I've decided to cook my way through a food science cookbook (The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt). You know, Julie & Julia style. Except a tad nerdier. (Let's see how far I get...) Yesterday I made a modified version of "Easy skillet-braised chicken with tomatoes, olives, and capers". No olives though, thank you very much.
Introduction: Chicken legs contain dark meat, also known as "slow-twitch muscle", which has a lot of capillaries (that's why it's dark). Dark meat also has more connective tissue than white meat. For this cut of meat, slow braising (low and slow) is perfect. (White meat should be cooked hot and fast.) The connective tissue in dark meat softens as you cook it (i.e., it turns into gelatin) and the meat becomes nice and tender. But beware of the skin! Nobody likes a soggy chicken skin. Nobody. Take care to really brown the skin (i.e., don't touch it for the 4 minutes in the pan) before you braise it to render the fat and enhance flavor. And then keep the chicken skin above the level of the sauce while slow-cooking it in the oven.
- 3 chicken legs, skin on
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon EVOO
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- about 14 oz crushed tomatoes (1/2 of a 28 oz can)
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, torn
- juice from 1 lime
Methods: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the chicken, skin side down. Partially cover with a lid for 4 minutes until golden brown. Flip the chicken and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the onions and cook for about 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the paprika and cumin and cook for about 1 minute. Add the white wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the "brown bits" on the bottom of the pan. Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, and capers. Bring the sauce to a boil. Add the chicken, skin side up. Cook in the oven with the lid on for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 20 minutes until the chicken is tender. Add the cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with lots of crusty bread.
Results and Discussion: I was a little skeptical about capers + cumin + cilantro. But the final product was quite nice! And pretty easy, I must say. I bet this recipe would be just as yummy if substituted lemon for the lime, thyme for the paprika and cumin, and parsley for the cilantro. Just sayin'.