chicken in riesling

chicken in riesling

Of all the fancy kitchen terms, “braise”, I think, just might be my favorite cooking word around. And one of my favorite words in the English language. It’s a slow and lazy word, luxurious, full. To braise is to have something utterly amazing in the end that yields results far exceeding this unfussy, simple way of cooking. Braising is the antithesis to dry and boring; it is comforting and welcome no matter the season. When I see the word on a menu, I know that time has eased my food into something that falls off the bone, comes apart with a simple pull of the fork, something that’s been coaxed into a delicate state.

There’s something about braising that calms me as well. When my mind is racing and unquiet, when I am over-thinking (which is something I do a lot), braising somehow makes me slow down and take a breath. There’s something soothing about having a pot in the oven slowly applying heat to whatever it is being cooked, patiently transforming it into a dish. Time and heat and patience. And the smell that fills the house with a sense of home, as if saying “Welcome, here food is cooked with care and love. Stay awhile.” I love that feeling. If I could bottle it, I would give it out to everyone I know. There’s no feeling like it.

chicken in rieslingchicken in riesling

Could it be that making a trans-Atlantic move at the age of eleven did it? That sense of childhood home is something I can’t even recall. And moving around so much with boarding school and college and then in New York – home is something you make and create, especially in our fluid world of transient apartments, shifting jobs, career changes, or just a desire to pick up and go somewhere new. What anchors us and makes us feel safe, or at least for me, are meals we make at home. Somehow and apartment, devoid of furniture and pictures and personal mementos, becomes a home the minute you turn the stove on, the minute you set a place setting for yourself, or for others. Home is something you carry with you and the memories you make yourself.

chicken in riesling

Last Sunday, I had friends over for a Sunday supper. I like these Sunday suppers. They are our way of easing into the work-week. They let us talk and laugh and share. I wouldn’t trade these supper for the world. But in addition to the warmth and joy of these suppers, last Sunday was a meal to be remembered. In fact, the consensus was that this might have been the best thing I’ve ever fed my guests. I made twice the amount for our company and there were no left overs. Even my friends’ kids – who are ever the picky eaters, couldn’t put this chicken down.

chicken in riesling

Dear readers, this chicken is a thing of beauty. It is something that I implore you to make this weekend. Well, maybe you have Easter menus planned out, but please do it soon. This is something I’ve been meaning to cook for quite some time. And lovely Maggie and ever-so-talented Jeanette have made it and raved about it; so this was destined to be a home run. But I had absolutely no idea just how amazing this dish was. Which is why I am being so persistent in telling you to just please make it. I think you will love it. And I think you will want to make it again and again, the same way that I do. You might lick your plate clean, even if there’s company present.

Chicken in Riesling
Adapted from Gourmet

The original recipe omits celery and garlic. Now, I get the celery part, but garlic??? Mon dieu! As if I would dare braise a chicken (or cook it any other way) without it. Garlic here is magical, people. Like Harry Potter magical. Leave it whole to braise and melt away – it’ll be the most amazing depth of flavor for the dish.

1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pound), backbone discarded and chicken cut French style into 8 pieces (I used drumsticks and thighs because I think that the dark meat is just so much better here)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped (2 cups)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
4 medium carrots, halved diagonally
4 stalks celery, cut in 3-4 inch pieces
8-9 cloves garlic, whole
1 cup dry white wine (preferably Alsatian Riesling)
1 1/2 pound small (2-inch) fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
Fresh lemon juice to taste


Position the oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 350F.

Wash and pat chicken dry with paper towels. You want to make sure you get it as dry as possible as it will make a nice difference when you are browning the chicken. If you have time, place the chicken, uncovered, in the fridge for a few hours, where cold, dry air will dry it even more. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and a rounded 3/4 teaspoon pepper.
Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a wide 3 1/2- to 5-quart heavy dutch oven, or an oven-proof pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning once, about 10 minutes total per batch. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate.

While the chicken is browning, wash leeks, pat them dry and chop them. A good way to wash the leeks thoroughly is to quarter them, lengthwise, and let them soak in very cold water, swooshing your hand around the bowl. The grit and dirt fall to the bottom. Do that several times and your leeks will be clean and ready for use.

Pour off fat from the pot and add the remaining butter, adding to it the leeks and shallot. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and cover, cooking over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until leeks are pale golden and wilted 5-7 minutes.

Add back the chicken, skin sides up, with any juices from plate. Then add carrots, celery, garlic and wine and boil until liquid is reduced by half, 3-4 minutes.

Cover pot and place it in the oven, braising chicken until cooked through, 20-25 minutes.

While chicken braises, wash the fingerlings, covering them with cold water with 1 1/2 tbsp salt in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander, then return to saucepan. Add parsley and a drizzle of good olive oil and shake to coat.

