braising chicken breast - questions and tips
I'm still an experimenting cook and am going to try braising chicken breast for the first time tomorrow, just to try it out. I know it seems a little odd given the hot sweltering weather, but I've been wanting to try something a little more thoughtful than easy 20-minute variations of pasta/veggie/salad dishes I typically make.
So, I've got my chicken breast sitting in the fridge overnight, salted, peppered, olive-oiled, and herbed (rosemary, sage, and marjoram), ready for tomorrow. From what I understand, the basic technique is brown the chicken on the stove for a few minutes first, then add some aromatic vegetables, and then about a cup of liquid, cook until boiling, and then put the whole thing in the oven and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes. For my aromatic vegetables, I was just going to add cubes of celery, carrots, and onions. Any other suggestions on what else to add?
Also, what's the difference if I add wine as my cooking liquid versus chicken broth? How do they each taste? After it's done braising, do I just discard the liquid?
Any other tips for tomorrow? Thank you!
Chicken breast has very little fat and connective tissue so it does not lend itself to braising. If you want to use the technique, I would watch it carefully during the simmering process or you risk it becoming very tough. Chicken legs and thighs lend themselves more to the braising process. The fat and connective tissue melt and make the chicken more juicy.
You can use wine as a braising liquid. The alcohol will help tenderize the meat. You can simmer the braising liquid to make a sauce. You can also thicken it some after simmering.
"Also, what's the difference if I add wine as my cooking liquid versus chicken broth? How do they each taste? After it's done braising, do I just discard the liquid?"
Chicken broth will taste like, well, chicken; or something close to it, depending on the quality of the product you select or the degree of flavor you've captured in any broth you may have prepared yourself. Wine, on the other hand, opens an entire different world of flavors. The wine you choose will impart it's own unique flavor to the dish. Perhaps the most common wine used in braising chicken is a dry white wine like Chablis, Sauterne or perhaps Reisling. If you use prepared chicken broth be sure to use low sodium products and when the recipe says "salt and pepper to taste", taste it before you add salt - it may not need any.
No, don't discard the liquid. I believe this is a pretty good starter recipe for braising chicken (you'll have to adjust for the amound of ingredients) that might help you:
Endorsing amethiste's comments, I probably would not choose chicken breasts for braising. Leg/Thigh pieces work very well however.
Ditto the other posters - chicken breasts are not suitable on their own for braising, use a whole chicken cut up or preferably just legs and thighs. Here is a very simple chicken braise that develops outstanding flavor, and at the end the braising liquid develops a luscious gelatinous body that makes a great sauce:
Jette's Beautiful Wine Chicken
About 1 1/2 tablespoons each olive oil and butter
One 4-pound chicken, cut into pieces
4 sprigs (4 inches long) fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine with good body, such as Sauvignon Blanc, divided
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup minced parsley
Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy skillet over low heat until bubbly. Add the chicken, rosemary and bay leaves and saute about 25 minutes or until chicken is golden (do not crowd the chicken in the pan when browning, use two pans if necessary). Season generously with salt and pepper (about 3/4 teaspoon each). Add 1/4 cup white wine and the garlic. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Uncover and sprinkle with parsley. Simmer uncovered, turning the chicken occasionally, until the liquid evaporates to a syrup glaze on the chicken, about 5 minutes. Remove to warm plates or a platter. Add the remaining white wine to the pan and stir over high heat to loosen and blend drippings and slightly reduce the juices. Discard bay leaves. Pour sauce over the chicken. Makes 6 servings. And great leftovers!
I have braised chicken breast with great success. Four cups of water with two teaspoons of sugar and salt allow for a great tasting moist cooked chicken. I cook the chicken breast on medium high heat in a skillet with EVOO. Cooking fast allows for the moister to stay in the chicken breast.
Here's what I tried:
Had two 'supreme' cut chicken breasts (bone out but top skin on and wing portion on.) I sear them skin-down with salt and pepper on a dry cast iron skillet that's been slowly heated. Med- to med-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes.
I turn them after they brown (and release some skin fat) to brown the salted peppered underside for 3 minutes. Then I add to the pan 6 sprigs fresh thyme and 1/3 bottle leftover Bordeaux red wine. (I almost never discard wine.)
I let the pan bubble for a minute on a higher heat then flip again and simmer covered on lowered heat for a few more minutes, during the last of which I flipped the meat again.
Then with heat off I let this stand still covered for 8-10 minutes to finish internal cooking over residual heat. When later checked the middle is just slightly pink, so next time II experiment with cooking durations. Better under than over!
After some gentle additional heat to finish the cooking, the meat is wine/herb fragrant, tender and delicious with an attractive crust of color. I reserve the pan juices with wine to skim the fat later for sauce. None of this was too difficult, and it went quickly enough to gratify my post-cycling day hunger.
Try and enjoy! JK
Really, poaching is better for this cut; you do it *below* a simmer (note: simmering occurs between 180F and 200F, and poaching is better done in in the range below 180F, down to 165F) - cover the top of the surface with parchment paper if you want to imitate the poaching technique for fish, another lean flesh...