Braised celery with crispy chicken thighs

Celery probably shouldn’t be something you can find exciting, but I do. I love the crunch and the freshness, how it’s delightful roasted with lashings of salt, and the bite when used in a stir fry.

To provide a way of shovelling more celery into my face, I came up with this:

Chicken with braised celery(photos in this post by Kit, who’s here on Flickr)

It’s a synthesis of a couple of recipes I found on the usual pointless content farms, the odd decent site, and the waterzooi I made months ago. It has an egg-thickened sauce, which gives it a rich creaminess, without any dairy.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken thighs, skin on
  • Celery, 3 or 4 stalks
  • An onion
  • Garlic
  • Two egg yolks
  • Veg or chicken stock
  • Oregano
  • Wine

Instructions:

I like to bone the chicken thighs. It’s fiddly, and you don’t have to. But I like the presentation when they flatten out, and the way they cook a bit quicker and are less faff on the plate. Bone them if you’re going to. Don’t if you’re not.

Frying chicken thighsCoat the skin side of the chicken liberally in pepper and salt, and leave it for a few minutes.

Slice the onion into quarters, or some slender shapes. Cut the celery into chunky diagonals, and slice the garlic. Separate the eggs, keeping the yolk.

Start the chicken frying on a low heat, skin down first. In a separate pan, also at a low heat, fry the celery and onion. The chicken will gradually give off lots of fat, and you can periodically add this to the frying vegetables so as not to waste the flavours. It may help to cover the veg – it wants to soften slowly, without much colour.

The chicken by contrast is all about the colour. You want the skin to slowly go sticky-crispy. Get full-on Maillard reaction on its ass. Once the skin has started to crisp, turn it. Feel free to keep turning through cooking, to get it crispy and just so. If it’s ready before everything else, knock off the heat – it’ll keep.

When the veg is softened, add the garlic and fry for a bit. Then add stock, oregano, and a splash of wine. Let the veg simmer until completely soft, and the liquid reduced somewhat – perhaps ten minutes. When it’s there, pour off about half the liquid.

Whisk in the egg yolkLet the poured-off liquid cool slightly, and gently whisk the yolk into it, adding a little at a time, as for Waterzooi. It could split, so be careful.

When the egg is whisked into the reserved liquid, add it gently back into the pan with the celery and onion. Then bring the heat up a little. It can boil, but not for more than a second or two, for risk of curdling.

Gentle stirring and heat will thicken the sauce to a rich creaminess. Add the chicken, let the flavours come together for a minute, then serve.

I’d recommend greens and/or potatoes on the side. For this kind of thing I like to roast new potatoes, cut in half, skin-on and tossed in oil so they crisp up a little.

The celery flavour does dominate, and the odd non-dairy creaminess of the sauce works well with it, so it’s nice that the chicken has some dark crunchiness to it to offset. The onions fade into a sweet background note tying it all together.

 

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