Bourbon Braised Chicken Thighs with Bacon, Swiss Chard and Grits

Braises are perfect for a weekday or weekend supper. Cooking the chicken thighs in a bourbon-spiked liquid, low and slow, results in an unctuous, tender and succulent dish. 

If your bourbon is from Kentucky, so should your grits. Buy local Weisenberger Mill in Midway or Louismill in Louisville offer great local options. And, choose Kenny’s Farmhouse Reserve Cheddar Cheese to add to the grits. 

Makes 4 entrée portions 

By | April 20, 2018

Ingredients

Chicken
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
  • All-purpose flour, as needed
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup bourbon, preferably Old Forester Classic 86 Proof
  • 2½ to 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Swiss Chard
  • ¼ pound bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 bunches green Swiss chard, stems removed from leaves, stems cut into ½-inch lengths, leaves cut into 1-inch lengths
  • ¼ cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Grits
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup corn grits (not instant)
  • ½ cup Kenny’s Farmhouse Reserve Cheddar Cheese, grated

Instructions

Chicken:

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Dry the chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour. Place a large braising pan (with a lid) over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. When oil is hot, add the chicken, skin side down, and sear until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate and reserve. 

If needed, add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the same pan. When the oil is hot, add the onion and celery to the pan, season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the bourbon and reduce the liquid by ••• of the volume. Add the chicken stock, thyme, mint and bay leaf and bring to a boil. 

Add the chicken, skin side up, and any accumulated juices to the pan. Make sure the liquid comes ⅔ to ••• of the way up the chicken. Cover and simmer, do not boil, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 30 to 45 minutes. 

Remove chicken from the sauce and keep warm. Simmer the sauce until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the sauce, taste and adjust seasoning. Return sauce to the braising pan and keep warm. 

Swiss Chard:

Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon has rendered its fat and is crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove bacon and leave 2 to 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan. Save the remaining bacon fat for another use. 

Add the garlic to the hot bacon fat and cook for 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard stems, salt, pepper and stock or water. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, until chard is tender and the liquid is reduced to almost dry, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep warm. 

Grits:

Combine the water, milk, butter, salt and white pepper in a medium saucepan. Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. 

Add the grits to the liquid, constantly whisking. Once all of the cornmeal has been incorporated, decrease the heat to low and cover. Whisk frequently, every 3 to 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps. Cook until mixture is smooth and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the grated cheddar and stir until combined and smooth. Keep warm. 

Garnish & Serve:

Preheat broiler. Transfer the chicken to a sheet tray, skin side up. Broil on the middle rack of the oven until the skin is golden and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. 

Place grits in the center of a plate. Top with Swiss chard. Place chicken thigh on top of chard, drizzle sauce over chicken and sprinkle with fresh thyme. 

Advance preparations: 

The chicken thighs are better if they are braised 1 to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerated in the sauce. When ready to serve, remove any fat that has accumulated on top of the sauce. Reheat the chicken thighs in the braising liquid until hot. Remove and then broil until the skin is golden and crisp. 

Notes:

May substitute rabbit for the chicken to make Bourbon Braised Bunnies with Bacon. 

Pairing:

The Southern flavors — smoky bacon, creamy grits and a sweet corn-based bourbon-infused sauce — call for a “Kentucky hug”: that warmth you feel inside while sipping Kentucky bourbon. Bourbon with a bourbon sauce … heck yeah. 

Recommended:

Old Forester Statesman Kentucky Straight Bourbon is perfect neat or with a single ice cube. 

Ingredients

Chicken
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
  • All-purpose flour, as needed
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup bourbon, preferably Old Forester Classic 86 Proof
  • 2½ to 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Swiss Chard
  • ¼ pound bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 bunches green Swiss chard, stems removed from leaves, stems cut into ½-inch lengths, leaves cut into 1-inch lengths
  • ¼ cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Grits
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup corn grits (not instant)
  • ½ cup Kenny’s Farmhouse Reserve Cheddar Cheese, grated
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