Many people assume, based on what I do for a living, that I must have an extraordinary kitchen full of the latest tools and appliances. The reality here is that I have cooked with the same beat-up Dutch ovens for years, have a stove that is basically an Easy Bake Oven, and only last year decided it was time to buy a blender (that honestly I have used only once).
This is all partly because I am a true kitchen Luddite, believing you don’t need much more than the basics to create a great meal, but also because New York apartments aren’t known for their generous square footage, and every inch counts.
This means that no, I do not own a pressure cooker, Instant Pot, slow cooker, Crock-Pot or any combination of those appliances. Not because they aren’t smart tools that make millions of people very happy; I just don’t have the physical or emotional space for yet another thing in my kitchen.
So when it comes time to braise something until it’s falling-off-the-bone tender, I wait. Sometimes, depending on what’s involved, I wait hours (happily!).
But when I don’t have hours, I braise chicken thighs. Already beloved for their role in many a skillet dinner, chicken thighs are ideal for quick weeknight braising because of their ability to reach that same level of tenderness in a fraction of the time as other meats destined for the same result.
For those looking for crisp chicken thighs, you are not in the right place. But for those looking for a deeply schmaltzy, tangy, wildly comforting, crazy-tender one-pot chicken in an hour, then you are absolutely in the right place.
As with any piece of meat, bone-in, skin-on is the way to go here. “But why keep the skin if it’s not crispy?” I hear you. The skin still has tons of that good fat that will not only flavor the braise, but will also give it plenty of body and proper thickness. So hold onto it, won’t you?
Otherwise, you’ll find the usual suspects: loads of smashed garlic and half an onion to soften and sizzle in the fat (save the other half to use as garnish), fresh jalapeño, chicken stock and, one of my favorite braising ingredients, tomatillos. Much more acidic than its friend the tomato, the tomatillo also has an incomparable, luscious viscosity when it’s cooked down, thanks to high amounts of naturally occurring pectin.
While this dish is decidedly more saucy than soupy, you’re still halfway to an almost-pozole (the long-cooked Mexican stew typically made with pork and red chiles or chicken and tomatillos). So go ahead and add a can of rinsed hominy (beans or cooked rice also work) and garnish it as such, which is to say: all of the garnish. Soft or crunchy tortillas, fresh cilantro, limey radishes and onions and the rest of that jalapeño, if you like it hot.
More Recipes and Columns by Alison Roman