This apple cider braised chicken recipe is perfect for fall evenings. Here in Ventura, fall days are often warmer than most summer days! But the evenings are darker and cooler, meaning the cravings for richer savory dishes kick in. This one-pot chicken thigh recipe fits the bill!
Bringing together apples and a roast dinner, the secret to this chicken dish lies in the spices used to flavor the chicken and sauce. The bubbling chicken fills the house with the most incredible aroma (that might just have the neighbors knocking on your door for a dinner invite!) and produces a juicy tender chicken, with apples that are meltingly soft, and an incredible savory, spicy, and sweet sauce.
What is Braised Chicken?
We keep mentioning braised chicken, but just how do you make braised chicken?
Braising is a cooking method that involves two steps. First, the chicken is placed in a single layer in a hot skillet and cooked (or seared) until browned on the outside, but not cooked all the way through.
Next, a liquid and flavorings are added. That liquid is brought to a boil, turned down to a simmer, and cooked until the chicken is cooked all the way through.
The two steps of braising create the rich flavors of searing the meat while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Cooking the chicken in a flavorful liquid allows the chicken to take on extra flavors while cooking.
Ventucky Poultry Rub Ventucky is one of our Ventura Spices exclusive to SpiceTopia. Blended in-house with organic ingredients, it is a mix of rich spices such as allspice, mace, and coriander and savory herbs like thyme, sage, and rosemary with just a touch of paprika and cayenne pepper.
Pickling Spice. The surprising spice used in this fall dish is Pickling Spice! It may sound strange to use pickling spice for a braised chicken recipe, but SpiceTopia’s Organic Pickling Spice Blend includes spices like mustard, allspice, bay, black pepper, coriander, and juniper berries – all spices that pair well with cider, apples, and chicken.
Learn more about Pickling Spice in our Story of Pickling Spice
Find all these spices and over 100 more at SpiceTopia.
Chicken Thighs. This recipe calls for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. The bone and skin both add flavor and allow for a long cooking time creating a tender juicy chicken. We like chicken thighs as they tend to stay moist while cooking and have more flavor than chicken breasts. If you prefer chicken breast, feel free to switch out the thighs for breasts. Keep in mind that chicken breasts are larger than thighs. Use between 3 – 5 pounds of chicken – or what will comfortably fit in your skillet!
Olive Oil. This recipe calls for just a touch of olive oil to start the browning process of the chicken. We personally love Maslina Ranch Olive Oil, which is produced right here in California by a local Ventura family.
Brown Sugar. Just a touch of brown sugar adds sweetness to the final sauce.
Butter. Butter adds richness and helps to create a creamy shiny sauce.
Apples & Apple Cider. Apples and apple cider really form the base of this recipe, so use a really good cider. Either a hard or a soft cider will work. As for the apples, we use both a green apple and a red apple in this recipe. Use whatever kind of apple you like or have available.
How to Braise Chicken
Braising is a pretty easy method of cooking. A few considerations:
- Choose a heavy skillet or Dutch oven that can be used both on the stove and in the oven. We prefer a cast iron skillet.
- When seasoning the chicken with the Ventucky Seasoning, make sure to season under the skin as well as on the skin.
- Deeply brown your chicken. This step adds a lot of flavor as well as visual appeal.
- Make sure to scrape up all the bits and pieces that have stuck to the skillet as you bring the cider to a boil. This is called deglazing and adds a lot of flavor to the sauce.
Using the Pickling Spice.
Pickling Spice is a blend of whole spices which would not be pleasant to bite into, so we add the pickling spice in a bouquet garni. Bouquet garni is simply a fancy French term for a cotton pouch that holds herbs or spices while cooking. By adding spices or herbs to a bouquet garni, it is easy for those herbs or spices to be removed at the end of the cooking process.
We tie our bouquet garni to the handle of our skillet making it easy to find and remove at the end of the cooking process.
Let’s Get Cooking
Spiced Cider Braised Chicken
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
Heat a large oven-safe skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Rub the chicken thighs all over with olive oil. Rub the Ventucky Rub over and under the skin.
Once the skillet is hot, but not smoking, add the chicken and sear until both sides are caramelized, about 2 - 4 minutes per side.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the butter to the pan and allow it to brown for about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the cider, stirring and scraping up the bits of chicken on the bottom of the skillet.
Add the bouquet garni of pickling spices. Add the chicken skin side up (and any juices which have accumulated on the plate) back into the skillet. Add the cider and tuck the apple slices and onion in around the chicken piece.
Bring the cider to a boil.
Carefully place the skillet in the oven and roast for 45 - 60 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened into a glaze.
Remove the skillet from the oven and allow the chicken to cool in the skillet for at least 10 minutes.
If you would like a thicker sauce, remove the chicken from the sauce (after 10 minutes resting) and cook the sauce over medium heat until thicken to your liking.
Enjoy over mashed potatoes, with warm bread, rice, or polenta!