This is hands down my favorite chicken recipe. I was a little weary at first (look at the length of the instructions!), but it has become my go to dish to cook for family and friends. This recipe comes from All About Braising by Molly Stevens, who is a genius for pairing chicken, bacon and parsnips. Parsnips come from the root vegetable family and are most similar to, not to mention more delicious than, a carrot.
The best part is that everything can be made ahead of time and you can do it all using one pot or a very large lidded pan. Once the chicken is finished cooking and removed from the oven, there is no harm leaving the pot to stew a little longer while you wait for guests to arrive. Not only will this take the stress off you, but it will allow the flavors to intensify. Serve each chicken breast in individual bowls with a nice helping of parsnips and a scoop of the braising sauce. Enjoy!
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 slices thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (I recommend buying chicken breasts on the smaller side, it will make the browning process easier)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 1/2 cups hard cider (I recommend Hornsby’s cider)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 pound parsnips, peeled, any woody core removed and cut into sticks about 3 inches by 1/2 inch
Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Crisping the bacon: Combine the oil and bacon in a large deep lidded oven-proof pan. Pick a large enough pan to both brown the chicken as well as hold the braising sauce, since you will be using this pan throughout. Heat over medium heat, until the bacon is just crisp, about 6 minutes. With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Set the pan aside.
Browning the chicken: Rinse the chicken breasts under cool running water and dry them thoroughly with paper towels. Be sure to dry the chicken thoroughly, or it won’t brown as well. Pour off and discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and rendered bacon fat from the pan. Heat the remaining fat over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Place them skin side down in the pan and brown, without disturbing, for a few minutes.
Lift the edge of the chicken with a pair of tongs, check to see if the skin is crisp and bronzed. Once the skin is nicely browned, about 4 to 5 minutes, turn with tongs and brown the other side as well, another 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large plate to catch the juices, and set aside.
The braising liquid: Add the shallot to the pan, still over medium-high heat, and let it sizzle, stirring, for a minute. It will brown quickly – after a minute quickly pour in 2 cups of the hard cider to deglaze, and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge and dissolve the shallots. Let the cider boil to reduce down to about 1/2 cup, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the rosemary and the remaining 1/2 cup cider and boil down again until there’s about 3/4 cup total, another 6 to 8 minutes. The cider won’t become thick, but you will be concentrating the combined flavors of bacon drippings, chicken drippings and rosemary in the process.
The braise: Add the parsnips and season with generous grindings of black pepper and a pinch of salt to the braising liquid. Sprinkle the bacon over the parsnips, and arrange the chicken pieces on top, skin side down. Cover with parchment paper, pressing down so that the paper nearly rests on the chicken pieces and hangs over the sides of the pan by about an inch, and set the lid in place. Slide the pan into the oven to braise at a gentle simmer. After 25 minutes, turn the chicken pieces, and check the liquid. If the simmering is too intense, lower the oven temperature 10 or 15 degrees. Continue braising until the thickest part of the breast is cooked through when you make a small incision with a knife, another 20 to 25 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to individual bowls. Spear a few parsnips gently with the tip of a sharp knife, and if they are tender throughout, remove them with a slotted spoon and arrange them alongside the chicken. Ladle the sauce over the chicken and parsnips.