Chicken in Tomatoes

One of my favorite techniques for cooking pretty much anything, well, certain kinds of things, is braising. It’s so great for tougher cuts like chicken thighs, which is what I’m braising today, chicken thighs and tomato. But it’s also great for things like pork shoulder, lamb shoulder, all of those less-expensive cuts that are so great and so filling and so delicious, braising’s your technique. Today, chicken thighs in tomato. I’m using canned tomatoes. If you happen to have frozen or canned your own tomatoes this summer, you can use those. But I’m using a 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes. I know I’m going to splash myself because that’s what I always do. That’s what you get for wearing white in the kitchen. I mean, chefs wear white. Just pulse them until they’re coarsely chopped. That’s really good enough. You don’t need a complete puree. To the stove.

All right. The first thing that you really want to do here though is brown your chicken. Brown your chicken. I have four chicken thighs that need to be seasoned, a bit of salt, and I’m already heating my pan just so that it’s nice and hot when I’m ready to add my chicken. I usually start it on like a medium, medium low, and then turn it up to medium high, when I’m ready to put my chicken in. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Place the chicken in skin side down, and it’ll take about seven minutes for it to get nice and golden.

Make good use of your time. While your chicken is browning, you can slice up some onion and crush some garlic cloves. I have one medium yellow onion. Then we slice it. Use your fingernails as a guide. You have your fingernails there. You can’t cut your fingertip off. Three cloves of garlic. You just need to crush them and peel them. You don’t even have need to mince or slice or any of that. These are really hard to get off of the head. Just crush them, peel them.

Then I feel that that chicken is probably brown. I’m going to protect myself with a towel because it’s spattering fat everywhere. Turn these guys over and let them cook for just a minute to brown on the second side. It literally has to be like a minute, 30 seconds. Take them out. They’re going to cook more, so don’t worry about putting it back on the raw chicken pan. That’s totally fine. They’re going to cook in the oven for like 25, 30 minutes, so it’s okay. Now if there’s any excess fat in the pan, you want to pour most of that off because you don’t need it all and there is quite a bit of fat in that skin. Just leave a tablespoon of fat in the pan to saute your onion in.

You want it to saute and you want it to saute down nicely, but you don’t want it to burn. The amazing and great thing about cast iron is how great of a conductor of heat it is. It holds onto the heat for so long. That’s why I turned this down after I had browned my chicken because I didn’t want my onions to burn. They’ve been sauteing for about five minutes. The garlic cloves can go in. Stir those around. Quite honestly, I feel like you could put the garlic in with the onions if you want. I think the onion protects the garlic from burning, but classically we are trained that the onion goes in first and softens and the garlic goes in afterwards. Just one of those things.

Add your tomatoes and you want to bring that up to a boil before you add your chicken back into the pan. That shouldn’t take too long, though, because like I said, the pan’s really hot. It’s boiling already. See what I mean? Instant sauce. I have the oven preheated to 400 degrees, so just nestle the chicken, skin side up, back into the pan. You can pour those juices in there too, because that’s going to add flavor and then add a couple of sprigs of oregano. This is fresh oregano. If you were using dry, I would add like, I don’t know, a quarter teaspoon of dry oregano with the onions when I was sauteing.

But this is fresh, so you can put it right in on the top, three sprigs and then it can go into the oven, 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Make sure you use two potholders. Otherwise you’re going to burn your hands. It’s really heavy. This recipe is so simple and so good, and it actually makes quite a bit of sauce, so make sure you serve it over rice or polenta or something yummy and delicious to soak it all up. So good.