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A tender orange and chicken braise is just the cozy dinner you need to celebrate citrus season and warm up those cold winter nights. It’s as easy a loading up your dutch oven with mandarin slices and seared chicken and popping it in the oven. In less that 2 hours you have beautifully browned, saucy orange braised chicken.
We all have our go to’s right? Maybe it’s a pot of spaghetti or a quick chicken casserole for you, for my family when I want something filling, delicious, and easy, I go straight for the braise. It’s hard not to love a tender, fall apart piece of meat in a delicious sauce. Especially when that meat started as an inexpensive cut and took me no more effort than the 20 minutes of getting it in the oven.
I felt like it was just about time to share another braise with you guys, since my Dr. Pepper Short Ribs has been such a hit, and this orange and chicken braise was just the thing this winter. We kept getting pounds of mandarins in our CSA farm box, I had to get creative! I just zested, peeled them, and threw the wedges straight into the braising liquid, and less than two hours later I had this tangy, sweet, savory citrus baked chicken in a killer orange mandarin orange sauce that begged to be spooned over rice. I think this will be an easy, easy win with anyone you serve it to!
How to braise Chicken like a Pro
Braising is very easy, I think because it takes more than an hour (it’s all inactive time on your part) it gets a bad rap, but here are some tips to make your orange braised chicken perfect.
Go for skin on, bone-in chicken whenever possible. The bone and fat help keep the meat moist. Because braising a meat is technically taking it PAST overcooked you want something with fat and connective tissue to make them truly tender.
- Side note, while thighs are the BEST cut for a chicken braise, I buy my chicken whole and butcher to my needs to I often include skin on breast for this recipe and it works just fine!
- Because chicken will never have the connective tissue or fat that say a short rib or a pork shoulder, it won’t take the time that other cuts will, 1.5 hours max.
- Braising liquid should come up only halfway on the meat. Choose your pot accordingly, if the liquid covers, technically you’re making a stew!
- Use a sturdy pan or pot that has a tight fitting lid. I really prefer my Lodge Dutch Oven or my enameled cast iron casserole skillet. Any wide, oven safe pan with a good lid works great!
Orange Braised Chicken Ingredients
One of the BEST parts of this braise is the serious ease of it, the ingredients are easy to find and very easy to prepare. I also think it’s one of the more inexpensive meals you can make for a crowd!
- Chicken – Since I break down whole chickens, I find that the thighs and breasts are often bigger than when I buy them packaged. I’d recommend 6 pieces if they’re decent sized, and 8 if they’re smallish. Bone in, skin on!
- Mandarins – I found six mandarins was perfect. Fun fact, both clementines and tangerines are part of the mandarin family. That bag of cuties works perfect, so will small tangerines, or small mandarins.
- Onion – yellow is often my preferred but use what you have, you’ll need 1 whole one.
- Garlic – a few large cloves of garlic take the sauce from sweet and citrus to savory.
- Chicken broth – you need some liquid to help build up the braising liquid, and to help break down the mandarin wedges.
- Soy Sauce – Just a little to mellow out the sweet citrus.
- Honey – just a touch makes all the difference.
- Salt, Pepper, and Ground Ginger – a quick coating on the chicken pre-sear.
If I can make an additional suggestion, whip up a pot of white rice to soak up all the goodness!
How to Make an Orange and chicken Braise
Maybe I’m a traditionalist, maybe just stubborn, but I do make my braises classically in a dutch oven (I don’t own a slow cooker or an instant pot, gasp!). There’s something cozy about my big cast iron pot going low and slow in the oven full of heart warming goodness. It’s very, very easy, I promise. I’m determined to spread the braising craze!
- First heat your braising pot over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of oil and preheat your oven to 325°F.
- Pat your chicken dry and season with salt, pepper, and ginger, then when your pan is hot, sear it skin side down in the oil until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- For BEST browning, don’t move the chicken in the pan, the skin will release naturally when properly seared.
- While your chicken is crisping, dice your onion, mince your garlic, and zest the mandarins before peeling and separating the slices.
- When your chicken is crisp, remove it from the pan to a plate, skin side up. Turn down the heat to medium and add your onions to the pan and let them begin to caramelize and soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add in the garlic and zest and stir, cooking just 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Then add in the stock, soy sauce and honey, stir until honey is dissolved, scraping along the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits. Add the mandarins wedges and bring to a gentle boil.
- When boiling return the chicken to the pan, skin side up. Nestle the chicken down in the pan so that the braising liquid comes about halfway up, not covering the chicken.
- Cover your pan either with a lid or tightly with foil, and place in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and enjoy!
Optional browning: After the 1 hour 15 minute cook, crank the oven up to 375°F then remove the lid or foil and baste the chicken skin with the liquid and return to the oven for 5 minutes, repeat once and then serve.
I find between 275° and 325°F is my happy place for braising, though some chefs recommend as low as 250°F! The lower the temperature the slower the cook, so I find for chicken a ‘quick’ braise at 325°F works best.
YES! A stove top braise is entirely possible. It will take you the same amount of time. Simply turn the heat down to low after bringing the sauce to a boil, and cover, maintaining a gentle simmer for an hour, then remove the lid and simmer the final 15 minutes.
Yes! One of my favorite chefs, Tom Colicchio, recommends in his book Think Like a Chef that braises always be made the day before. I’m an aspiring home chef, but this momma doesn’t often have quite that much time and forethought. If however you do, go for it!
Make the dish, let cool, and refrigerate in the pan if possible or transfer all the contents of the pan to another bowl. When ready to reheat, return to the pan and heat in a low oven, basting occasionally with the sauce as it loosens during reheating.
It does loose a bit of texture, especially the skin so I don’t really recommend it.
Yes! Sear the chicken as usual, then place with all the other ingredients in your crock pot and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours or until chicken is fork tender.
Serve this with…
I really like this with a big scoop of rice and a a bit of chopped parsley, but you can serve this however you like! Here are a few suggestions, and until next time, I hope you enjoy, Happy Eating!
- Easy Oven Roasted Potatoes
- Crispy Asian Glazed Brussels Sprouts
- Homemade Rice Pilaf with Orzo Pasta
- Grandma’s Easy Potato Salad
- Homemade Garlic Bread Rolls
- Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
- 6 pieces chicken bone in, skin on
- 2 tbso olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup onion, diced 1 medium onion
- 1 tbs garlic, minced 3 cloves
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 3 tbs honey
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 6 small mandarins zested, peeled & segmented
Heat a large oven safe pot or pan over medium high heat and preheat your oven to 325°F.
Pat your chicken dry and divided salt, pepper, and ginger evenly among the chicken pieces. Add oil to hot pan and heat until shimmering.
Add seasoned chicken skin side down into the pan and cook until skin is browned, 5 to 7 minutes.*
While your chicken is browning, dice your onion, garlic, and zest your mandarins. Then peel and segment your mandarins.
Remove seared chicken from the pan and place skin side up on a plate. Turn your burner down to medium and add the onion, saute until beginning to soften and caramelize, about 4 minutes.
Add garlic and zest to the onions and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add in chicken stock, honey, and soy sauce and stir, scraping along the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
When honey is dissolved, add in orange segments and bring the whole mixture to a gentle boil. When boiling return chicken into the pan, nestling into the braising liquid so it comes halfway up.
Cover the pan tightly and place into the oven to cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.*
Remove from oven, stir the sauce around and serve chicken with a big spoonful of sauce.