Cookery Column – Week 1 – Beer-braised Chicken Thighs

3 May 2013

For the inaugural column I’m going to share a family favourite and one of the first things I learned how to cook. The recipe is a legendary one from my grandmother Cuca, and it’s always a hit when I make it for my friends. There are two techniques involved which are invaluable for cooking cheap cuts of meat: browning and braising.

First things first, season the chicken with a light coating of salt (about a teaspoon for 6 pieces) and a few turns of the pepper mill. Take the pot with the thickest bottom you can find (ideally something that is not Teflon), coat the bottom with olive oil and set it on medium-high heat. Place the chicken on the pan – only as many pieces at a time as you can comfortably fit – and let it sit there for three of four minutes.

Once a crust has formed and you can lift it without sticking, flip it around and cook it on all sides until a nice golden-brown crust has formed. This step is crucial to make the dish taste good, so take your time. At this point the chicken is still raw inside and might bleed, but fish it out and reserve it on a plate till later.

Add to the pan the small diced onions and the carrots cut in thin rounds then lower the heat to medium-low. Stir the veg every once in a while, making sure you scrape the tasty bits stuck at the bottom of the pan. You want to cook it until the onion turns a little bit brown, which brings out the natural sweetness in the vegetables and makes this dish extra tasty.

Next, return the chicken to the pan, add the herbs (three or four sprigs, or a tablespoon of chopped), enough beer to just cover the chicken and the stock cube. Cover with a lid and let go for 45 minutes on medium-low heat so it bubbles very gently (this is the braising part).

Now the chicken should be cooked, and so should the veg. Taste for seasoning and add whatever it needs. Depending on how much beer you added, the sauce at this point might be a little thin or a tad thick. If you like it thicker (and I do) you can remove the lid in the last 15 minutes of cooking, or even fish out all the veg and chicken after they are cooked and further reduce the sauce. What’s important is that you let it cool a little bit before serving, because it helps thicken the sauce and gives it a really nice texture.

I normally eat it with rice, mashed potatoes or polenta and a salad on a side.

That’s it, you are done! You made a healthy, cheap and satisfying dish and learned a couple of things along the way!

For this recipe you’ll need:

Chicken thighs/drumsticks (or a mix of both), on the bone and with skin; about 2 or 3 pieces per person, depending on how hungry you are

2 medium sized onions

4 or 5 carrots

One can of lager

Chicken bouillon cube

Olive oil

Woody herbs (I like a mix of thyme and rosemary, but whatever floats your boat)

Photo – kae71463