Cooking chicken can be tricky. Cooking it for too long results in dry meat yet cooking it too little can be outright dangerous. What's the best way to get a tender, delicious chicken?
One excellent cooking method for meat that results in tender, juicy meat is braising. Braising can be considered combination of roasting and slow cooking. Both take place in an oven but while roasting is a hot, dry quick cooking method, bracing uses a slow, moist, lower temperature method as well as short hot dry cooking at some point. Braising meat results in very succulent, flavorful dishes because the flavors and the juices have time to combine and concentrate.
To braise a chicken you need at least two things, a casserole pot with a lid and something that will keep up the humidity inside the pot. An excellent way to keep up the humidity and also give flavor to the dish is to use cut up vegetables. A special classic mix of vegetables; comments, carrots and celery (this combination even has its own name: mirepoix) is a very good choice. You can also experiment with any hearty vegetables you want for flavor nuances but those three will keep their own no matter what.
Additional ingredients you may want to consider are fresh herbs and a stuffing. Sage, rosemary and thyme go really well with mirepoix and chicken, they can be considered the herb relatives to the classic mirepoix vegetables. If you want to add even more layers of flavor to the chicken, as well as some more moisture you'll want to consider including a stuffing. I'll be using a traditional bread crumbs stuffing that I soak in butter and stock for the example recipe.
Now on to the recipe, here's what you need:
1 whole chicken
1 small yellow onion
2 celery stalks
80g / 1/3 cup butter
1.2dl / 1/2 cup chicken stock
3 garlic cloves (halved)
1 table spoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
0.8dl / 1/3 cup chicken stock
80g / 1/3 cup butter
1 table spoon fresh parsley chopped fine
1/2 table spoon fresh thyme chopped fine
1 table spoon rosemary chopped fine
1 bay leaf
1 tea spoon peppercorns
1 garlic clove smashed
4 toasted whole wheat bread slices
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by turning your oven to 160 ° C / 320 ° F.
Begin the recipe by making the chicken stuffing. Put the smaller amount of chicken stock, bay leaf, garlic, parsley, thyme and pepper into a small pot and let simmer for around 10 – 15 minutes to infuse the stock with the delicious taste of the herbs. Once done, drop the butter in the pot and put the lid on.
While the butter is melting, toast the slices of bread and then tear them into small chunks and put them into a bowl. Pour the stock through a strainer and into the bowl, separating all the herbs out. Add the rosemary at this stage and mix in with the bread and the liquid. Season with salt and pepper until you like the outlet.
Rinse and pat the chicken dry. Season it with salt and pepper and lay it in a casserole pot. There should not be a large amount of extra space. Stuff the chicken with the bread mixture.
Cut the carrots, onion and celery into rather large chunks and arrange them around the chicken in the casserole pot along with chopped up thyme, garlic cloves cut in half and the larger amount of chicken stock. Lay thick slices of butter on top of the chicken, put the lid on the casserole pot and place it in the oven.
Now for the braising / roasting combination method: First cook the chicken for one hour on 160 ° C / 320 ° F with the lid on the casserole pot. Next, take the lid off and cook for another 50 minutes on 160 ° C / 320 ° C. Finally, increase the temperature to 220 ° C / 430 ° F with the fan setting (convection) turned on and cook for 30 minutes. To make sure the chicken is done, use a meat thermometer, chicken should reach 70 ° C / 160 ° F when you take it out.
You can use this bracing / roasting combination method for all sorts of chicken recipes. I encourage you to experiment with different vegetables, herbs, spices and stuffing ingredients.