I've Discovered the Hands-Down Best Way to Prepare Chicken Thighs for a Crowd
It's brisket season! And while I love the make-ahead nature and deep savory flavor of a traditional braised brisket (especially for feeding a crowd), I've discovered two things:
- It's a long cooking project (we're talking waiting for a giant slab of meat to tenderize, then you need to chill it for 24 hours before slicing and reheating)
- It isn't exactly a budget-minded meal (brisket can be pricey!)
Was there something cheaper and a little faster? Oh yes, there was.
Related—The Ultimate Guide to Chicken
I took my grandmother's famous brisket recipe and gave it the chicken thigh treatment. All that fabulous gravy, but less than a quarter of the cooking time, and with a much more affordable protein (brisket is current about three times the price per pound of chicken thighs). Plus, this dish freezes beautifully, so you can make a full batch for a smaller group and freeze half for the next get together.
Here's the secret recipe.
Brisket Style Chicken Thighs
¼ cup water
5 lbs. bone-in, skin on large chicken thighs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
4 ribs celery, sliced
1 bottle chili sauce (Heinz is good)
1 bottle beer
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Put the water on the bottom of a heavy roasting pan. Season thighs with salt and pepper and lay on top of water, skin side up. Spread onion and celery over the top of the chicken, then distribute chili sauce evenly over the vegetables.
- Cook uncovered 30 minutes.
- Pour beer over everything, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and braise 45 minutes to an hour, until the chicken is tender.
- Gently scrape the vegetables off the top of the thighs and remove the meat to another baking dish to cool. Pour the liquid from the pan and defat, either using a defatter or letting juices settle and refrigerating to solidify fat so it can be scraped off.
- Once you have defatted the juices, put them in a blender with all the vegetables and puree to get a thick gravy.
- Taste and adjust seasoning to suit. (I will sometimes add a dash of sweet soy sauce or agave if it needs sweetness, or balsamic vinegar if it needs acid, Maggi seasoning to amp up the umami, or even a bit of gochujang or red pepper flakes if I want a bit of heat.)
- Pour the finished gravy over the thighs, cover with foil, and store in the fridge until you want to serve. You can do this up to three days in advance, or even freeze it in the dish just like this, with plastic wrap pressed onto the surface and then a double layer of foil, up to three months out; just thaw completely in fridge before reheating.
To serve, preheat oven to 350°, and let dish sit on counter for 1 hour to get the chill off. Reheat covered for about 30-40 minutes; meat should be hot and sauce should be bubbling around the edges. Remove the dish and heat your broiler. Broil the dish for about 5 minutes to crisp the skin of the thighs and get some browning on the top.
You can hold in a 200° oven for up to an hour before serving. For amazing leftover sandwiches, shred the leftover chicken into the gravy and pile on buns.