Beer Braised Chicken and Onions

It’s hard to believe that a week ago we still had 100° highs here in Sacramento. Now it’s finally starting to feel like fall, and even though I’m still wearing shorts around the house (call it denial), the flip flops are gone and warm wooly socks have taken their place. It’s time for stews and slow braises like this one, rich, savory, and warming. This beer braised chicken is a riff off a classic Belgian carbonnade, a slow braise with sweet, malty dark beer, mustard, with chicken thighs smothered in onions.

The thing to note is that you can’t use any old beer. You want a dark beer, a “malty” beer, one that has richness and body, and sweet notes. The beer cooks down with the stock and mustard, forming a beautiful sauce for the finished dish.

For those of you who are avoiding alcohol, you may be able to find an non-alcoholic beer that works for this recipe, perhaps Kaliber from Guinness, or Erdinger Weissbier.

Beer Braised Chicken and Onions Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

What beer you use matters. Dark beers tend to be more full bodied and malty and sweet. They will work well in this stew. Hoppy beers like IPA or pale ale are too bitter for this stew and should be avoided. For this recipe we've used Moylan's Kilt Lifter, a Scottish ale, and also Ommegang Abbey Ale. A soft Belgian beer like Flanders Red or one of the Chimay beers would also be ideal.

Yum

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 chicken thighs, about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
  • Salt
  • 3 pounds yellow onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick, root to stem, about 6-8 cups sliced
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups dark beer
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

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1 Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot with a lid, such as a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and set them skin side down in the butter. Salt the meat side lightly. Brown the chicken on both sides well. Remove the browned thighs from the pan and set aside in a bowl.

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2 The chicken skin has likely rendered quite a bit of fat. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan, taking care to not discard any of the tasty browned bits. (Note, do not discard the fat down the drain, you may clog your plumbing. Pour off into a jar.) Lower the heat to medium and add the sliced onions to the pan. If you want, sprinkle brown sugar over the onions. This is optional. The added sugar will intensify the natural sweetness of the onions. Cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes.

3 Add the bay leaves, thyme, mustard, 2 teaspoons of salt, and beer to the onions. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken thighs and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

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4 Cook covered for 45 minutes, then uncover the pot and simmer well until the liquid is greatly reduced and the meat wants to fall off the bone, between 45 minutes and 1 hour. If you are using unsalted or low sodium stock, you will likely need to add more salt. Add freshly ground black pepper and more salt to taste.

Serve over egg noodles or with rice or potatoes.

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Links:

Belgian Chicken Soup - from Savour Fare
Colombian Chicken Stew with Beer - from My Colombian Recipes
Beer Braised Chicken Enchiladas with Chile - from Use Real Butter

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Showing 4 of 52 Comments

  • G3

    I was actually just thinking about this the other day: I’m very nervous about cooking meats that produce fat that can’t go down the drain because I’m never sure what to do with it. Do you just throw it away? Could it go into a compost heap? Strain it and tell people it’s apple juice and con them into drinking it?!?

    I pour it off into a jar, and keep adding to the jar over time until it fills up enough to throw it away. Definitely do not put it in your compost heap unless you want to attract critters of the rodent variety. Or, you can save all the fat of one kind for other uses. Like chicken schmaltz and bacon fat. We always have a jar of bacon fat around, great for adding flavor to beans. ~Elise

  • Beth

    Elise, do you think I could cook this covered in the oven instead of on the stove top? I would like to brown it when I get home from work, stick it in the oven, and have it ready when I get home from working out.

    Perhaps, if you cooked it uncovered. You do want the liquids to reduce substantially. ~Elise

  • Susan

    Ooh — we just stocked up on boneless skinless thighs. I actually have chicken fat in the freezer to add for the onions — any reason that wouldn’t work?

    Hi Susan, you can easily add some chicken fat to this. I would still use some butter, the flavor is lovely in this dish. ~Elise

  • Sharmila

    This recipe sounds just divine, Elise. I can already see a warm comforting meal for the weekend, perhaps with some crisp outside, soft inside roast potatoes and some lemony greens alongside.
    I’m not a beer afficionado straight up but love how its flavour develops and influences sauces and gravies. Can’t wait to try this.

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