Easy Catalan Cava Braised Chicken (or Champagne Braised Chicken), a perfect recipe to use that cava (or champagne) that you may have hanging around in the fridge. Juicy chicken, with a lot of flavour and it’s perfect for batch-cooking so you can have chicken for more than one day. It’s based on my grandma’s cava braised chicken recipe. And well, what to say about Spanish grandmas’ recipes… they’re simply the best!
Every year, after Christmas, I always end up with leftover cava (or champagne) in the fridge. I don’t really like it as a drink and, although my partner does like it, we don’t usually drink at home unless we have guests (don’t ask me why cause I don’t know XD we are simply not used to it). I do love to use it for cooking though, so… It occurred to me that I could make a simplified version of my grandmother’s cava braised chicken recipe and share it with you. She used to make it on special occasions and added brandy or cognac and plums stuffed with foie. I hope you like it as much as my family does!
What Do We Need to Make This Catalan Cava Braised Chicken Recipe?
- Chicken thighs: they are, in addition to the cava, the stars of the recipe. I prefer them with skin and bone on, since, as my grandma used to say, these will provide more “substance” to the recipe. Make sure though that there are no little feathers (if you see any you can easily remove it with your fingers or tweezers) or hairs, if there are, you can burn them with a lighter – option 2, if you buy them at the poultry grocer, you can ask the poulterer to do it for you. Also, even if I leave the skin on, I cut off any excess.
- Onion: a must in any braised chicken dish. If in doubt about not having sliced enough onion, always add more. Its volume decreases a lot once cooked and it’s an ingredient that everbody loves and asks for more.
- Garlic: it adds flavour and it’s a staple in Catalan cuisine :P. When you finish cooking the dish, the garlic will be soft and not strong at all. So if a garlic clove gets into your dish, DO NOT PUSH IT TO THE SIDE! Remove the flesh out from the skin, you’ll see it’s like butter, and mix it with a bit of onion and chicken. To die for!
- Cava: the liquid that will allow us to braise the chicken over low heat. Thanks to its acidity, it makes a really tender and juicy chicken. Depending on the cava variety you use, it can be more or less sweet, so try the sauce at the end and adjust its saltiness. Needless to say, by the way, that if you have champagne instead of cava, you can use it! In fact, this recipe could also be called Champagne Braised Chicken.
- Thyme, Rosemary, Bay Leaf: 100% Mediterranean herbs that can’t be missed. If you don’t have one (or any) on hand, don’t worry at all, you can omit it from the recipe. The cool thing about grandma’s cuisine is that it’s very forgiving and allows you to play with what you have around.
- Salt: it enhances the flavour. A little salt is always needed ;).
- Black Pepper: it adds flavor and it’s another classic ingredient of Catalan cuisine. I use it in any braised chicken recipe I make (heritage from my grandmother).
- Olive oil: we need it to brown the chicken and so that the onion is well poached and caramelised at the end.
Some Notes on This Cava Braised Chicken
Can I Use Another Part of The Chicken?
You can also use chicken drumsticks, either in addition or as a substitute. If you use them, leave a little skin at the end of the meaty part, where the bone starts. Also, as I mentioned above for the thighs, make sure there are no feathers or hairs left. The need to be cooked as the thighs, same process and at the same time.
I wouldn’t recommend though using chicken breasts, since tend to end up a bit drier, unless you’re a big fan of them at home of course.
Which Type of Onion Should I Use?
You can use different types of onion for this recipe, starting with the classic yellow variety, the most common one that has a brownish outer layer. You can also use white onion, which, as its name indicates, even the outermost layer is white. But personally, the ones I like the most are sweet onions, which get super well caramelised when poached and melt in your mouth as a result. In my region we have two variets, Figueres and Fuentas, that I highly recommend if you can ever get hold of them. But again, the yellow onion works great too.
Can I Add The Garlic Cloves without Skin?
Yes, you can, but you will need to keep a close eye on the skillet at the end of the process to ensure it doesn’t get burnt. The skin acts as a protective layer and also helps preserve the whole garlic clove once it’s soft. As mentioned above in the ingredients section, it’s priceless to get a garlic clove on your plate and then remove the flesh from the skin and mix it with the rest, sublime!
When Do I Add the Cava?
It is time to pour the cava when the onion is translucent. It doesn’tt need to be soft or have browned. Getting it soft and caramelised will happen during the braising and while we let the liquid evaporate.
Can I Make It Ahead?
Of course! In fact, it’s better if you make it in advance since time allows for the flavours to set. Sometimes I prepare it at night and once I turn the stove off, I leave it in the pan at room temperature to cool down completely while I sleep (placing it in the fridge while it’s hot is not an option). I do this, by the way, in winter, as we turn the heating off at night and it’s not too hot in the kitchen (I wouldn’t do it in summer. In summer, as soon as it has cooled down, I’d keep it in the fridge).
More Delicious Catalan Recipes
If you make this Easy Catalan Cava Braised Chicken (or Champagne Braised Chicken) recipe, be sure to leave a comment and rate it. Hearing from you is everything! Oh, and don’t forget to tag me on Instagram, I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking!
Easy Catalan Cava Braised Chicken (or Champagne Braised Chicken)
- 4 chicken thighs - skin and bone on
- 2 onions - medium-small sized
- 8 garlic cloves - skin on
- 400 ml cava - or champagne (see Notes)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 2 thyme sprigs
- Black Pepper
- Olive Oil
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides and heat some olive oil in a deep pan or skillet over medium heat.
- Brown the chicken on both sides, starting skin side down. We just want to seal it on the outside, not cook it all the way through.
- While it browns, cut the onion thinly (like segments) and add it to the pan along with the garlic. Sauté it a bit, stirring from time to time. If you see that it is browning too much reduce the heat to low.
- Once the onion is translucent, add the cava, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Decrease the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pan and let it simmer for 10 minutes. After these 10 minutes, flip the thighs, cover the pan again and let it all simmer for 10 more minutes. After this time, uncover the pan, adjust the saltiness and let the liquid evaporate over low-medium heat, it will take about 15 minutes. It will be ready when the oil reappears at the bottom of the pan.
- Optionally garnish with fresh herbs, serve and enjoy!
- If you have less than 400 ml of cava or champagne, you can add chicken stock or water to reach this quantity.