Many of the following recipes utilize a technique called open braising. In an open braise, the oven provides even temperatures and browning, while most of the meat remains submerged in liquid, thus preventing the dish from drying out. With chicken thighs, this technique offers a crisp, brown skin and tender meat that falls off the bone. In addition, the evaporation of the liquids intensify the flavor of the cooking juices, helping to build rich, complex sauces with little or no effort.
Basic Open-Braise Technique:
- Preheat your oven to the recipe’s specified temperature.
- Season your chicken thighs well on both sides with salt and any other seasoning called for by the specific recipe.
- Sear the chicken skin-side down in an oven-proof pan or skillet. While in many cases, the skin on a bone-in chicken thigh will wrap around the meat, there is still a distinct ‘skin side’. Searing this skin side helps to develop a crisp skin in the cook, as well as to render fat that can be discarded or used for later steps in the recipe.
- Turn the chicken and sear the opposite side. This renders out additional fat and the browning adds flavor to the eventual dish.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- Discard surplus oil. Depending on the fattiness of the chicken, you may need to discard extra rendered fat.
- Sauté aromatics in the rendered fat.
- Add stock, broth, or other liquid to the pan. Recipes will specify a braising liquid, sometimes a combination of tomatoes and stock or wine and broth, cream, or really, almost anything that will impart flavor and help keep the cooking meat moist.
- Return the chicken to the pan, skin-side up. Arrange the chicken in the pan so that most of the skin is above the level of the liquid.
- Bring to a simmer, and transfer to the oven. Once the liquid has returned to a simmer, move the pan, uncovered, to the oven. Cook per the recipe instructions.