This is a recipe to warm the marrow of your bones. It's rich with deep flavors, so deep there's almost something mysterious and moody about it. The natural complexity of aged, fortified wines. The easy umami of tomatoes. The sweet smoke of bacon and pimentón. It all comes together as one to bathe tender chicken thighs in an aromatic and hearty sauce. This one-pot, port wine braised chicken is perfect for sustaining hibernation through dreary late-winter weather.
This luxurious pot roasted chicken is inspired by a recipe I stumbled across in My Lisbon by Nuno Mendes. In his recipe (p. 219, if you're curious) he refers to the dish as frango na púcara, a clay-pot recipe from Alcobaça, north of Lisbon. The sauce/marinade is rich with tomatoes, two types of booze (port and brandy), and cured pork. I've streamlined the ingredients to better fit my pantry (I rarely have more than one type of fortified wine on hand), but the luxurious character remains the same.
- Start with a full-flavored free-range chicken.
- Port Wine for Braising vs Brandy for Braising
- Final Flourish: Parsley or Cilantro
- The ultimate one-pot wine braised chicken is literally one pot.
- Serving Suggestions
- Looking for more chicken recipes?Tomato Chipotle Pulled ChickenTomato-Braised Green Beans and Potatoes (Chicken Variation)Vietnamese-Inspired Ginger-Herb Meatballs with Lemongrass
- Port Wine Braised Chicken in a Smoky Tomato Sauce
Start with a full-flavored free-range chicken.
In his headnote, Mendes specifically begs you to source a top-notch, happily raised chicken for the best flavors. And I agree! Beyond the morality question, a pasture-raised chicken is going to have a much better flavor than the stuff you get packed in Styrofoam from commercial farms. Given the robust flavors of the braising sauce, I wouldn't be surprised if this dish was once made with game birds. The more robust and chicken-y your chicken, the better all the big flavors will come together.
Port Wine for Braising vs Brandy for Braising
Both port and brandy are on the sweet end of distilled spirits. That sweetness can be more or less pronounced depending on the aromas. Thanks to the aging and fortification process, both port and brandy add a huge amount of natural complexity to a dish. This makes them a great secret weapon for achieving huge flavor with minimal effort.
There are several types of Port wine, but for this dish I recommend picking a younger port because of price. Ruby port will give you more fruit, whereas a tawny or aged port will give you more oak flavors (vanilla, tobacco, leather, spices, etc). Both are fairly sweet, which enhances the gamey/wild flavors of a free-range, high quality chicken.
"Brandy" as a category is also quite varied (read more about brandy here). For the purposes of this recipe, ignore the clear, unoaked fruit brandies (often labeled eau de vie). As with port, keep an eye on cost and pick something that isn't too pricey. Very broadly speaking, brandy is less fruity than port with more oak flavors like spices, woodsiness, and vanilla. It is still sweet, but I personally find it to seem less sweet because the natural fruit flavors are more balanced by earthier/spicier flavors.
Final Flourish: Parsley or Cilantro
For a dish with so many rich flavors, it's important to add a bit of complementary contrast. The original recipe calls for parsley, which is perfectly herbal and slightly citrussy. However, I also really like throwing in some cilantro, either in place of or in addition to the parsley. If you hate cilantro, don't use it (obviously), but if you love it you might like it here. I find it to be a brighter, less grassy alternative to parsley. I love the way it plays off the sweet smokiness of the bacon and smoked paprika.
The ultimate one-pot wine braised chicken is literally one pot.
One of the things that caught my interest about Mendes's recipe was the method. You literally just dump everything together in a pot, raw, and pop it in the oven. This makes complete sense given that it's traditionally baked in a clay pot, which generally doesn't allow for any kind of searing. Just because we have fancy-schmancy enameled cast iron pots doesn't mean we can't follow the same method. Just dump it all in!
This is a very rich dish. It begs for crusty bread or some other kind of carb to soak up the sauce. Roasted or boiled potatoes are stellar, but so is a bed of polenta or rice.
Because of the richness, I also recommend something bright like a lightly dressed salad of leafy greens or blanched green beans. Just think about what you might like to serve with an American pot roast, and use that as your side dish inspiration.
Port Wine Braised Chicken in a Smoky Tomato Sauce
- One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- ½ cup brandy or port, Or a blend of both
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 2 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 2 pounds bone-in skin on chicken thighs or whole legs
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- ¾ cup chopped parsley or cilantro leaves
- Step 1In a large braiser or high-sided skillet, stir together the tomatoes, port, paprika, bacon, bay, and garlic. Generously season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, then nestle the pieces into the pot skin side up. Let marinate at least 60 minutes, ideally overnight.
- Step 2Preheat your oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 175°F, about 50 to 60 minutes.
- Step 3Transfer the chicken pieces to a serving dish, then stir the parsley or cilantro into the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Spoon the sauce around the chicken to serve.
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