Nothing says “winter” like a cozy meal with friends. This one-pot wonder of a recipe—chicken cooked low and slow in a stove top-safe casserole pot with rich porcini mushrooms and winter vegetables—is topped right before serving with a bright, snappy salad. “It’s the sort of warming, soulful food that I love to prepare for my family,” says Justin Smillie, the chef behind N.Y.C.'s refined-rustic eatery Upland. “The minerality of the mint plays so well against the soft, subtle flavors of the braised meat.” You’ll need to rub the chicken with spices and refrigerate it overnight before cooking, but that’s the magic move that ultimately makes this dish sing. Read on for the full breakdown.
Braised Chicken Legs
Active time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Total time: 3 hours, 10 minutes, plus overnight marinating
6 whole chicken legs
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
1 cup (1 oz. package) dried porcini mushrooms
3 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, diced into ¼-inch pieces
2 medium red onions, diced into ¼-inch pieces
½ medium fennel bulb, cored and diced into ¼-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, diced into ¼-inch pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup agave
½ cup white wine
3½ cups chicken broth
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp fresh orange juice
1 tbsp sliced fresh mint
1. Pat the chicken legs dry with paper towels; arrange in a glass 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
2. In a spice grinder, combine peppercorns, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds; pulse until coarsely ground.
3. In a small bowl, mix ground spices with ¼ cup salt, fresh oregano, and lemon and orange zests.
4. Season chicken with the rub. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight.
5. The next day, allow chicken to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.
6. In a medium bowl, cover the dried porcini mushrooms with hot water; soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms and finely chop. Discard or save soaking liquid for another use.
7. Preheat oven to 300°F.
8. In a large stove top–safe casserole pot, heat the olive oil over moderate heat until shimmering. Sear chicken in batches until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Pour off the accumulated fat in the casserole pot.
9. Add the chopped mushrooms, pancetta, red onions, fennel pieces, celery, and carrot to the casserole pot; season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the pancetta fat has been rendered and the vegetables are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add minced garlic, tomato paste, and dried oregano. Cook, stirring, until tomato paste becomes a deep brick red, about 3 minutes.
10. Deglaze the pan with red wine vinegar, agave, and white wine; cook over moderately high heat, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the casserole pot with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced by two thirds, about 10 minutes.
11. Return chicken to the casserole pot along with juices and chicken broth. Carefully cover the surface of the braise with a piece of crumpled parchment paper cut to the diameter of the pot, and then put on the casserole-pot lid. Bring to a boil and then transfer to the oven to braise for 90 minutes, until chicken is tender and easily pierced with a knife.
12. Take off parchment paper; transfer chicken legs to a platter with a slotted spoon. Cover with foil.
13. With the lid off, cook braising liquid over moderately high heat until reduced by a third, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter, orange juice, and mint. Season with salt and pepper.
14. Spoon braising liquid over the chicken legs.
For more dinner party ideas—including recipes for Spinach & Fennel Salad, Individual Apple Crostadas, and Glühwein Sangria—pick up the February issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download now.