For as long as I can remember, my mother, all her sisters, my grandmother and all her sisters use to catch every sale on roasting hens at the local Piggly Wiggly, Winn-Dixie, IGA or the A&P. Though most times they would roast these hens, many times they would “stew” them because they were tough birds! I particularly loved the stewed chicken my mother would make because she would add celery, onion and carrot to the pot, cover it and just let it simmer away! Her secret seasoning that gave this chicken its superb flavor was ground thyme!
This recipe is homage to all the women in my family famous for catching the sale on hens at the local food store! I enhanced the flavor a bit by adding lemon pepper, which really wakes up the chicken. I cook this with breast intact with skin and rib bones. Of course, traditionally you would use a whole cut-up chicken or hen and all parts are stewed! I do not use boneless-skinless breast for this recipe! (Just a quick note – I do not buy commercial lemon-pepper seasoning. I do not like additives in my food, and it’s too easy to make lemon-pepper seasoning at home! I provide my methodology for making lemon pepper as the second step in the instructions to this recipe.)
Though this braised dish could be made in a crockpot, I much prefer it in my regular conventional oven on a very low heat for several hours! The meat is so tender it will fall off the bone—but, unlike crockpot or pressure-cooker methods, will stay intact until you can get it to the plate!
For this recipe I usually use my large enamel-coated cast-iron Dutch oven if I’m making this dish to serve four or more people. Anything less than that, it is easily done using a cast-iron skillet for browning and a 9 x 12 casserole dish for the braising. Super-easy is an appropriate description for this recipe. I happen to love green beans, as well as buttered rice with parsley which goes well with this dish. However, as with many stews, this recipe is truly a meal unto itself and needs nothing with it other than a hot, fluffy biscuit with butter! Enjoy!
4 large Chicken breasts (intact with skin and bone)
3 TABLEspoons olive oil
3 large lemons to provide
3 TABLEspoons of lemon zest
3 TABLEspoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon each salt, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder
2 teaspoons ground turmeric, ground thyme, fresh finely-minced garlic cloves
3 TABLEspoons ground black pepper
1/4 cup corn starch
1 TABLEspoon granulated sugar
3 cups water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 stalks celery (cut into 3-inch julienne strips)
3 whole carrots (peeled and cut into 3-inch stewing pieces)
2 large russet baking potatoes (peeled and cut into stewing chunks)
1 large parsnip (peeled, split-cut, then cut into 4 pieces)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 medium-size white onions (peeled and quartered with ends intact)
- Preheat oven at 500°.
- Using a zester/micro planer – zest the lemons and set zest aside in a small bowl. Add the 3 TABLEspoons of ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt, stir to combine. Add the turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, thyme. Sprinkle over the chicken breast and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Using a hand juicer, juice the lemons after you zest the skin—remove any seeds. If the lemon does not yield a full 3 TABLEspoons of juice. Pour into a small bowl.
- Add the cornstarch to the lemon juice and stir. You will have a thick paste. Using a mini-whisk or two salad-forks, stir in the water slowly until you have a milky-looking liquid–(a slurry if you will)! Stir in the sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Set this “slurry”
- Heat cast-iron skillet until very hot. Add 3 TABLEspoons of olive oil and immediately turn heat down to medium. Add chicken breasts skin-side down and slowly cook until skin is golden brown. (Do NOT fully cook the chicken—you only want to brown the skin!)
- Removed browned chicken breast, and then add fresh-minced garlic cloves and mushrooms to Dutch Oven and sauté for 2 minutes. Now, add all the cut up veggies (celery, potatoes, onion, carrots, parsnip).
- Place the browned chicken breast on top of all the veggies.
- Pour the slurry over the chicken and veggies.
- Cover the Dutch Oven, and place in the hot oven. Let cook at 500° for 10 minutes.
- Turn oven down to 250° and leave in oven to braise for 2 1/2 hours.
- Remove from oven and pour off the braising liquid into the cast-iron skillet and simmer until reduced by at least half. What you want is a thick gravy-type braising liquid for serving.
- (Shortcut: You can also add ¼ cup additional cornstarch to poured-off braising liquid and cook until thick!)