If your chicken is done, but the potatoes are not yet, just reduce the oven temperature to 200F and keep warm while the potatoes finish. Another reason I used dark meat in this dish is because it’s virtually impossible to overcook. That way, if your potatoes are taking their sweet time to cook, you’re not wringing your hands in anxiety, worrying that you will feed your guests chicken that tastes like pressed sawdust.

Stir in crème fraîche season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve alongside fingerling potatoes.


  • diva

    Yes this is totally a beautiful dish and the riesling must make it so dreamy. And again, I agree. The word ‘braise’ sends tiny tingly sensations down my spine which is soon followed by a load rumbling in my tummy. :)

  • Maggie

    Beautiful post and delicious recipe. I made it for a sunday supper too, and it was so easy but so impressively delicious.

  • Adrienne

    What a lovely, lovely post. This recipe has caught my attention a couple of times now, but I have yet to put it into action. I think it may be about time for me to go buy a bottle of riesling.

  • kamran siddiqi

    Beautifully written post, Olga! This recipe is a thing of beauty and I have actually made the original recipe several times, but recently I felt that it was missing something, and now that I read your notes before the recipe, and I now know what it’s been missing- garlic!

    Now, I have to go make it this weekend with your version of the recipe. I know that the garlic will fill in the missing thing that the recipe was needing the whole time. Great post!

  • julo

    I love braising too! It’s so flavorful and easy! I guess I’m not ready to accept Spring yet. Hehe.

    I highly approve of your addition of garlic and celery! Everything is better with garlic!

  • Brit

    Hi, Ms Sassy Raddish! I am an avid reader of your blog, specially coming from Eastern Europe a.k.a. having eaten pleanty of Russian food in my life, it is great to see someone who loves sour cream as much as I do. Love every post with sour cream in it. Thanks for the great reading!

    PS Please please make a Pascha for Easter! :) Fingers crossed..

  • radish

    Thanks for all the lovely comments, everyone!!

    Brit – I won’t be able to do it this weekend – lots of family stuff and Passover running around, but I’ll get around to it soon, I promise.

  • low carb pita bread

    With chicken and wine garlic is a must, you’re absolutely right. This looks scrumptious, I’ll definitely try it next time I invite people over. And I’m so glad there are people out there who love cooking terms just as much as cooking and eating itself.

  • Linda McBride

    Thanks for this recipe. Chicken, garlic, wine what’s not to love. Braising is greeat. I first used this method about three years ago with fish and it turned out divine. Your posts are so well done.
    Thanks again.

  • noëlle {simmer down!}

    I’m a big fan of braising as well. One of my favorite and most frequently-used cookbooks is “All About Braising” by Molly Stevens. If you don’t own it yet, put it on your MUST buy list!! I think I’ve posted about three or four of her recipes on my blog and they’ve all been terrific. Definitely a modern classic.

  • Claire

    We’re heading into autumn and this is just the sort of dish that makes me excited about it! I love spring (summer not so much as it’s too hot to cook), but the braises and pot roasts of autumn and winter are what keep me going on those long sticky days. Yum yum yum yum yum! (and if picky kids eat it I’ll be in heaven as my oldest is amongst the fussiest!). Thank you!

  • Bob May

    I’m making it now and I will post the results later. Thank you for the recipe it looks great!

  • clandestinephemera

    This looks incredibly delicious, and along with the recipes for the asparagus salad and the mascarpone cake — so perfect for these first few lovely days of spring!

  • DC Celine

    made this as a week’s full of dinners dish (mama heading back to work after baby #2)…took the dark meat recommendation for ease and for “impossible to overcook” qualities. haven’t tasted yet, but the house smells amazing. will post results after tasting tomorrow!

  • DC Celine

    Sassy, I’m sorry to report that the taste just didn’t live up to the wonderful smell. Perhaps it was my pot (too small, so veggies were “stacked,” instead of integrated into the liquid), or just plain ol’ not enough garlic (only had a miserable 3 cloves on hand – will never happen again), or I didn’t reduce the liquid enough, so it wasn’t rich, but … sigh … it bears repeating and adjusting, I think – any suggestions?

  • Radish

    DC Celine – it’s hard for me to give suggestions, because, sadly, I wasn’t in the kitchen with you. I think that more garlic should improve things substantially; stacking is also not preferable – you need a pot where things are comfortably laying side by side, not squished; reducing to a right consistency is also key. I would try it again as it’s a favorite with all my friends. Also, it’s possible it’s not not your flavor combination too. Sorry it was a disappointment.

  • Ellie

    I made this last night and I must say it was one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had! My husband won’t stop raving about it. I am in love with your blog and have made countless recipes from it. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

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