On the first day of the new year I make a stew. There are many reasons why I do this. Stews and braises are healthy and fortifying, a comforting antidote to holiday menus and festivities. Stews are reflective, incorporating humble ingredients with heat and time, yielding deeply flavorful results. Stews comfort and nourish us, while warming us on a cold winter day. This year I received a beautiful French oven for a gift, so I have another reason to make a delicious stew today.
Braised Chicken in White Wine
The chicken skin remains exposed while the chicken braises to maintain the color and crispness of its skin. Serves 4.
4 large chicken breast halves, with skin and ribs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 pound white or cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/2-inch thick
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup dry white wine
2 to 3 cups chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Season the chicken breasts all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an ovenproof pot or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, in batches. Cook until the skin is brown and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes, then turn the chicken and cook 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken.
Drain off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pot and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the leeks to the pot and saute over medium heat, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, mushrooms and garlic. Saute over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften and brighten in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits in pan. Add the bay leaf and thyme. Return the chicken to the pot and nestle, skin-side up, into the vegetables. Pour in enough chicken stock, without splashing the skin, to nearly cover the chicken but not submerge it. The skin should remain exposed. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover pot and transfer to oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve in bowls with rice, farro or couscous.