I am something of a comfort food junkie.
I have discovered, over the last year, the delightful bliss that is polenta. I have also discovered that I am passionately in love with chicken thighs. So, when I was craving something rich, creamy, and comforting the other night I decided to take my two new comfort food favorites and combine them into one dish.
The braise for the chicken thighs is rather short, but chicken cooks fairly quickly so the 45 minute cooking time is enough to turn moist meat into tender, buttery meat. I crisped the skin before braising, so when I added the liquid I only brought it 2/3 the way up the thigh to preserve the crispness. The mushrooms, which braise along with the chicken, absorb all the delicious braising liquids and become tender and plump. The polenta is made from traditional long cooking polenta, but I cook it the lazy way. Whisk it for five minutes then turn the heat to low, clamp on a lid and leave it alone for 25 minutes. Served with a glass of Zinfandel, this meal is just about perfect.
Zinfandel Braised Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Polenta Serves 4
4 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
8 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup Zinfandel
2-3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
For the polenta:
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup medium-grain yellow polenta (not instant)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 425 F.
In a heavy bottom skillet add the olive oil and heat, over medium high heat, until the oil shimmers. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pan skin side down and cook, without moving, for five to six minutes, or until the skin is deeply golden brown and crisp. Set aside to rest.
Drain the drippings in the pan, reserving one tablespoon. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and mushrooms. Cook until they begin to soften then add the sliced garlic. Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, about one minute. Carefully add the wine and bring to a simmer. Let the wine reduce slightly, about three minutes.
Return the chicken thighs to the pan, skin side up, and add enough chicken stock to cover the thighs 2/3 of the way. Do not cover the skin with liquid. Place the pan into the oven and cook for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the thighs reach 170 F.
While the chicken cooks prepare the polenta. In a medium pot over medium heat melt one tablespoon of the butter until it foams. Add the onion and cook until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about thirty seconds. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Once the stock reaches a boil slowly whisk in the polenta. Once the polenta is completely whisked in cook, whisking constantly, for five minutes, then cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 25 minutes. When the cooking time is up remove the lid, stir in any cooking liquid that may be on the top. Take the pot off the heat and add the butter, cheese and cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, place some polenta in the center of the plate. Place a chicken thigh on top and spoon over some of the mushrooms and a bit of the braising liquid.
Enjoy with the same Zinfandel you used in the braising liquid.