Kitchn Love Letters

The Knock-Your-Socks-Off Chicken Dinner I Make Every Single Spring

published May 21, 2021
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rhubarb braised chicken on a plate
Credit: Christine Gallary

I’m always lured by the vivid pink hues of rhubarb — especially as it makes its debut when both the weather and my allergies heat up. But I’ve never been that interested in the classic pairing of rhubarb and strawberries, since my cravings always lean toward the savory side. Instead of baking pies, I celebrate the return of longer days and post-winter optimism by making the same dinner every spring: rhubarb-braised chicken thighs.

How to Make Rhubarb-Braised Chicken

I first tasted this recipe when it was being developed in the test kitchen where I worked (before I started at Kitchn). Tasked with creating a recipe using rhubarb, my colleague Amy wanted to make something you could actually have with dinner, not dessert. She decided to braise seared bone-in chicken thighs in a mixture of chicken broth, ginger, shallots, white wine, orange juice, honey, and cardamom, letting everything cook together in the oven until tender and flavorful. Then, she threw in a full pound of diced rhubarb for the last 15 minutes of the braising time, where it softened and turned into an almost jam-like consistency.

Credit: Christine Gallary

Yes, You Should Be Eating Rhubarb for Dinner

This braised chicken knocked my socks off then and still does years later: The chicken is juicy and begging to be eaten swiped through the sauce with bites of the soft rhubarb. It’s the perfect balance of tart-savory flavors, and perfumes your kitchen with delicious aromas as it braises. We’ve had this chicken with couscous or noodles, but most often turn to the simplicity of crusty bread to soak up even more of the braising liquid.

I’ve realized recently that rhubarb reminds me of tomatillos: tart and firm but oh-so great when cooked down until meltingly soft. Plus, they can swing on both the savory and sweet sides of the fence (have you tried this amazing sweet tomatillo sauce?). When I see rhubarb at the store, this recipe immediately goes onto my next meal plan.

Like all good braises, this is a dish that takes time. I make sure the skin side of the chicken is really nicely browned to coax out some deeper flavors, and I brown the second side if I have the time (but hey, can you also skip it too!). The aromatics get cooked in the chicken fat, a good glug of sherry (or white wine if that’s what you have) reduces in the pot, and then the braising liquid goes in and gently finishes cooking the chicken. The rhubarb, bright pink when it joins the braise, mellows out in flavor and color as it cooks down.

I know you’re probably not thinking of braising in the spring, but bookmark this rhubarb-braised chicken for the occasional chilly day that still happens. Or honestly, just turn on the oven since rhubarb season is so fleeting. I made this again last night and I feel like I’ve officially welcomed in springtime.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.