While often used in breads and batters, beer also works particularly well as a braising liquid. A remarkable seasoning agent, beer brings far more flavour to dishes than regular water, with certain beers especially suited to certain dishes. This beer braised chicken recipe uses leg meat braised in dark beer such as porter or stout to add richness to the dish and bring out the flavours of the meat. What’s more, the dish is an easy week-night dinner, cooked in one pan and ready to eat in just over an hour.
A French cooking technique used in many cuisines to make tougher cuts of meat more tender and flavoursome, braising typically requires the base protein to be seared then covered with liquid, topped with a lid, and slowly cooked in a heavy-based saucepan on the hob or in the oven. The cooking environment slowly breaks down the collagen which adds plenty of body to the sauce, ultimately requiring minimal preparation and attention as most of the cooking time is inactive.
Given chicken legs require far less cooking than typical braising cuts such as shin of beef or ox cheeks, this beer braised chicken recipe takes around an hour and 20 minutes from start to finish, with much of the cooking time also utilised to cook off most of the beer’s alcohol, allowing its malty flavour to dominate. The dish is also extremely versatile. If you don’t fancy using beer, chicken or vegetable stock can be substituted, or even red wine if you’re after something much richer, not too dissimilar to Coq au Vin.
The vegetables can also be altered with the seasons. This beer braised chicken recipe uses typical mirepoix ingredients of onion, carrot, and celery, plus potatoes which bring plenty of textural depth, and yellow courgette. But as the days get cooler, squash and pumpkin are a particularly good courgette substitute. While parsnips and all manner of root veg can be used, entirely dependent on personal preference and what’s readily available. As for the beer, dark beers are the most suitable for this recipe, with IPA or pale ale tending to be too bitter and overpowering for the chicken.
- Heavy-based saucepan or Dutch oven
- 1.5 kg chicken thighs or drumsticks or a mixture of both
- 660 ml dark beer such as porter or stout
- 2 brown onions roughly chopped
- 4 carrots peeled and cut into inch chunks
- 4 red potatoes cut into inch chunks
- 2 sticks celery roughly chopped
- 1 yellow courgette cut into inch chunks
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cloves garlic minced/finely chopped
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 50 g butter
- Plain flour for coating the chicken pieces
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- Neutral oil for frying such as vegetable or rapeseed oil
- Half fill a plate or shallow dish with flour and season with salt and pepper. Add each of the chicken pieces to the plate and completely cover with the seasoned flour mixture. Add more flour and seasoning to the plate if need be. Once covered, set the chicken pieces aside.
- Add a generous splash of oil to a heavy-based saucepan or Dutch oven and heat until shimmering. Add the chicken in batches of 3-4 pieces to avoid overcrowding the pan. Cook on high heat for around 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown. Remove from the pan and sear the remaining chicken pieces.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and discard most of the residual flour. Add the butter and add the onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, and courgette then continue to cook over high heat until the vegetables soften and begin to colour.
- Once the vegetables have coloured, add the thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Continue to cook for another minute, stirring until fragrant. Add the sugar and mustard and continue to cook for another 30 seconds or so, stirring constantly.
- Return the chicken to the pan alongside any juices and add the beer to the pan. Bring to the boil, making sure all chicken pieces are completely submerged, and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary before serving.
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