Red Wine and Tomato Braised Chicken
Simple red wine and tomato braised chicken drumsticks. Easy and delicious comfort food for the fall or winter months!
The art of braising – heating and cooking meat in liquid over a long period of time – is easily one of my favorite methods of cooking. If done correctly, it yields the most succulent meat imaginable and makes the simplest of ingredients shine.
Braising is best reserved for tough cuts of meat (chuck, brisket, short ribs, shanks, etc.), which coincidentally are also the most flavorful.
To put it quite simply, tough cuts of meat come from the most-used muscles of an animal. Generally, this includes the legs, shoulders, neck, and chest, as well as tails (example: oxtail). This Red Wine and Tomato Braised Chicken is prepared entirely with drumsticks. While chicken drumsticks do not have to be braised, they are even more delicious prepared this way.
Not only do these cuts of meats yield more flavor, but they also tend to be more affordable. Within weeks of starting culinary school, we were introduced to braising. In barely any time at all, we were braising some sort of ingredient almost every day. It became routine.
The most important factor in braised dishes is time. If you rush the process (either by cooking the meat at too high a temperature or not long enough), you’ll miss out and most likely end up with tough meat. However, if you’re patient, your efforts will be rewarded.
The first and most important step in braising anything is searing the meat in some oil at a high temperature. To soak up any excess moisture, I lightly dredge the meat with flour.
This step also helps thicken the braising liquid as well. In many ways, it is similar in concept to a roux.
If you want to get fancy, French the chicken drumsticks. Cutting the tendons and ligaments near the knuckle allows the meat to plump and pull together during cooking and, in my opinion, results in more tender meat.
This adds an extra step, but if you’re comfortable with the technique, I highly recommend it.
Browning the meat (which produces a Maillard reaction) not only contributes and brings out a ton of flavor in the final dish, but also produces those delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pan, which are then deglazed with mirepoix (a fancy term for onions, carrots, and celery), wine, and stock.
Once all of these steps are completed, you simply add stock, return the meat to the pot, and bring everything to a very low simmer (basically, you want some small bubbles every couple seconds). Cover the pot and cook for about 2 to 3 hours, checking every 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally if necessary.
The chicken should be extremely tender and almost falling off the bone.
Red Wine and Tomato Braised Chicken
- unbleached all-purpose flour for dredging
- 2 lbs chicken drumsticks (skin-on) or chicken thighs roughly 2 drumsticks per serving
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- vegetable oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion roughly 1 small yellow onion
- ¾ cup diced carrot peeled
- ¾ cup diced celery stalks
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ⅓ cup (80 mL) dry red wine
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 cups (480 mL) low-sodium chicken stock low-sodium
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- Remove the chicken drumsticks from the fridge and allow them to sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Using a small knife, carefully French the drumsticks (leaving the skin on - this simply involves trimming the tendon and cleaning the bone).
- Season the drumsticks generously with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the drumsticks in the all purpose flour.
- Heat a large Dutch Oven (5 to 6 Quarts) or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add a small layer of vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the drumsticks to the pan, setting them apart by 1 to 2 inches. You may need to sear the drumsticks in batches to avoid over-crowding the pan.
- Sear the drumsticks until golden brown on all sides (be careful when flipping the pieces as the oil may splatter). Once the drumsticks are finished searing, set them aside on a large rimmed plate. If needed, you may need to add a bit more oil to the pot between batches.
- Once the drumsticks are seared, return the pan to medium high heat - leave roughly 1-2 tablespoons of chicken fat in the pan - and add the chopped onions to the pan, sautéing them for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the diced carrots and celery and continue to cook over medium heat, allowing the vegetables to gain some color and caramelize. If they gain too much color, add a small splash of water to the pan to deglaze and add moisture.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and using the edge of a wooden spoon, scrape any caramelized bits off the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the wine has reduced significantly and the mixture is very thick (and the pan is almost dry).
- Add the bay leaves, chicken stock, and diced tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a low simmer and then carefully add the seared drumsticks (and any juices on then plate) to the pot. The stock should submerge the drumsticks a third or halfway up.
- Cover and braise the chicken - the cooking liquid should be at a very low simmer (a couple small bubbles every few seconds) - for 2 to 2½ hours. Check the pot every 30 minutes or so, adjusting the heat as needed and stirring occasionally, or until the meat is very tender and almost falling off the bone.
- Note: If you have leftover braising liquid, do not throw it out. It is full of flavor and body (gelatin). Use as a pasta sauce, soup, or stock base. It can also be reduced, strained and made into a delicious pan sauce!
Tips for Success:
- If you have leftover braising liquid, do not throw it out. It is full of flavor and body (gelatin). Use as a pasta sauce, soup, or stock base. It can also be reduced, strained and made into a delicious pan sauce!