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Sep 30, 2006 03:59 AM

All About Braising: Poultry and Game Recipe Reviews

October 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of poultry or game recipes from Molly Stevens' All About Braising here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. If this is a recipe you've done many times before but aren't cooking currently, consider adding a note to the All About Braising: Previous Picks and Pans thread:

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Soy Braised Chicken Thighs with Star Anise and Orange Peel (p. 147)

    I liked this recipe but didn't love it. It had an amazing flavor and the house smelled wonderful. I chose this recipe because I prefer dark meat, especially thighs, and it had a relatively short braising time. I didn't love it because the thigh meat, while fork tender, didn't fall off the bone.

    It took a lot longer to cook this dish than I had anticipated. I used a 4.5 quart Le Creuset (blue) to cook this dish. Browning the thighs, at least the first batch was slightly problematic. I dried off the thighs but maybe not enough. The first batch stuck to the bottom of the pan. I used wooden chop sticks to scrape the skin off the bottom. I think some pieces stuck because 1) I didn't dry the chicken enough and/or 2) I didn't let the skin brown enough. The chicken did look brown, but who knows. The second batch of thighs browned up nicely. I had a timer set both times, so maybe it was the oil heat.

    After browning the thighs, I tossed in the white parts of the scallions, minced ginger, garlic and dried chile pepper. I then added the soy mixture (soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and brown sugar). Lastly, I added a whole star anise and orange zest.

    I put the thighs back into the pot. Unfortunately, the pot could not accomadate all the thighs in a single layer, so 3 thighs were resting on top of the bottom layer. The covered pot went into the oven for about 15 minutes. At this point, I flipped the thighs over, added a little bit of chicken stock, and put them into the oven. Total time in the oven was between 40-45 minutes (the book recommended 30-35 minutes).

    After the thighs came out of the oven, I removed the thighs from the sauce and lightly covered them with foil. A little bit of a corn starch and water mixture was stirred into the sauce, as well as the scallion greens. Lastly, the sauce was spooned on to the thighs.

    Other than the braising time, which was longer, I followed the recipe to the letter. The sauce and chicken had a great flavor. But, the skin was slightly icky and soggy so I didn't eat that. The sauce, went especially well with the white rice. I expected the chicken to be falling off the bone but I had to use a fork, knife and fingers to get the meat off.

    I served this with white rice and the braised broccoli rabe.

    I probably would try this recipe again. But, I would let it braise for a longer time, maybe an hour. If the next time, the meat doesn't slide right off, I won't make it again.

    Picture of the dinner plate:

    28 Replies
    1. re: beetlebug

      It looks amazing even if you didn't love it! Beautiful chicken, and I don't even like dark meat! :-)

      1. re: Katie Nell

        Thanks. It was my first attempt at taking and posting a picture. I'm already thinking about next time - if there is white rice, use a colored plate... ;=)

      2. re: beetlebug

        Hi, Beetlebug,

        I hate it when the chicken sticks to the pan. I'm glad Molly Stevens included those hints about having the meat absolutely dry (which can be difficult with chicken) and letting it brown before you disturb it. I've been following that lately, and it seems to help. The chicken does look delicious, though like you I wonder how long it would have to be braised to be falling off the bone tender.

        1. re: redwood2bay

          For falling off the bone, I'm guessing about an hour. She also talks about the flabby skin problem w/ braising chicken and offers some good tips...

          1. re: redwood2bay

            Thinking back on it, I suspect it was because the skin could have been drier on that first batch. I did nothing different on the second batch, except for using an additional paper towel on the chicken prior to throwing it in the pot. Consequently no stickiness issues with batch two.

            As for the flabby skin, that skin was going to be soft no matter what because it will rest in the braising liquid. That isn't as much of a problem since I can easily peel the skin off.

            1. re: beetlebug

              Yes, I think that's the reason why my chicken often sticks to the pan, too. I'm one of these cooks who always has to wash the meat before cooking it. I guess in future, I'll just have to be more careful about drying it before I saute.

              1. re: beetlebug

                I leave meat or poultry out to air dry or uncovered in the fridge to dry out the skin. It works well.

                1. re: faijay

                  how long can you leave raw chicken refrigerated? the last time i cooked breasts, i washed them and left them in the fridge with foil and they were nice and dry after a day and a half.

