I thought I should explore some savory applications of fresh figs rather than just going dessert–crazy. For some reason, a Morrocan chicken I’d made several months ago kept popping up in my head, so I decided to follow a similar tact and braise a chicken with figs and see where it took me.
I began by breaking down a whole chicken. I strangely enjoy this and seem to get better at it every time I do it, so if this is something that intimidates you, there’s only one way to get better at it so do it! With the chicken in more manageable pieces, I then braised it in a flavorful broth of wine, balsamic, honey, leek, herbs, and figs. The result was absolutely delicious–the chicken was incredibly tender and the sauce was sweet, honeyed, with a surprisingly well-rounded, balanced, full flavor. I had some doubts when I started, but as the aromas wafted through the air and I had a bite, I was sold. The figs, the rosemary, the honey–lots of strong flavors, that became one in a way that complimented the chicken perfectly. Now if only I could have fresh figs year-round…
- 1 whole chicken (~4 lbs)
- knob of butter
- olive oil
- 1 leek
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup white wine
- ~1/4 cup chicken stock (if necessary)
- 20 figs (I used Kadota–use whatever variety suits your fancy)
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp honey
- fennel seeds
- handful of thyme sprigs
- 1 sprig rosemary
- juice of 1/2 lemon
Begin by getting your fruit and veggies ready for later. Stem and half the figs, strip/dice up the herbs, finely dice the pale part of the leek, and mince the garlic.
Break the chicken down. Remove the gizzards from the chicken, sharpen your knife, and just dislocate and follow the joints. If your cuts aren’t super clean, no worries–practice makes perfect. Its up to you whether you separate the drumstick from the thighs. Try both ways if you’re not sure–there’s two legs, after all. Anyways, you should have the wings, thighs, drumsticks, breasts, and the other smaller scraps from the backside.
Warm up your pan and add a good knob of butter with a bit of olive oil. While that heats up, dredge the chicken parts in flour, season liberally with salt and pepper, and then brown the chicken parts (as in put it in and let it sit undisturbed until you flip it) for about 3-5 minutes per side. Work in batches so as not to overcrowd your pan–too much at once and you’ll just be steaming the chicken, which isn’t the goal.
Set the nicely browned and crusted chicken aside.
Now, its time to get everything else cooking. In the pan you browned the chicken in with the fat that remains, sauté the leek for about 3 minutes, after which, add the garlic for another minute. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping off all of the brown bits, and warm this up to a boil. If things don’t look “wet enough” to you (e.g. my leek was pretty big, so I wanted a little more liquid), splash in a bit (like 1/4 cup) of chicken stock as well. Once actively boiling, return all of the chicken parts to the pan.
Cover the pan and drop the heat to just shy of medium. Leave this be for about 15 minutes.
Once time is up, come back, give things a stir and flip the chicken parts. Now, add all of the remaining ingredients– figs, balsamic, honey, fennel seeds, thyme, rosemary, and lemon. Stir this a bit to get them all in there, cover things up, drop the heat to between low and medium, and let this continue for 30 minutes. Stir periodically so that all of the sugars in there don’t just settle to the bottom and burn.
Once time is up, you’re good to go. I’m normally expecting to have to finish up a braise by reducing the braising liquid further to thicken it up, but things were a pretty nice texture at this point. So simply verify the seasoning is right (adjust as necessary), plate some chicken with a side of rice (I included some cashews, golden raisins, fennel seeds, and cardamom in the rice, garnish with a fig, and dig in. Enjoy!