Here's a warm, incredibly tasty dish that suits fall perfectly. Take a mess of caramelized onions, soupy and rich, and add a touch of mustard and some chicken thighs. Braise in the oven, then broil with a handful of Gruyère cheese. It's rich without being heavy, and deeply flavorful without too much work. I'm having this for dinner tonight — care to join me?
You just have to follow a few basic steps in this recipe: Caramelize the onions, deglaze the pan with a bit of broth, brown the chicken thighs, deglaze that pan as well with a little more broth, combine the onions and the chicken (with their respective sauces), bake in a slow oven for half an hour, take off the lid, and broil with Gruyère. Oh yeah, and eat with some good bread and a salad!
The chicken turns out succulent and tender, and it's nestled into a bed of rich, aromatic onions spiked with tangy mustard. There is more than enough sauce to smother the chicken, and you could even eat it separately as a very rich soup.
This is such an easy dish. It takes some time to put together, though — primarily because of caramelizing the onions. Caramelizing onions, however, is a great make-ahead step. You could caramelize the onions on a Sunday night, or even prep the entire dish ahead of time and then bake it after you get home from work.
It pretty much goes without saying that this dish makes fantastic lunch leftovers, too. It would also freeze magnificently.
This is a cozy chicken dish that was a crowd-pleaser when I served it at a dinner party. I've simplified it so that you just need a Dutch oven and frying pan now. I also cooked the onions with just a pinch of baking soda, which helps speed up the caramelization process. Consider making a big batch of slow cooker caramelized onions first, using one cup in this recipe and freezing the rest for a later date when the French onion soup craving strikes!
- Christine, September 2017
Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyère
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups low-sodium chicken or beef broth, divided
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 to 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 (4-inch) fresh rosemary sprig
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (about 5 ounces)
Coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325°F. Cook the onions and chicken while the oven is heating.
Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed oven-safe pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and baking soda and cook, stirring every few minutes with a wooden spoon, for 15 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring more frequently and scraping up the browned buildup that forms at the bottom of the pan, until the onions are a deep golden-brown, 10 to 15 minutes more. Meanwhile, sear the chicken.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick or cast iron pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches as to not overcrowd the pan, sear the chicken until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. As each batch is ready, transfer the chicken to a large plate.
Add 1 cup of the broth to the chicken pan and scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the mustard and vinegar and whisk to combine, then simmer until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
When the onions are ready, add the garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 1 cup of broth, scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan, and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Remove and discard the thyme and rosemary stems.
Transfer the chicken on top of the onions in an even layer and add any juices on the plate. Pour the mustard sauce over the chicken. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
Remove the pot from the oven, then turn the oven up to broil. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and golden brown on top, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley if desired and serve.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
- Make ahead: Cook the onions with the herbs and broth up to 1 day ahead and store in the refrigerator.