            2. re: beetlebug

              Oh this looks really delicious! The color looks a little red -- was it?

              But the idea of braising chicken with the skin on makes me a little oooogly. What tips did she offer about the skin?

              Chicken thighs are one of my favorite comfort foods. yum.

              1. re: yumyum

                It was more brownish with maybe a tinge of red. Probably from the orange peels.

                Tips on the skin: (p. 135) chicken skin must be dry, dry, dry. Browning the skin is necessary and it also renders off the fat. While, I poured the fat off, there was still fatty flavor in the pot itself.

                Other tips, watch the amount of braising liquid. Try not to submerge the skin entirely in the liquid. This, I don't get. If you are flipping the chicken pieces, there will always be skin in the liquid. I suspect she is differentiating between flabby and soft. To me, I won't eat either. Hence, I peel the skin off and place it out of eye sight. But, she also states that if you want crispy skin, to brown the chicken after braising, by placing it in the oven.

                1. re: beetlebug

                  Any reason not to use skinless thighs here? I tend to use skinless boneless thighs when I make stews and such. They also stick a little when browning.

                  1. re: julesrules

                    I've made a similar dish many times with skinned thighs (I don't care for braised chicken skin). But I do think the bones add flavor.

                  2. re: beetlebug

                    Could you do it without the skin entirely? I think I would...

                    1. re: yumyum

                      Skinless probably would work. There would be less fat on the bottom of the pan, but that may not be a bad thing...

                2. re: beetlebug

                  I made a shortcut variation of soy-braised chicken combining ingredients from this recipe and those of red pine chicken for the braising liquid, particularly mushroom soy sauce.
                  I wasn't wild about it -- I think a soy sauce base for a braise just isn't to my taste -- too one-dimensional. To be fair, I did not use star anise or scallions, but I did use lemon zest and ginger. I do like soy sauce marinades for grilled fish or stir fry, but the chicken is not one I will be returning to.

                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    P.S. two days later: Reheated leftover soy sauce-braised chicken and it ain't bad. The flavor seems to have mellowed a bit and wasn't as harsh as it seemed freshly braised.
                    So maybe I would make again (such as if I'm short on ingredients and in a hurry as I was two nights ago)

                  2. re: beetlebug

                    I am glad you brought up the flabby skin issue. I had some of the same problems when I made the chicken, olives, prunes and wine (p 131). After reading about your experience, I was thinking maybe it would be best to wash and dry the chicken earlier in the day and put it on a plate an uncovered in the fridge a la Zuni. The chicken would have a chance to throroughly dry. I also remember from watching a cooking show that once you get a really good sear then you can flip the meat, the meat has to release itself from the pan. I sometimes forget that tip and get flabby skin as a result. IMHO, the reason why you had less of a problem with the second batch is probably because some fat was rendered by the first batch then got hot when you were transferring the first batch to a platter/plate. The hot fat created an ideal environment for searing. It is sort of like the first pancake being the sacrificial pancake and all the others coming out perfect. I am glad we have this forum to discuss these issues, it makes cooking a lot easier (especially knowing others have the same problems as I do). Anyway, the chicken looks great and it looks like you did a terrific job.

                    1. re: beetlebug

                      This is kindof a random thought, but I wonder how it would be if you got the skin good and crispy (on its own or on the chicken) and then removed it before adding the liquid. Just before serving it could be re-crisped and sort of added as an accent.

                      1. re: mellycooks

                        That's an excellent idea. I do love crispy skin. I just made this other thigh dish, sans skin, per recipe and it was delicious. I may go bone in, skinless next time. Will post about it in the next day or two.

                        1. re: mellycooks

                          I like the way you think!!! That would be a great idea...added flavor AND texture!
                          I will definitely try this...!

                        2. re: beetlebug

                          I made this last week and the meat was falling off the bone after the suggested 35 mins. I as well used a 4.5 quart Le Creuset. I'm curious about whether you used parchment paper. I did, and this is something I haven't done with braises in the past, but I definitely will from now on.

                          1. re: knuckles

                            I did use the parchment paper. I think the science behind it makes sense.

