Well, here I am walking the walk, because while this dish would seem a natural today (it is about 55 degrees and raining as I write this post), when we made it a week ago it was in the upper 70s and the sun was shining brightly, not exactly the kind of weather that makes you think of a braise. I'm here to tell you though that this dish felt spot-on as we dined al fresco, watching the sun set over the beach, enjoying the chicken's Asian flavors along with a crisp green salad, some freshly baked bread and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Ain't no rules that can corral a dish as good as this, eat it when you want, with what you want, and with whomever you want.
The recipe, from Mollie Steven's All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking , has become a fast favorite of my wife, and the kids love it too. As with many braises, it's quick to throw together, but because we're talking chicken parts here and not a whole pork shoulder, cooking time is relatively short for a braise, about 30-35 minutes. Any of you who love the down home goodness of a braise and have been looking for a comprehensive source of great recipes to cook them from, look no more, Molly's book is the one for you. I defy you to find a more diverse and well documented collection of braised dishes anywhere.
Peyton measured, diced and otherwise prepped all of our mise while I set myself to browning the thighs. By the time I was done, she had all of the aromatics ready to toss in the pan….ah, the joys of teamwork! While the thighs were braising we tossed together a simple green salad and some brown basmati rice. If you've got a pan pig enough to hold a double batch (16 thighs) in a single layer, break it out and put it to good use making a super-sized batch of these beauties. They reheat beautifully and you'll be happy to be able to grab any left-overs easily from the fridge for a quick weeknight meal or a tasty lunch.
Cheers – Steve
Soy Braised Chicken Thighs with Star Anise and Orange Peel
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, plus more if needed
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chicken stock or water
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided use
- 3 scallions
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 dried small red chile
- 3 short strips orange zest removed with vegetable peeler
- 1 whole star anise
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Heat the oven to 325 ℉.
- In small bowl, stir together soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, brown sugar and 1/4 cup stock or water. Stir to mix and set aside.
- Rinse chicken with cool water and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large ovenproof skillet or other heavy-lidded braising pot over medium-high heat until oil shimmers. Add half of chicken pieces, skin side down, and sear, without disturbing, until skin is crisp and bronzed, about 6 minutes. Turn pieces carefully to avoid tearing skin. Brown other side, about 6 minutes more. Transfer chicken to large plate to catch juices. Cook remaining chicken the same way.
- While chicken is browning, coarsely chop scallions, separating white and green parts. Set greens aside.
- Discard all fat from pan and return pan to medium heat. Add remaining tablespoon of oil, then white part of scallions, garlic, ginger and chile. Stir and cook just until you can smell garlic and ginger, about 30 seconds. Pour in reserved soy mixture and stir to combine. Add orange zest and star anise.
- Set chicken thighs in pan and add any juices that have accumulated on plate. Cover pan with parchment paper, pressing down so paper nearly touches chicken and edges extend about an inch over sides of pan. Cover with a secure lid and place pan in lower third of oven. After 15 minutes, turn chicken pieces with tongs and check to be sure there's at least 1/4 inch of liquid in pan. If not, add a few tablespoons of stock or water. Replace parchment and lid and return pan to oven until chicken is fork-tender and pulling away from bone, about 15 minutes more.
- With slotted spoon, transfer chicken to serving platter without crowding pieces and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Remove star anise and orange peel from pan. Set pan over medium-high heat and bring to simmer. Skim off any surface fat. Add scallion greens.
- Put cornstarch in small bowl. Add remaining tablespoon stock or water and whisk briefly to combine and smooth out any lumps. Pour mixture into simmering liquid, stirring to incorporate it evenly. Liquid will immediately thicken to a glossy sauce the consistency of maple syrup. Pour any juices chicken has released into sauce and simmer for another minute. Taste for soy sauce and vinegar. Sauce should be salty, but if it is too salty for your taste, a splash of vinegar will balance it.
- Spoon sauce over chicken and stir.