Chicken Mushroom Ragu

I have been working on several braising recipes. Braising simply means ingredients cooked in liquids in a heavy covered container in the oven. In a low temperature oven, this method allows even the toughest (and least expensive) cuts of meats to become moist, juicy and fork-tender... which means you can be doing something else while dinner cooks.

A Dutch Oven should be heavy and the lid should fit tight so steam will not escape during baking. I use a 5.5 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven for this recipe. Made in France, Le Creuset offer cast iron pots with an enamel overlay. The pots work great on the stove top, perfect in the oven and are dishwasher safe. Sizes vary from 2 to 13 quart, in round or oval shapes. No kitchen is complete without a Dutch Oven. They are expensive, but you will have it for the rest of your life.

While most braised recipes can be served the same day, I usually braise meats the day before they are to be served and refrigerate overnight. Not only does the flavor improve, but any fats will be easy to remove before reheating.

Chicken Mushroom Ragu

Extra virgin olive oil
Flour, for dredging, about 1/2 cup
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 pound crimini or white button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup white (or red) wine, divided
1 jar pasta sauce (26 to 32 oz) I use Tomato-Basil
Handful of freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley (plus more for garnish)

Heat oven to 325°. On the stove, heat a 3 to 5 quart Dutch Oven over medium-high heat, then coat the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. Dredge the chicken thighs in flour, shake off the excess and brown in the olive oil - about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate. Add the chopped onion and sliced mushrooms in the remaining olive oil and sauté until the onion is soft and the mushroom begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch Oven. Remove from heat.

Pour the pasta sauce into the onion and mushroom mixture. Pour the remaining half-cup of wine into the sauce jar, replace the lid, and give it a good shake - essentially to "deglaze" the jar too. Pour the wine and remaining sauce into the Dutch Oven. Add the fresh parsley and stir to blend well. Place the chicken pieces, and any juices from the plate, in the sauce, pushing down to cover completely. Place the lid on the Dutch Oven and bake for one hour at 325°; reduce heat to 300° and bake for an additional hour.

Remove from oven. Using two dinner forks, carefully remove each piece of chicken from the sauce, one at a time, and shred with two forks. Return the shredded chicken meat to the sauce and stir to combine. (At this point the sauce can be served or cooled and refrigerated overnight*.)

Serve over pasta - such as spaghetti, fettuccini or penne - and garnish with additional parsley if desired. Serves 6.

*Reheat in oven or on stovetop.