                          2. re: beetlebug

                            I made this as well a couple of weeks ago. To my surprise I like braised chicken skin just fine. I did not read the recipe carefully enough, and ended up with too salty sauce that needed to be corrected (what she says is to watch the sauce very carefully to avoid this). I didn't like that aspect of the recipe, I would rather something that needs to be corrected with more salt rather than the other way around...
                            I had also used seasoned rice vinegar, compensated by adding less sugar, but I probably didn't add enough (and I guess the extra salt didn't help either). In the end the extra vinegar she suggests did not correct the sauce to my taste, the salt was still overwhelming, and very little orange flavour. So, I corrected with quite a bit of orange juice! Not very sophisticated but I ended up with something more to my taste.
                            Loved it with plain blanched rapini as suggested above, perfect complement. But not interesting enough for me to make again anytime soon.

                            1. re: beetlebug

                              We make this pretty often. It's in our usual rotation. In fact, I think it's scheduled for later this weekend. I myself don't like soggy skin either. I thought maybe we should try a tip from Keller's Ad Hoc book. He has a chicken thigh recipe in that book and puts the braised thighs under the broiler briefly to crisp the skin at the very end. This might do the trick for us.

                              1. re: karykat

                                Too lazy to go and check this recipe, but just the other night I made the Braised Chicken with Saffron Onions from the Lucques book (for the fourth time, by the way--so if you haven't tried it .. . .). In that recipe, you brown the chicken, then braise it for however long, and then, just before serving, bake it in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. That final baking or broiling seems to make all the difference in the skin-appeal of the final product. Gotta remember this for recipes that don't specify.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  That sounds like a good strategy. I really hate the flabby skin on braised poultry, and usually go the opposite way and just remove it before starting, but then lose out on the good flavors and fond in the pan you get from browning the skin.

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    It sounds like either baking or broiling at the end may do the trick.

                                    I'll report back when we add that step to our usual All About Braising chicken thigh recipe.

                                    1. re: karykat

                                      We had our All About Braising asian chicken thighes tonight. And did broil them for a few minutes when done to brown the skin. Worked great and we will be doing it this way from now on.

                              2. Burgundian Quail Braised with Grapes (p.196)

                                A new favorite - this sauce made with Vin Santo is sooo good. I've never cooked with vin santo wine, or quail before. Another Chowhound had tipped me off on where to buy reasonably priced, semi-boned quail, which is why I decided to try this recipe. For you Bostonians, this is where I bought them:


                                The recipe calls for browning the quail in extra virgin olive oil. I rinsed them, and dried them very very well, and had no problem with sticking. I didn't have to brown them on three sides as she explains in her book since the breasts were boned and they lay flat, which made it easier. Simplified recipe - once they were removed from the pan, pour off oil, melt butter, and add finely chopped shallots and pancetta (I thought this was a key ingredient for flavor). I used a mini-chop for the pancetta. Add fresh thyme, wine, and grapes. Add quail, cover, and braise, turning once, for 15 minutes. Remove quail, reduce sauce for 5 minutes, and return quail to pan to warm. Really good, and done in a little over half an hour. It shows you braising isn't all about hours of cooking. I'll be cooking with quail again! Buying them semi-boned really made it easy to eat also; no need to halve them as she suggests. I also thought that one and a half quail per person wasn't enough. I cooked four, as that's how many came in the package, for the two of us. I'll try it with green grapes next time, I think that would also make for a pretty dish.

                                Tonight's Pic -


                                1. hi all, i'm having so much fun with the cook along....
                                  i am still awaiting my book to be shipped. in the meanwhile, i have been using molly's recipes that i find online and here on these threads...
                                  next i am making the whole chicken braised with pears...


                                  however, on this recipe, she left out how much and what kind of wine to use! also---what to do with the first pear...
                                  could someone fill in the blanks for me?
                                  thanks a million!!!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ceeceee

                                    The first pear gets cut up into 4 pieces and put into the chicken along with 2 sprigs rosemary (left out of linked version which seems to substitute dried thyme which is not in the original recipe anywhere). When you saute the aromatics, the original recipe has you add another sprig of rosemary. Wine = 1/4 cup dry white or dry vermouth. Also, when you add sugar, salt and pepper to the pears in the garnish step, the original recipe has you add 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary. Sounds yummy -- please report your results!

