Lemon and Garlic Braised Chicken with Thyme
I found myself a few weeks ago lamenting that I had fallen into the rut of serving the same things over and over for dinner. That’s because when I cook, I still cook in volume, partly out of habit, but partly because I like to have individual portions of things I like in the freezer for quick dinners. But when I found myself serving an endless rotation of lasagna, green chili, and meatloaf (all excellent, by the way), I knew I needed to get back into the kitchen for some actual cooking.It might help you to know that even people who cook for a living like I do get overwhelmed at getting dinner ready every night. This recipe is so easy, yet so special tasting, your family will think you went all out for them. Start with either pieces of chicken or break down a full bird like I did into the parts. (I always get my chickens whole as then I have the flexibility in how I use them later, plus always have the carcass for making stock.) Season the pieces well with salt and pepper, then either sprinkle the flour all over them, or shake them in the flour in a bag.You are going to brown that chicken in a hot Dutch oven with some oil, and that’s the pot you’ll use to finish the dish too. Make sure the skin is nice and brown, then flip to brown just a few minutes on the other side.This recipe gets its flavor from garlic cloves (they sweeten when they braise, so don’t let this quantity scare you) and lemon zest. When you peel off the zest, make sure you don’t get any of the white pith with it or you’ll introduce bitter flavors into your final dish.I also used several sprigs of thyme from my garden. I’m surprised every winter when they just keep growing through and under the snow, and I don’t cut them back until spring to re-bloom. The entire pot goes into the oven (covered) for an hour to braise, and the reduction in liquid combines with the flour from browning the chicken to make the perfect sauce for some egg noodles. Remove the chicken and whole garlic pieces (which will be nice and soft now) to a platter, strain out the rest of the solids, and stir in about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to the pan gravy, and toss with the cooked hot noodles. And if you end up with some leftovers, well, they’ll be great for lunch tomorrow too I promise.
- 1 whole chicken, cut into parts
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
- 1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 lemon, zested
- Several sprigs of fresh thyme
- Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed covered pot over medium high heat. Add the chicken skin side down and brown well, about 3-5 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side. Remove the chicken to a platter and pour out excess fat.
- Return the pot to the stove and add the garlic; let cook for 1 minute, just until fragrant. Add the stock and stir to pick up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Nestle the chicken back into the pot and scatter the lemon zest and thyme over the top. Cover and place the pot in a 350 degree oven and braise for an hour.
- Remove chicken and cooked garlic from the pot and set on a platter. Strain out the remaining solids and discard. Return the sauce to the pot and add either ½ cup of the pasta cooking water or ½ cup stock or hot water to extend the thickened sauce which may be poured over the chicken or served with egg noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes.