Caprese Braised Chicken
From time to time, you might notice the word “braised” when looking at the meat dishes on restaurant menus.
It sounds kind of fancy, but if it were translated into plain English, it would just say “meat seared on the stovetop, then transferred to the oven with some liquid to finish cooking.”
It’s a super flavorful way to eat meat, to be sure, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, I make quick braises several nights a week for dinner.
Here, I’ve created a take on caprese (an Italian salad of tomato, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil) by searing some chicken thighs in my trusty cast iron skillet, then finishing them off in the oven, nestled into whole peeled tomatoes.
The chicken is finished with luscious slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and torn basil leaves. This meal wouldn’t be complete without a side of pasta, or in this case “pasta” that is really zucchini run through a spiralizer.
When my husband and I vacationed in Rome, I was totally obsessed with cacio e pepe, which translates to just pasta with cheese and pepper.
So simple, but so good. I tossed my zucchini noodles with Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses, and lots and lots of black pepper.
For the Caprese Braised Chicken:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, NOT DRAINED
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced 1-/4-inch thick
- 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
For the Cacio e Pepe Zucchini Noodles:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 small zucchini, spiralized
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Arugula (optional)
- Garlic bread (optional)
- Make the Caprese Braised Chicken: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large cast iron or other heavy skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet, skin-side down and cook 6 minutes, turning once. Transfer chicken to plate.
- Add garlic, onion and oregano to skillet; cook over medium heat 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes and their juice; heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 4 minutes or until slightly thickened; stirring occcasionally. Stir in vinegar.
- Add chicken back to skillet, skin-side up; transfer to oven. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 160 degrees F. Remove skillet from oven; divide mozzarella over chicken pieces. Transfer skillet back to oven and cook under broiler set to high 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned (watch very carefully while skillet is under broiler). Sprinkle chicken with basil.
- Meanwhile, make the Cacio e Pepe Zucchini Noodles: Heat butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pepper; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add zucchini; cook 3 minutes, tossing and stirring frequently. Remove skillet from heat; add Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano; toss to combine.
- Serve Caprese Braised Chicken with Cacio e Pepe Zucchini Noodles and arugula and garlic bread, if desired.
Home Chef Tip: When searing meat on the stovetop, don't flip until the meat tells you it's ready, no matter what any recipe says. If the meat doesn't easily release from the skillet when you try to turn it, it's NOT ready to be turned. Give it another minute and try again, until the meat easily releases from the skillet for you to flip it.