The Ultimate Wine-Braised Chicken
This tender, herby, garlicky chicken is an ideal Sunday night dinner. It’s simple yet nourishing, with leftovers that yield the makings of a few meals throughout the week. The chicken is stuffed with sage stems, rosemary, and a whole head of garlic, browned all over in a pot on the stovetop (a large Dutch oven is perfect for this), and oven-braised in white wine with more garlic cloves and sage -- the result of which is a perfectly moist chicken, with a sweet and mellow garlic-infused sauce, that lies somewhere between a broth and a gravy.
The Ultimate Wine-Braised Chicken
1 chicken (3-4 pounds)
2 heads garlic, 1 halved horizontally through the middle and one broken up and peeled
1 bunch sage, just under 1 oz, reserving a few leaves to chop finely (for garnish)
1 sprig rosemary
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375° F with the rack in the middle.
- Trim the bird of excess fat and rinse well, inside and out. Pat dry with paper towel, and let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes or so to allow the skin to dry out further. Season generously with salt and pepper, both inside and out of the cavity. Stuff both halves of the divided whole head of garlic into the cavity, along with the rosemary sprig and the stems of the sage leaves. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings behind the breast.
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a large dutch oven or other large oven-proof pot big enough to hold the bird, over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and begins to foam a bit, add the bird to the pot, placing it on its side. Let it sear undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, until the skin is a nice golden brown. Using 2 wooden spoons, carefully rotate it to the other side and sear for another 3-4 minutes. Turn once more so the bird is facing breast-side down and sear for a final 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip the bird onto its back and turn off the heat. The chicken should be a nice golden-brown color all over. Set a bowl beside the pot and carefully keeping the bird in place with a wooden spoon, tilt the pot to pour out the fat.
- Scatter the garlic cloves and the rest of the sage leaves into the pot and slowly pour the wine over the bird.
- Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 40 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes, spooning some of the braising liquid over the chicken a few times. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thick part of the breast reads 155° F (though don’t be concerned if the temp is hotter than this, the braising liquid will prevent the chicken from drying out). The meat should be moist and tender, practically falling off the bone.
- Let the chicken cool for 5-10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cutting board. Remove the sage leaves from the braising liquid with a slotted spoon. Mash all of the softened garlic cloves with a whisk and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking frequently, for a few minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken into a gravy. Remove from the heat and pour the gravy into a bowl or small pitcher.
Makes 4-6 servings
(or 2-4, when keeping leftovers for a weekly Chicken Salad)
Takes 2 hours
To serve: Carve the chicken and transfer to a serving platter. Pour the gravy over the chicken and garnish with chopped fresh sage leaves. Pair it simply with potatoes, drizzled with the reserved chicken fat, and a green salad.
Turn leftovers into an herby Tarragon-Dandelion Chicken Salad and use the leftover cooking liquid as a delicious addition to simple roasted vegetables.
Don’t throw away those bones! Whenever cooking a whole chicken, you have the makings of a wonderful broth. Simply transfer the bones to a freezer-proof container or bag until you are ready to make broth. Properly stored, bones will last in the freezer for up to 4 months. When it’s time to make broth, simply toss the frozen bones into a stock pot along with garlic, onion, celery, carrot, aromatic herbs of your choosing, salt, pepper, and a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. If you have an old parmesan rind laying around in the fridge, throw that in too! Cover with water, bring to a boil, skim the top once or twice, and simmer for an hour or so — until you have a lovely aromatic broth!
Cally Robertson is a Los Angeles-based chef and artist whose only rule of thumb in the kitchen is to cook seasonally and with economy, the goal being to get the most pleasure and use out of available ingredients. She is the host of Cally's Cafe, a pre-COVID-19 supper club, and a quilter of scraps and recycled fabrics.