Braised chicken with artichokes and olives

Bacon, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, garlic and lemon juice and zest combine with chicken drumsticks and thighs in this big-flavored braise.

Blue Kitchen
For the braising liquid, use a mix of apple juice and chicken broth for a sly nod to autumn.

We turned on the heat for the first time this fall a few days ago. It’s been unseasonably cool lately in Chicago, and that has prompted complaints from some. Not from me. This is cooking weather for me – not just because it’s cooler in the kitchen, but because we can finally turn away from light summer fare and get back to the good stuff. Roasts. Stews. And robust braises like this one. 

We’ve combined chicken and artichoke hearts and olives here before, in a hearty Italian stew adapted from the "Hedgebrook Cookbook: Celebrating Radical Hospitality." But in this braise, the flavors are sharper, more pronounced. The bacon amps up the umami in the dish, and the lemon, marinated artichoke hearts and olives deliver a tangy, tart, bright tone. The onion, garlic and tarragon add their own subtle layers.

For the braising liquid, I used a mix of apple juice and chicken broth. I like this sly nod to autumn. Honestly, though, with a side of mashed potatoes and perhaps a salad of mixed greens, the big flavors of this satisfying dish will serve you well through the long winter months, too.

Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives
 Serves 4 or more

4 slices bacon
4 each, chicken thighs and drumsticks, bone-in, skin-on
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried tarragon, divided
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil, if needed
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup apple juice
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained (do not rinse)
1 cup pitted green olives

1. Starting it in a cold pan – a large, lidded sauté pan, to be precise – cook the bacon until just crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

2. While bacon is frying, season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and half the tarragon, pressing gently with your fingers so seasonings stick to the chicken. Dredge chicken in flour to coat (I put the flour and chicken in a plastic bag, twisted it closed and shook it, my preferred method).

3. Brown chicken in bacon fat in pan over a medium-high flame, starting skin side down for about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, turn chicken and brown the other side for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add onion to pan (along with a drizzle of olive oil, if the pan looks dry) and cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until onion becomes translucent and slightly softened, 3 minutes or so. Make a hole in the middle of the pan and add garlic and the remaining tarragon. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 45 seconds.

4. Add broth, apple juice and lemon juice and zest to pan. Scrape up any browned bits and return chicken to pan, along with any accumulated juices. Crumble bacon around chicken pieces (and go ahead and eat a bite or two of the bacon – who’s going to know?). Reduce heat to a simmer, cover pan and cook for about 10 minutes

5. Gently nestle drained artichoke hearts around the chicken, cover pan and cook for another 5 minutes. Scatter olives around the chicken, cover pan and cook for yet another 5 minutes. Chicken should be cooked through by now, but check with a quick-read thermometer that it is at least 165 degrees F. inside the thickest part. If you don’t have a thermometer, pierce one of the thighs with a sharp knife – if the juices run clear, you’re good.

6. Plate and serve, making sure everyone gets some olives, artichoke heart and bacon.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Grilled chicken with lemon sage butter

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