Simmer succulent chicken in spring-onion salsa

My lifelong journey to embrace alliums hasn’t quite come full circle.

If it had, I’d be out in the garden pulling up the scallions and munching them — roots and all, unwashed—like I did as a toddler. That early enthusiasm quickly waned, perhaps along with my craving for the trace minerals in dirt, and I embarked on a childhood and young adulthood aversion to any and all onions.

That dislike eventually exempted well-cooked onions, then raw onions combined with certain other ingredients and finally raw, sliced scallions, preferably from my own garden. I have my mother-in-law to thank. If it wasn’t for her, I would have never felt the urge to cultivate onions and experience their superior flavor and texture fresh from the soil.

In spring, we use them in just about any dish, ramping up their inclusion as the scallions sown last fall start to bulb. That makes them very similar in composition and culinary uses to spring onions, which are varieties of bulb onions harvested while still fairly small in circumference attached to vital greens that haven’t begun to die back.

If you don’t have your own garden onions, spring onions are available at farmers markets and mainstream grocery stores from late February through May. If you can’t find them, or want to make the dish when they’re not in season, scallions make a fine substitute. Make sure to substitute the ingredient by weight, as scallions are much smaller than spring onions.

This recipe, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, for braising chicken thighs uses the more common wet method, rather than the dry-braise with garlic scapes featured in this blog’s previous post. 

Tribune News Service photo

Chicken Thighs Braised in Spring Onion Salsa Verde

8 ounces spring onions (about 3), baby leeks (about 6) or scallions (about 20)

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and soft stems

1/2 cup white wine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed

2 almond-size garlic cloves, peeled

1 serrano chili, seeds removed (or leave them if you want a spicier sauce)

4 (6- to 8-ounce) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco or cotija

Sliced avocado, lime wedges and bread, tortillas or rice, for serving

Rinse and dry the spring onions. Peel off any dried or brown outer layers from white parts, then trim off only the dried, woody tips from greens. Thinly slice white and green parts from onions and reserve a small handful of each in a bowl for garnishing finished dish.

Place remaining sliced spring onions into a blender or food processor, along with the cilantro, wine, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the garlic and serrano and blend until very smooth, for about 30 seconds.

Heat oven to 425 F.

Season the chicken thighs all over with salt and pepper. Place thighs, skin side down, in a large ovenproof skillet just wide enough to fit them in a single layer, then place skillet over medium-high heat. Once skins start sizzling, continue cooking thighs, undisturbed, until well-browned, for 6 to 8 minutes. Flip thighs, skin side up, onto a plate and pour off fat in skillet (or save for another use).

Pour spring onion salsa verde into pan and bring salsa to a boil. Return thighs to skillet, skin side up, then place in oven and braise until chicken is cooked through, skin is crisp and salsa is slightly reduced, for about 25 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven and sprinkle chicken and salsa with the queso fresco and reserved spring onions. Serve with the avocado, lime wedges and bread, tortillas or rice.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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