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Easy Skillet Braised Chicken with Peppers and Paprika

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

After a recent whirlwind tour of four cities, 31 taquerias, and over 150 tacos, I came home with a brand new appreciation for how my stomach can reverse-Jenga the f&*k out of some carnitas (my belly felt like a giant Katamari ball rolling around in a world of tortillas), along with a strong desire to braise something, and fast.

Quite a few things may be equally as delicious as braised chicken legs, but few things braise faster, so chicken it was.

The key to really great braised chicken is in the browning. You've got to brown the skin in your skillet until it's deeply golden brown and extraordinarily crisp, then make sure that the skin stays elevated above the level of the liquid the entire time it's cooking so that the crispness remains. What you end up is fall-off-the-bone tender meat deeply flavored with sauce along with the crisp skin of a perfectly roasted chicken.

You definitely want to use dark meat for this. It's higher in connective tissue which slowly breaks down into gelatin as the chicken braises, lubricating the meat and adding some nice richness to the sauce. White meat would just dry out.

I rarely braise chicken with the same recipe twice, and this time I use a splash of white wine, chicken stock, some smoked Spanish Paprika (regular paprika will do just fine), and some red and green bell peppers. This dish isn't quite chicken paprikash, which would require some sort of dairy element to finish it (usually a soured cream), but it's pretty darn close in flavor and equally delicious. A little lighter, a little brighter, and perfectly suited for fall evenings.

It's even better flavorwise the second or third day, though you do lose some of the nice crispness in the chicken skin.

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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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