Braised Chicken and Balsamic

From Cooks Illustrated, the top of the cooking class.

August 2009 - I first tagged this recipe in 2004. What a mistake to wait so long to try it. I made this for long-time food lab rats Pat and Richard; they're game for almost anything. This recipe was pretty easy and the tastes are just incredible. There's the rich chicken thighs with this savory sauce and the balsamic acidity mixes so well with the chard. It would all go really well over pasta.

March 2010 UPDATE - While I suggested pasta above, Bob reports that the sauce is too thin to cling to it. He suggests mashed potatoes. He also tried substituting spinach for the chard but found that it doesn't have enough taste for the dish. Thanks for the hints, Bob!

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes
Serves 8

Heat oven: 350

A. chicken thighs, bone in 8 Skin on.
salt 1 teaspoon  
pepper, ground black 1 teaspoon  

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.

In a good size Dutch oven heat olive oil over medium high until it just begins to smoke.

Place the thighs skin side down and don't move them for 10 minutes; the skin should be very crisp.
You may want to use a splatter mesh to keep the oil from getting all over your stove.

Now turn the thighs over and cook for 5 more minutes.

B. yellow onion 1 large Chopped.
tomato paste 1 tablespoon  

When the thighs are done, take them out and place them on a plate.

Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the chicken fat.

Reduce heat to medium and add the onion and tomato paste. Cook it until the paste darkens, 4 minutes. Occasionally use a spoon to scrape bits off the bottom of the pan.

C. anchovy filet 1 Minced. Or a teaspoon of anchovy from a tube. Do NOT leave out the anchovy. You won't know there's anchovy in the finished dish and it adds a tremendous about of depth to this dish.
garlic 3 cloves Minced.
  canned tomatoes, diced 14.5 ounce can  
  chicken broth 2 cups  
fresh thyme 1 1/2 tablespoons Stripped from the stems and chopped.
  dry red wine 1/4 cup  
  red pepper flakes 1/4 teaspoon  
  bay leaf 1  

Add the anchovy and garlic, stirring constantly for one minute.

Add tomatoes, chicken broth, wine, pepper flakes, thyme and bay leaf.

Remove the skin from the chicken and set aside. Submerge the thighs in the liquid. (Cooks says to do it bone side up - does that really make a big difference?)

Increase heat to high, bring to a simmer, then cover and place in the oven for 50 minutes.

D. balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup  

Put the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Simmer it until the volume is reduced to 1/4 cup. It takes about five minutes. Set a timer and don't forget it! You'll know it's close when the smell of the vinegar begins to overwhelm your kitchen.

D. Swiss chard 12 ounces Cut the leaves from the stems and keep them separate. Slice stalks into 1/4 inch pieces. Slice leaves into small strips.

When the chicken is done remove it from the oven. Be careful, it is hot! Remove the chicken thighs to a plate and cover them with aluminum foil to slow evaporative cooling.

Put the Dutch over on the stove and bring the sauce to a simmer.

Add the chard stems to the chicken sauce and simmer for 8 minutes.

In a second pot bring one cup of water to a boil. Add the chard leaves, cover it and steam for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

E. final assembly    

Stir some of the sauce into the balsamic vinegar reduction and then add it all back into the Dutch oven sauce.

Add the chicken thighs and simmer for two minutes to reheat the chicken.

Use tongs to place some of the green leaves on each plate. Then a slotted spoon to place a thigh on top. Use a ladle to pour some of the stems and sauce over the thigh.

Serve immediately.

Oh, and the crunchy chicken skin? You can eat that any time, it's not used. LOL!