Braised Chicken Breasts with Cider and Parsnips
I am cooking my way through Molly Stevens‘ terrific book All About Braising: A Treasury of One-Pot Meals, which is full of winter comfort food. This chicken dish lived up to the praise on the inside cover: “The miracle of this cooking technique is that it asks so little of the cook yet delivers fork tender food bathed in a delectable sauce”.
Braising involves browning protein or vegetable, all-around heat with a flavourful liquid coming about 1/3 up on the primary ingredient, and a tight lid on the pot to keep the moisture in. While the lists of ingredients in Stevens’ recipes are short, her directions are extremely detailed, which can be an advantage to some cooks since she informs about why you are doing every step. I have taken the liberty here of abbreviating the instructions.
2 t. olive oil
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ wide strips
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 large shallot, minced
2 1/2 c. hard cider (see photo below)
1 T. finely chopped rosemary
1 lb. parsnips, peeled, any woody core removed and cut into sticks 3″x 1/2″
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Combine the oil and bacon in a large lidded skillet (about 4-quart capacity). Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the bacon is just crisp, then remove and set aside. Rinse the chicken breasts, dry very well and season with salt and pepper. Discard most of the oil left in the pan, place the chicken skin side down into the pan and brown it well on both sides. Transfer to a tray while you prepare the aromatics and braising liquid.
Add the shallot to the pan and cook for about a minute, being careful not to let it burn. Pour in 2 cups of the cider to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Let the cider boil to reduce to about 1/2 cup. Add the rosemary and remaining 1/2 cup cider and boil again until there is about 3/4 cup total liquid.
Add the parsnips and season well with generous grindings of black pepper and arrange the chicken on top. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it down so it almost touches on the chicken and cover the skillet with a lid. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked. Transfer the chicken to a platter. If the parsnips are not quite tender, set the pan over medium heat and simmer until they are cooked and the sauce has a concentrated, sweet flavour. Taste for salt and pepper. Arrange parsnips around the chicken and ladle the sauce over top. Serves 4.