had a chuckle over any best-laid plans to welcome fall with pumpkin spice baking and squash roasting mayhem around here and decided to make sunny California a sweltering California (even for this sun-loving gal), as in 98 degrees hot – and I’m not talking about the boy band.
Too hot for late-September. Has it been this hot by you too? (Sigh) If only Mother nature left some peaches and plums hanging around so that I can embrace this darn desert heat. Complaining? Who me? What would give you that idea?
In any event, albeit this comforting braised dish may be the furthest thing from my over-heatededness (grammar police lay off) these days, it may be cool enough by you, and if so, this is one impressive make-ahead dish worthy enough to impress — seductive and deeply flavored, as a good braised dish will do — it will feed a crowd (or not, because you can easily halve the recipe for date-night bragging rights) without much fuss on your part as it does what it does while it simmers away. Now I know, when we say, braised it really means to finish cooking in the oven but mine were full (baking goodies for the weekend) so I let it simmer stove-top giving us the same splendid results and no big skillet to lug out of the oven. 🙂
I should tell you, although you likely already know this, the aroma of that fills the air during said simmer will likely lure you to dig in once done, but please do hold off a day or two, it gets even better. And good things really do come to those who wait. Scouts honor.
I realize one of the key ingredients may not be available everywhere, but if you can, scouring a Middle Eastern market for jarred sour cherries in syrup is well worth it — it adds a sharp, tangy complexity to the somewhat-sweet braised chicken that is simply delicious and is every bit what makes this dish. I was inspired to do the trek to the Valley in search of sour cherries at a large Persian market (where I also found a bunch of other Middle eastern ingredients that I hastily filled my cart with as all sorts of recipes came to mind – don’t get me started.) since craving Middle Eastern inspired foods, and since my crowd is large, hence the larger portions, I went for the larger – okay, humungous sized jar – because I didn’t want to mince flavors here.
Speaking of flavors: reason being why I also went with the double-take amount of garlic. It really (!) isn’t very vampire-worthy given its’ developing sweetness simmered on low heat and the grand amount of chicken we are dealing with. I should also tell you, if you prefer a thicker sauce, closer to a glaze, if you will, go without the slurry of tapioca starch and let it simmer another hour, to reduce the sauce even further. It will also deepen the flavor so check for seasoning later rather than sooner if desired.
We love spoonfuls of sauce over the chicken, so I add the slurry of tapioca to thicken in and shorten the reducing time, reducing the sauce by half — enough to infuse and coat while ensuring beautifully flavored falling-off-the-bone chicken with plenty of sauce to dip some bread into.
Either way, this braised chicken in sour cherries is one for the what-do-I-make-with-chicken list and doesn’t need much to make it outstanding – the simmering of these flavors will take care of that – even my kid-tested-and-family-approved can vouch for that, on a chilly night, that is. 🙂
- 12 organic chicken thighs
- 6 tablespoons avocado oil
- 2 medium onions, diced
- ¼ cup fresh garlic, minced, about three handfuls of cloves
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 large 56-ounce jar sour cherries in syrup (I use Zergut brand)
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
- 4 teaspoons water
- ¼ cup kosher salt (see note below on why)
- 2-3 tablespoons crushed black pepper, to taste
- fresh cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped
- Season the chicken thighs with kosher salt and pepper, about a 3-finger pinch on each side of salt (to resemble a light dusting of snow) and a 2-finger pinch of black pepper on each side. When all have been seasoned set aside while preparing other ingredients. Note: it is best not to cook chicken right out of the refrigerator, rather sitting at room temperature 20 minutes, since it is will reduce the pan’s temperature and sear the chicken unevenly.
- Combine tapioca starch and water in a small and stir to dissolve completely, set aside.
- When all your ingredients have been prepared, set a skillet pan on medium high heat. When the pan has heated, add avocado oil. When the oil appears hot (it should slide around easily and look thin), carefully add chicken thighs, skin-side down, and cook 2-3 minutes on each side.
Chickenwill cook through later while simmering in the sauce. For best braise, spread out the chicken to prevent crowding; I do this in two batches. No need to rest braised chicken on paper towels, add the juice on the bottom of your resting plate or bowl back into the skillet later.
- When all pieces have been seared to a golden brown, crisp exterior, remove from skillet. Add a tablespoon or two of oil if needed, then add diced onions, minced garlic, minced rosemary, about two teaspoons of kosher salt and stir to combine well.
- Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, until soft and aromatic. Then add the whole jar of sour cherries (slowly!), when it begins to boil throughout (not just along the edges) add the apple cider vinegar, reduce to medium heat and cook another 5 minutes, uncovered. Add tapioca starch liquid and stir to combine well. Add chicken thighs back in, submerging as much of the chicken as possible. As it comes back to a boil, cook another 45 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half and the chicken is very tender. If more of a glaze is desired: omit tapioca starch and water mixture and reduce another 45-60 minutes until sauce has reduced two-thirds (it will reduce further as it absorbs into the meat when
coolingso don’t reduce further). Delicious over any vegetables. We love steamed cauliflower rice or mash, roasted spaghetti squash, or celery root and cauliflower mash.
- Notes: Like with most braised dishes, this dish tastes even better when served the next day. It is also freezer friendly, simply freeze chicken in its’ juice for up to two months when sealed in a freezer-safe container.
- Notes on salt:
- The recipe does call for a lot of salt in the recipe but it does make plenty and not even slightly salty, here’s why: kosher salt contains
lesssalt crystals in volume and weighs the least compared to other salts, whereas table salt is highest given the tiny compressed granules. Both are chemically the same, the difference is the volume in that pinch you pick up to season your meat or anything else. If you were to use table salt for this recipe (or any of my recipes) the result would be saltier, maybe too salty to eat. I strongly suggest Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt; not only is it the easiest salt to control when seasoning food, it has coarse granules that season evenly and a clean (non-briny) taste. Coarse sea salt has a similar flaky crystal and lighter volume than table salt, but has more of the ocean flavor to it - not very appetizing, I think. Because salting meats (or anything other than baking) with a measured spoon is awkward, a good guideline is the finger pinch. The general rule: a two-finger pinch is between an ⅛-1/4of a teaspoon; a three-finger pinch is about a scant or heaping ½ teaspoon measure. This also depends on how big your hands are, of course.
- Note on garlic:
- If your garlic is pungent in smell go with half the amount of garlic, unless you like a stronger garlic flavor. Honestly, given this is a large dish to feed at least six, a few garlic cloves won’t enhance the sauce. My garlic is not strong allowing me to use more for more flavor without making the dish taste too garlicky. Despite the large amount used here, rest assured, a strong garlic flavor does not come through and is actually more sweet than pungent.
- Note on jarred sour cherries:
- Cost Plus World Market store carries the Zergut brand (imported from Bulgaria) as do Middle Eastern markets and some ethnic sections of supermarkets. If it is unavailable near you (don’t bother to order from Amazon, it is insanely expensive), sub using frozen cherries (4 cups worth) and 3½ cups of tart cherry juice.
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