Braising, a cooking process where food is first browned in a small amount of fat, and then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid is one of my favorite culinary techniques. The long, slow cooking develops flavors and tenderizes the food by gently breaking down the fibers. This preparation is especially delicious for hard-to-eat meats still on the bone, like lamb shanks, ham hocks, chicken wings or even rabbit pieces.
Once you have developed your technique, the flavor combinations are endless, varying with the ingredients and the creativity of the cook. Root vegetables like carrots, celeriac, turnip and rutabaga, add a robust and caramel hint. Onions add sweetness, and mushrooms have earthy overtones. Stock as the liquid, plays an important role in taste; but don’t overlook juices like tomato or apple cider, or even small amounts of wine or beer.
The word braise originates from the French word braiser. Here in the states, a braiser is also an ovenproof, heavy, cooking pot that can go from stovetop to oven, an extremely valuable cooking tool and worthwhile investment. Many classic, high-end restaurant style dishes like Coq au Vin and Beef Bourgogne are simply braised foods. If you’ve prepared a beef stew, then braising is your next step. Expand your culinary horizons, braise something today, and be sure to send along the recipe!
Braised Chicken Legs with Leeks and Mushrooms
- 4 four ounce chicken legs, bone in, skin removed
- 1 cup chopped leeks
- 8 ounces coarsely chopped mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup defatted low sodium chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped, about 1 teaspoon
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a heavy ovenproof casserole, heat the olive oil on top of the stove. (If you don’t own an oven, stovetop casserole, use a sauté pan and transfer to an oven dish). Remove the skin from the chicken legs and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper.
- Brown the chicken legs in the hot olive oil. Remove the legs and set aside. Brown the leeks and the chopped garlic in the oil. If they start to stick, deglaze the pan with a little chicken stock. Add the mushrooms and cook them until they start to give up their water. Sprinkle with the dried thyme and sage. Add the remaining chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the chicken legs, put the lid on the casserole (or transfer the mixture to the casserole dish) and bake in the oven until the meat falls off the bone and is tender, about 50 – 60 minutes. Makes four servings.
- Don’t have leeks? Use chopped onion instead. Mushrooms like portabellas, shiitakes or oyster will give the dish a more robust flavor, although white button mushrooms may also be used.