There’s a lot to be said for one-pot cooking. We’re talking about less cleaning up and it uses less fuel. It’s also a great way to get flavours to intermingle and to make the most of hardy winter veg, leafy greens and secondary cuts of meat.
One pot cooking, or braising is a way of cooking as old as time. It’s as simple as 1,2,3,4.
1. Brown the meat.
2. Soften some aromatics like onion, leek, carrot, celery or fennel.
3. Return the meat to the pot with stock or another liquid (wine, beer or even herbal teas can work well) to deglaze and bring to the boil.
4. Clamp on a lid and turn down the heat to a low simmer until the proteins are cooked through and your veg is as soft as a hug from your Nan.
Braising can be something that can take all day if you’re nursing beef cheeks or oxtail, or it can be as quick as 40 minutes until the most comforting stew is on your table, particularly if you use a cut like boneless chicken thighs.
Chicken thighs are born for this. The darker meat is forgiving and gives a sturdy flavour to the pot (chicken breasts will end up papery and dry). Skin off, boneless thighs cut into pieces the size of a matchbook will give you a good forkable result, that makes for great bowl food. If you lob in a good amount of root veg with your stock and serve it over rice, noodles, mash or quinoa, or with crusty bread on the side you can make four chicken thighs easily stretch to serve 6 people.
There are some tricks to a good braise. The first is to season your meat with some salt, then brown it well in some neutral tasting oil. If you add some colour to the meat over a high heat you’ll get their natural sugars to start caramelising. Then remove that with a slotted spoon and soften your aromatics like onion, leek, fennel or carrot with another good pinch of salt. Then add a complimentary root veg cut into similar sizes as the chicken pieces and your braising liquid. You can use wine, or beer or stock. If you’ve got home made stock in your freezer or fridge, that’s awesome. If not, then reach for some of the good quality stocks that are available, like Maggie Beer’s chicken broth. You can use your stock as is, or you can boost the flavour even more with additions like chopped porcini mushrooms or miso paste. When you add the stock be sure scrape at the bottom of the pot to release any flavour that’s been caught there. Then bring it all it up to a boil, then immediately turn the heat down to low and cook it at a slow blurble with the lid on for 30 minutes or so, or put it in a medium oven (150C) for 30 -40 mins. Add your greens just before serving so they can wilt in the heat of the pot - they’ll be nicest that way. Then garnish with a couple of extra flavourings, like mustards, or pickles, nuts or piquant things like olives or capers to add some brightness.
But where do you go from here?
What if there was a formula that would allow you to choose your own adventure and build your own failsafe one pot chicken dinner. Would that be good?
We think it might.
1. Take 600 g of chicken thighs.
2. Choose 2 aromatics like onions, carrots, celery, fennel or leek, and then 1 root veg (like parsnip, swede, sweet potato, potato, celeriac).
3. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and 2 tbsp of any extra flavourings like miso or porcini or soy if you fancy.
4. Add 2 double handfuls of chopped greens at the end and then pick three complimentary flavour boosters for garnish.
5. Maybe you want braised chicken with fennel, parsnip, kale, olives and capers (recipe below), or braised chicken with leek, miso, swede and silverbeet (recipe below) is what you’re craving. Or maybe it’s braised chicken with porcini mushrooms, Tuscan kale and sweet potato (recipe below) that suits the mood. Whatever it is, the pattern is the same. And once you’ve got it locked, there’s no end to the directions you can take it.
6. Serve it with crusty bread, mash, rice, crusty bread, quinoa, pearl barley, cauliflower rice or pureed white beans. Or just on its own out of a bowl. The beauty about braises is they’re often even better the next day. (And if you’re ever at a loss with what to do with leftovers, take comfort that with a sheet of puff pastry baked over the top you’ve also got a chicken pie worth rushing home for).
Winner winner chicken dinner? Yup.
Braised Chicken with Leek, Miso, Swede & Silverbeet. Get the recipe →
Braised Chicken with Fennel, Parsnip, Kale, Olives & Capers. Get the recipe →
Braised Chicken with Porcini Mushrooms, Tuscan Cabbage & Sweet Potato. Get the recipe →