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Braised Herb Chicken

By Julia Johnson,
Professional Culinary Arts student

Around this time of year, when the air begins to turn crisp, I always find myself craving richer, heartier flavors to replace the brighter, fresher notes of summer. So, when we were given the task of preparing a chicken “our way” in class last week, braising was the first thing that came to mind. The process is simple, yet multi-layered, which yields a complexity and depth that is hard to achieve with other cooking methods.

It wasn’t going to be the most innovative or groundbreaking dish of the class – of that I was sure – but to me there’s something to be said for a classically prepared, braised chicken. The nostalgia it invokes, the familiar and comforting flavors – it can be a really powerful experience. After all, it must be considered a classic for a reason.

This dish is flavored by little more than the chicken’s own succulent juices, yet the flavors are layered and rich. The skin is browned and crisp from a quick sear, and the meat is juicy and tender from cooking in the braising liquid. An herbaceous tarragon aioli served alongside adds a nice contrasting brightness. It’s a delicious meal to curl up with on a chilly fall day. I hope you enjoy!

Braised Herb Chicken with Potatoes, Haricot Vert + Tarragon Aioli

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Yield: serves 4

For the chicken, potatoes, and sauce:

  • 1 3 – 4 pound chicken, quartered
  • coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into medium-sized mirepoix
  • 1 pound fingerling or other waxy potatoes, cut into medium-sized mirepoix
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock

For the haricot vert:

  • 10 ounces haricot vert, ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tarragon aioli:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup mixed oil (half extra virgin olive oil, half vegetable oil)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Arrange the pieces of chicken on a sheet pan and season generously all over with salt. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes (preferably, a few hours or up to overnight). Remove from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Pat dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, tarragon, parsley, and mustard with a fork until well incorporated. Rub the butter mixture all over the chicken pieces, including under the skin on the breasts. Season the pieces with freshly cracked black pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Add the vegetable oil to a large cast iron or oven-safe skillet and preheat over high heat until hot. Turn the heat down slightly to medium-high. Add the two thigh pieces skin side down. Sear, without moving, until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. Flip and sear on other side for about 3 minutes longer. Remove from skillet and set aside. Repeat process with two breast pieces.

Once breasts have finished searing, return the thighs to the skillet (all pieces should be skin side up). Arrange onions and potatoes around the chicken (if possible, try to get everything in 1 layer). Add the crushed garlic and the chicken stock.

Transfer skillet to the preheated oven and braise the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (depending on the size of your chicken, this will take anywhere from 25 – 40 minutes).

While the chicken is braising, prepare the aioli: peel and finely mince the garlic clove. Add a pinch of salt and crush into a paste with your knife. Add to a medium-size bowl and add mustard, lemon juice, and egg yolk. Whisk to combine. While continuously whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil. Finish by mixing in chopped tarragon, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Once chicken is done, remove the skillet from the oven. Remove the chicken from the skillet, cover with foil, and set aside to rest. Place the skillet over high heat and bring remaining stock to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove the potatoes from the stock and set aside with the chicken. Continue to simmer the stock until reduced and thick, about 15 additional minutes. Remove from heat and strain, if desired (leave sauce unstrained for a more rustic presentation).

Lastly, prepare the haricot vert: bring a stock pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add haricot vert and cook until barely tender, about 1-2 minutes. Shock in ice water and drain on paper towels. Melt butter in a sauté pan and add the minced shallot. Sweat the shallot over medium heat until fragrant and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the blanched haricot vert. Saute, tossing to coat in butter, until finished cooking, about 3-4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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To plate: cut each quarter piece of chicken in two. Remove thigh bones. Plate 1 piece of dark meat and 1 piece of white meat per plate (making sure to include 1 bone per plate). Add potatoes and haricot vert. Drizzle sauce over the chicken and potatoes and serve tarragon aioli on the side.

– Julia
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