                                  2. I made chicken do-piaza last night, sort of a last-minute decision since I had most of the ingredients on hand. It's an Indian-flavored dish with a fantastic sauce of sauteed onions, garlic, and spices, with just-cooked onion slices and yogurt mixed in at the end. She recommends that you use skinless chicken thighs (one of the few times she recommends skinless), though she gives a variation for skinless breast with a reduced cooking time. My chicken was not as tender as I would have liked, but I halved the recipe, and that may have affected the amount of time needed to cook the chicken. I also used Total Greek yogurt instead of draining my yogurt ahead of time, which worked great. The combination of the sweet but almost raw onions, the tanginess of the yogurt, and the longer-cooked onion/spice mixture was truly amazing—I couldn’t stop spooning it up.

                                    My pictures are pretty fuzzy, but here they are:


                                    I had this with a basmati/wild rice combo, and a salad made partly from wild greens found in Prospect Park, Brooklyn! That's another post, but there's a guy in the NY area who leads foraging tours, and I went to the one in Prospect Park this past Sunday. Brings a whole new meaning to the idea of "eating locally."


                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: AppleSister

                                      Wow. Wild greens from the park! How exciting. Does the forager have a website?

                                      1. re: BKchompchomp

                                        Yes, I should post something on the NY boards. It's

                                      2. re: AppleSister

                                        I made the Chicken Do-Piaza (page 137) also. A wonderful sauce but some of my family did not like the almost raw just-cooked onion slices. I didn't mind but I love onions. I would make this again but maybe add the onion slices sooner so they could cook a little more.

                                        I made my own ghee (page 83) and now have a good amount to use for other dishes. Really easy.

                                        1. re: bizkat

                                          I also made the Chicken Do-Piaza. I enjoyed it as well and I think that the skinless chicken meat works really well here. I was a bit too impatient for dinner and so I had some problems with the yogurt separating. It was still delicious and we had it for leftovers the next day over rice. I enjoyed it even more then as I had cut up all of the meat prior to serving it over rice.

                                          1. re: bizkat

                                            Chicken Do-Piaza, (p.37)
                                            My turn for this lovely braised dish, only a few years late! ;-)

                                            Like others, I found it to be a flavorful and tender dish. I liked the citrus note that the orange juice added, as well as the flavors of India, which were not so intense that the five-year-old and eight-year-old "Yankees" at my table didn't enjoy them too, spices, cayenne and all. I used clarified butter and rather than leave out the final yoghurt addition because I didn't have any already drained ahead, I used that container of creme fraiche lurking in the refrigerator. It added a suave finish, if not an authentic one, and everyone seemed to enjoy the sauce.

                                            I used a combo of skinned chicken breasts and thighs, adding the breast pieces 10 minutes into the braising time. My chicken took about 10-15 minutes longer to become tender than the recommended 45-minute braising time. And because of the previous comments, I added the onions to the simmering braising liquid to tenderize them about 5 minutes ahead before the chicken was done. I suspect that if I had cut the onions into really thin slices, this may not have been necessary.

                                            Anyway, a very nice introduction to Stevens' poultry chapter!

                                        2. I made the whole chicken with pears and rosemary last night. It was my first time braising meat and I was blown away. I followed Molly's directions precisely, and ended up with a remarkable bird. It was just incredibly tender and fragrant. The dark meat was practically falling off the bone. The pear and rosemary had infused the meat and were a definite presence without being overwhelming. I was most surprised by how subtle and delicate those flavors ended up being. I guess that's the joy of braising. The sauce and pear garnish she suggests was easy and provided a wonderful sweet buttery counterpoint. I served this, as per her suggestion, with buttery polenta which was a good idea as it soaked up all the extra sauce.

                                          I basted the bird every 20 minutes because that's what the recipe said to do, but I don't really think it was necessary. Every time I opened the pot, it was simmering gently and there was plenty of moisture around.

                                          The one serious problem I had was in the browning. The bird's breast browned beautifully, but the skin stuck on the sides. I don't know whether that's because I tried to turn it too soon, or didn't have enough fat in there, or maybe even had the heat turned up too high. I'll have to go back and read her discussion of browning in the introduction. It is very difficult to read that introduction because of how infectious her obvious love of braising is. It makes me want to go cook.

