From the 1910s to the 1970s, more than 6 million black Americans fled the Jim Crow South to spread to northern and western cities during the Great Migration. The exodus to California intensified during World War II and the post-war economic boom, and with the new population of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland came their culinary traditions. For her third cookbook, California Soul: recipe for a trip to the West, Chef Tanya Holland presents 80 comforting classics tied to Southern soul food, but enriched with Californian ingredients, while telling the stories of the pioneers of black cuisine in America. Here, she shares a favorite braised chicken dish that’s perfect for fall.
Flavor lovers know that chicken thighs are the tastiest part of poultry. Braising allows this succulent meat to break down, so it literally falls off the bone! Piling this juicy chicken over a bowl of smoked white beans means you won’t miss a bit of flavor. Serve it on a cold fall night with a glass of pinot noir and soothing jazz and you’ll feel great. If you’re short on time, you can substitute 1 cup of diluted store-bought barbecue sauce with 0.5 cups of chicken broth.
Braised Chicken Thighs with Grilled White Beans and Green onions
- 0.5 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth or beer
- 1 cup diced or crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. blackstrap molasses (optional)
- 1 tbsp. grosgrain or brown mustard
- 4 to 6 bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 6 slices of bacon
- 2 tbsp. neutral oil, such as avocado or grapeseed
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 small bell pepper (green, red or a mixture), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- .5 c. crushed red pepper flakes or
- .5 jalapeño pepper, minced
- 3 cups cooked white beans (from 1 heaping cup of dried beans or two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
- ⅓ cup chicken broth, vegetable broth, or beer
- 2 or 3 green onions, thinly sliced Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.
To make the barbecue sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine the chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, molasses if using, and mustard and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until fragrant, about two minutes. Put aside.
In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet with a lid (cast iron is great) over medium heat, fry the bacon until the fat is melted and crispy. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain, leaving the fat in the pan. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat (or add oil to have about 2 tablespoons in the pan). Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the chicken, skin side down and sear until nicely browned, about five minutes. Turn and brown the other side, about three minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Pour all but 2 tbsp. fat from the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, bell pepper, celery and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Stir in beans and reserved bacon.
Reserve 0.5 cup barbecue sauce and add the rest to the bean mixture with the chicken broth. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.
Return the chicken to the skillet, skin side up. Cover the dish and transfer to the oven. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Let stand for five minutes. Sprinkle with green onions and parsley and serve with the reserved barbecue sauce on the side.
Reproduced with permission from Tanya Holland’s California Soul: Recipes for a Culinary Journey to the West by Tanya Holland, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.