RECIPE: Leeks are the highlight of this quick braised chicken recipe

Braised Chicken and Leeks. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Braised Chicken and Leeks. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Leeks are an undersung spring vegetable. Sure, asparagus and artichokes are delicious, and ramps are an earthy treat, but leeks are some of the most versatile and surprising seasonal produce you can find right now. They can be roasted, sauteed or braised; they can be cooked into the aromatic beginnings of a dish or served on their own as a main course; and they can be simmered into a braise as one would hearty potatoes and root vegetables to lighten up such a dish for springtime.

One leek-filled braise I’m particularly fond of is made with chicken thighs, lots of chopped fresh tarragon, and a big splash of lemon juice. And yes, you can pull off a full-flavored braised dish in less than 30 minutes, as long as you (as usual) shop with care and slice the leeks into smallish pieces.

ExploreMore easy weeknight dinner recipes

Using boneless, skinless thighs means you can get to a fork-tender texture with less than 20 minutes of braising time, and breaking the leeks down into 1/2-inch-thick batons gives the dish substance without needing an extended cooking time.

I also like to cut down a bit on cooking time by starting the leeks in a cold pan. Since I’m not trying to sear the cut sides, they don’t need to be dropped into hot oil; it works just as well to heat them up with the oil.

My final time-saving trick is to use a relatively wide cooking vessel for the braise. An 11- or 12-inch saute pan with high, straight sides is the best tool for the job, but a large Dutch oven will also work. The increased surface area of these pans means the cooking liquid will come to a boil faster and more of the meat and vegetables will make contact with the hot liquid, which decreases the total cooking time.

Serve the chicken and leeks with plenty of steamed rice for soaking up all of the flavor-packed cooking liquid.

Braised Chicken and Leeks
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 leeks, dark parts removed, halved and cleaned
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups unsalted or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • On the side: Rice
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside on a plate while you start cooking the leeks.
  • Cut any particularly large leek halves in half to form quarters. Ideally, all of the leek batons should be about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Coat the bottom of a large, high-sided skillet or Dutch oven with olive oil. Place the leeks in the pan, cut side down, and then set the pan over medium-high heat. Once the leeks begin to sizzle, place the chicken on top of the leeks. Pour in the chicken broth so it comes up almost to the top of the leeks. Still on medium-high, bring the broth to a boil, then cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the leeks are tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and zest the lemon over the chicken. Cut the lemon in half and juice half of it into the broth. Stir in the tarragon, then season the dish to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve with rice on the side. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 304 calories (percent of calories from fat, 33), 35 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 11 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 155 milligrams cholesterol, 680 milligrams sodium.
ExploreMore must-try recipes

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.

In Other News