                                          In any event, I loved the way the chicken came out and highly reocmmend it.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: BKchompchomp

                                            Whole chicken braised with pears & rosemary (p. 179)

                                            Made this last night and it was very good. As we were told in cooking class, there are two ways to get to a destination -- you can turn left and then right, or first go right, then left. Same with this chicken. Instead of roast chicken where it cooks and then browns (over time), here you brown the chicken on the stove, and then cook in a braise in the oven.

                                            Molly has you brown a trussed chicken stuffed w/ pear & rosemary sprigs (happily no herb chopping!), brown cut-off wings (and neck, etc. which wasn't included in my bird, so I just used wing tips), saute chopped leeks, shallots & another rosemary sprig, add wine, stock and a little white wine vinegar. Into the oven for about 1 hr, 15 mins. (I did not use parchment paper 'cause my bird near filled up my pot.)

                                            Make a sauce with more pears, butter, sugar, chopped rosemary, and balsamic.
                                            Strain, de-fat and reduce braising liquid, and add to pear mixture. Put sauce over cut-up chicken. Very tasty.

                                            It's more work than roast chicken, and I'm not sure it's all that preferable in terms of how the meat comes out, though flavors were very satisying. Maybe I'll add pears, leeks and shallots to a roast chicken somehow. Oh, and I used seckel pears 'cause that's what I had locally, and they were fine.

                                            Served w/ those chipotle sweet potatoes (heaven on earth), and braised kale. Polenta would be good, but I was out; couldn't roast potatoes 'cause I only have one oven -- I cooked sw potatoes ahead and reheated (and it was impossible not to eat top layer while I cooked the rest of the meal!)

                                            1. re: NYchowcook

                                              "It's more work than roast chicken, and I'm not sure it's all that preferable in terms of how the meat comes out, though flavors were very satisfying."

                                              I made this the other night and while I thought the technique made the chicken extra juicy (particularly the breasts) I'm not sure it was worth the trouble. Maybe on a Sunday, but definitely not a weeknight (like this time) with very hungry children hanging on my leg!

                                              As for the flavors, I wasn't in love. Good but not OMG fantastic. The braised pears were like candy (YUM) but the sauce was only fair.

                                            2. re: BKchompchomp

                                              I made this one too. The kitchen smelled heavenly, and the meat was completely infused with the flavor of the rosemary. Normal early-evening family madness was going on all around me, and I wound up not having time to fix the pilaf and the vegetable dishes I had planned. I served it with plain rice and a big salad, and no one complained at all. The reduced sauce was delicious. Needless to say I did not baste every 20 minutes (I think I basted once), but it didn't matter.

                                              1. re: BKchompchomp

                                                Whole Chicken Braised with Pears and Rosemary pg. 179

                                                Made this last night. My oh my, unfortunately the only words that are coming to mind that would describe it are ones that would be attributed to Rachel Ray.....

                                                The only changes that I made to the recipe were substituting cider vinegar for white wine vinegar and subbing Hungarian paprika for the black pepper. Love black pepper but Mr. Clam is allergic to it. When it got to the pear garnish, I was tempted to skip it but I'm VERY happy that I didn't. I don't think my pears were abnormally small, but next time I make this I will use three for the garnish instead of two, because it was just so (can't help myself) "yummo!"

                                                1. re: clamscasino

                                                  My turn for the chicken braised with pears and rosemary, and I agree - very good. The meat is incredibly moist and tasty, and the dark meat practially fell off the bone. I served it to my picky parents, and there wasn't a scrap left.

                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                    2010, here...couple years late on the book:-) Made this chicken and drove the dogs crazy (and me!) with the goood smells. Thanks for making me make the pear garnish--I was going to skip it as being unnecessary.
                                                    The only problem I had was browning the chicken--I got to get a bigger pan because I just could not manuever the chicken, so the skin tore a couple of places.
                                                    Another problem I had was the chicken I got did not come with any of the "innards." This has become
                                                    common within the last 6 months-a very bad trend for cooks. I used Bell and Evans "air-chilled" chicken, so it wasn't a store brand and someone just forgot to put them in.
                                                    The one thing I did differently was instead of taking the veggies out, I just blended them. Made the sauce really thick. The sauce is fab! Caught my SO eating the sauce right out of the pan:-)
                                                    But the chicken is great! The next dish I was thinking of making was the Napoleonic stew. If I do, will let y'all know how it went.