Win Back Your Loved Ones This Weekend With Chicken Breasts Braised With Hard Cider & Parsnips

You are about to read a record-setting post. This is the shortest amount of time that’s ever passed between a meal consumed and a post written. I just made this for dinner:

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And everyone loved it so much they said, “You HAVE to post this on your website.”

It’s from Molly Stevens’ new book, “All About Braising,” which I finally broke down and bought the other day. I vacillated between this and Daniel Boulud’s new braising book and it took days to pick the winner. I chose this because I already have a Daniel book and I wanted to give Molly Stevens a chance. Thank God I did! This dinner is one for the ages: I’m going to make it again and again.

Now some might say, “Chicken breast? Blech. What am I, on a diet?” Fair enough, but somehow it works in this dish because of all the other components: the bacon, the rosemary, the cider. They all come together and work a miracle.

Don’t forget to brown the chicken ’til it’s truly golden brown. That’s key. And try to get the best chicken you can (organic, free-range is best. At least the foodies say so.)

Now, then, I’m going to treat you all and type out the recipe after the jump. I hope you make this over the weekend–let me know how it turns out! (Craig wants your leftover parsnips. “Those parsnips were amazing,” he reiterates.)

Chicken Breasts Braised with Hard Cider & Parsnips

by Molly Stevens, from “All About Braising”

Serve with the same hard cider used in the recipe!

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 slices thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch wide strips

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 3 pounds total)

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)

2 1/2 cups hard cider (still or bubbly)

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 pound parsnips, peeled, any woody core removed and cut into sticks about 3 inches by 1/2 inch

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Crisping the bacon: Combine the oil and bacon in a large deep lidded skilled or shallow braising pan (4-quart capacity is ideal). Heat over medium heat, stirring a few times, until the bacon renders most of its fat and is just crisp, about 6 minutes. With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Set the pan aside.

3. Browning the chicken: Rinse the chicken breasts under cool running water and dry them thoroughly with paper towels. (Be sure to dry the chicken thoroughly, or it won’t brown properly and will threaten to stick to the pan during searing.) Pour off and discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and rendered bacon fat from the pan. Heat the remaining fat over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Place them skin side down in the pan and brown, without disturbing, for a few minutes. Then peek underneath by lifting the edge of the chicken with a pair of tongs to see if the skin is crisp and bronzed. Once the skin is nicely browned, about 4 to 5 minutes, turn with tongs and brown the other side as well, another 4 to 5 minutes. If the breasts are extremely plump, stand them on the wide rounded edge, leaning them against the sides of the pan or holding them upright with the tongs, and brown this edge, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large plate or tray to catch the juices, and set aside.

4. The aromatics and braising liquid: Add the shallot to the pan, still over medium-high heat, and let it sizzle, stirring, for a minute. It will brown quickly–be careful not to let it burn. Quickly pour in 2 cups of the hard cider to deglaze, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge and dissolve the browned bits that will flavor the sauce. Let the cider boil to reduce down to about 1/2 cup, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the rosemary and the remaining 1/2 cup cider and boil down again until there’s about 3/4 cup total, another 6 to 8 minutes. The cider won’t become thick, but you will be concentrating the combined flavors of fruit, bacon drippings, chicken drippings, and rosemary in the process.

5. The braise: Add the parsnips and season with generous grindings of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle the bacon over the parsnips, and arrange the chicken pieces on top, skin side down. Cover with parchment paper, pressing down so that the paper nearly rests on the chicken pieces and hangs over the sides of the pan by about an inch, and set the lid in place. Slide the pan onto a rack in the lower third of the oven to braise at a gentle simmer. After 25 minutes, turn the chicken pieces, and check the liquid. If it is simmering too ferociously, lower the oven temperature 10 or 15 degrees. Continue braising until the meat at the thickest part of the breast is cooked through when you make a small incision with a knife, another 20 to 25 minutes.

6. The finish: Transfer the chicken to a good-looking platter or serving dish. Spear a few parsnips gently with the tip of a sharp knife, and if they are tender throughout, remove them with a slotted spoon and arrange them alongside the chicken. If they are not yet tender, leave them in the pan. Degrease the sauce as necessary by skimming the surface with a large spoon, and then taste. If the sauce tastes a bit weak and/or if the parsnips are not tender, set the pan over medium-high heat and simmer until the parsnips are easily pierced but not falling apart and the sauce has a concentrated, sweet flavor, 5 to 8 minutes. You want the sauce to be thicker than stock, but not thick enough to coat a spoon. Taste for salt and pepper. if you haven’t already, scoop out the parsnips and arrange them around the chicken. Ladle the sauce over the chicken and parsnips.

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