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:

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!


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.

24 thoughts on “Win Back Your Loved Ones This Weekend With Chicken Breasts Braised With Hard Cider & Parsnips”

  1. I have a question….What is ‘hard’ cider? I’m in Nottingham England, and there as many different types of cider here. Does the hard mean, strong (in alcohol), or dry. I suspect it is the latter. Cheers, Ant.

  2. I adore that book and I always tell students to uy it when I teach my braising and stewing classes. Tryt he leek and potato braise. It is one of those times when a few ingredients turns out to be something sublime.

  3. Anton, it’s cider as you know it — with alcohol. In the US, they distinguish between alcoholic and nonalcoholic ciders. The former is “hard” and the latter is, well, no fun at all.

  4. Great post AG, the meal looks fantastic and you’ve inspired me to pick up Molly Steven’s book and have a go at some hardcore braising – and possibly some ferocious simmering as well!

    Also, as long as we’re talking chicken here, I must implore you to seek out (if not actually study and prepare) some Korean style fried chicken. There was an article about it in the NYT the other day and ever since then I’ve been craving it madly. I must know more… and I have a strong hunch that your take on it would be spot on, illuminating and entertaining to boot.



  5. oh HELl yeah! I’m so glad I started eating meat again!

    I’ll pass this on to a friend who’ll be cooking for her recuperating father-in-law on a little island in Scotland. He don’t want no stinkin’ tofu, no matter how good it may be for his arteries.

  6. I saw Molly Stevens’ book at a friend’s this summer and have been trying to locate it in London ever since. Thanks for posting this recipe. It will be a perfect way to use the parsnips I bought this weekend.

  7. You inspired me to whip this up tonight and it was true to form–incredible. I will definitely make again. I actually used regular apple cider and not “hard” and it was still great. I’m sure the alcoholic variety would add to the already significant depth of flavor. I’ll try that next time. Thanks!

  8. I have never eaten parsnips before. Are they like turnips?? I heart turnips. Mnnn good root veg in winter.

  9. Yum!! I love parsnips and sometimes make mashed ones, like potatoes. A bit sweeter, though. Your chicken is perfect for the rainy weather we’re having in LA…will have to try it.

  10. Woodchuck cider anyone? Mmmmmmm.

    That looks amazing. Food is definitely the way to go to win back/win over the loved ones. It’s completely neutral gift-giving territory. It could mean I love you or it could mean, eh, i had this extra dough lying around. I’m giving food for V-day, perhaps some chocolate covered-strawberries.

    Just blogged about that.

  11. Well, I’m making the chicken right now. Unfortunately, there was no parsnips at the grocery store :-(

    So, I will hopefully be able to pull this off without it. I will let you know! Fingers crossed!

  12. SNOW DAY in Indianapolis – perfect day to cook (and freeze) Mario’s Ribolitta, Ina’s cauliflower gratin, and this chicken, which is now in the oven. I didn’t know about hard cider either, but found Woodchuck in my grocery. I substituted green onions for the shallot…snow day…had to take what I could find. This weekend is set for the meatballs. Yesterday’s storm is heading your way, Adam and all. Snuggle up!

  13. What a perfect dish for a bitter cold V-Day. I made this last night for my man, we loved it. Try swapping out pancetta for the bacon and adding a knob of butter at the end of the braise. Heavenly.

  14. I made this last night, with mashed potatoes & brussels sprouts sauteed with bacon & onion. It was delicious, but I must say, I think the chicken may be even BETTER the next day, cold. I was also thinking next time I will make extra because the chicken would be great for chicken salad. Yum!

    Thanks AG!

  15. This was *excellent*. Made it last night (except that we lacked parchment paper, so the sauce was a little… well, not sauce) and it was immediately a ‘Lets make this again’ dish.

    We actually did it with skinless, boneless thighs.

    And, in reading this, I have to say, this sounds like I’m in the 4th grade saying what I did over the summer. I need to increase my writing skills again.

  16. I made this tonight, and it was delicious! I couldn’t help but have a few spoonfuls of the leftover sauce (but don’t tell my mother). Thanks for posting the recipe.

  17. This was quite good and easy but took a very long time (in my opinion). Possibly my fault for not reading the entire recipe carefully before preparing on a weeknight!


  18. I just made this last night and thought it was quite tasty. I usually don’t like sweet sauces on meat (just a quirk), but this sauce was not too cloying. I am quite enamored with braising right now, so I might check out Molly Stevens’ book. One question, when I braise beef short ribs, the longer I braise, the more tender it gets. I braised the chicken for 50 minutes or so, but would like it more tender. Would braising for longer do the trick?

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