Really, really good indeed! This chicken is packed with flavor, cooked to perfection, and easy to prepare. Would you ever order a dish on a menu called, “Really, REALLY Good Chicken?” I most certainly hope so.
Recipe titles come naturally to me as I’m cooking. And if you’ve been following my recipes for a while, you know I’m somewhat notorious for having very long titles. Some (well, my husband), would say too long. As, I’ve said before, it’s just that I want you to know what you’re getting yourself into — all the flavors, colors, textures, etc.
All I kept thinking while I was making and tasting this recipe was that it was really, really good chicken! That’s the title that came naturally. Had I given this chicken a more traditional title, it would have been something ridiculously long like, “Warmly Spiced, Smoky, Tomato-Pepper and Balsamic Braised Chicken.”
My husband would have been out somewhere between “Smoky” and “Pepper,” which is why I went with “Really, REALLY Good Chicken Recipe.” That’s what it is, after all — and now, since I told you the vetoed title, you know what your getting yourself into.
- 4 dried mild Hatch chile peppers Anaheim are okay, too
- Olive oil for the pan
- 2½ cups thinly sliced brown onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1½- pounds fresh tomatoes washed, dried and cut into fourths
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 approximately 3¼-pound whole, cut chicken -- skin off, bone in
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a small pot of water to a boil, then reduce to low and add the dried peppers. Cover the pot and let them simmer for about 30 minutes. Then turn the heat off, keep the peppers covered and let them sit until they're soft. Another 30 minutes is sufficient, but the longer the better. When they're done, remove them from the pot but SAVE the cooking liquid! Remove the stems from the peppers and use your hands to open them and remove the seeds. (You can also use a small spoon or the back of a knife to gently scrape them off.) Set the prepared peppers aside.
While the peppers are hydrating, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, adjust a rack to the center.
Then coat the bottom of a large, deep, oven proof sauté pan with olive oil. Place it over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and sauté, stirring periodically, until the onions are caramelized and soft, about 15 minutes.
Then add the tomato paste, paprika and cinnamon and stir. If it seems dry, add a bit more olive oil. Sauté this mixture for a few minutes, until it's very aromatic and the tomato paste is beginning to brown.
Add the fresh tomatoes to a blender or food processor with the hydrated, seeded peppers and ¾ cup of the cooking liquid. (Now you may discard the rest of the liquid.) Blend until smooth, and then pour this into the sauté pan with the onion mixture. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir to blend. Season with a bit of salt and pepper -- and then season with more (if necessary) to taste after the chicken is done. (Here's How to Season to Taste.)
Season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then arrange them in the pan, coating them as much as possible with the sauce and trying not to overlap them.
Place the pan in the preheated 375 degree F oven and braise just until the chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. At the halfway point, cover the pan lightly with foil. Try to remove the pan as soon as the chicken isn't pink anymore -- keep checking towards the end of the cooking time. (You can use a sharp knife to poke into the thickest part of one of the breasts to see if it's done.)
Let the chicken "rest" for a few minutes and then serve. It's delicious over rice, pasta, or a nice chunk of rustic bread.