A few weeks ago, I found a recipe for chicken in beer at the Saveur website. Since this was one thing I like in another thing I like, I decided to try it and it turned out great. The second time I prepared it, I made some modifications and I present that recipe below. Specifically, I decided to withhold the bacon until the end (so it stayed crispy), and to sauté the onions in the leftover bacon fat. I also added garlic and subtracted the juniper berries from the original recipe (because of the added coriander and orange peel in the witbier).
The recipe is very easy to make. It takes a bit of chopping, but once that’s done, just let the dish simmer until you’re ready to eat. The second time I made this, I made a double batch of the sauce overnight in my large slow cooker. The longer cooking time lead to a darker sauce and the vegetables broke down more, but it was still tasty. Also, because the steam couldn’t escape the crock pot, the sauce was thinner. However, whether cooking for a longer or shorter period of time, in a pot versus a slow cooker, the recipe is going to turn out tasting great.
There are a lot of variations on chicken in beer on the web. If you search for “chicken in beer,” you’ll get a bunch of beer can chicken recipes. Search instead for “coq à la bière,” the French term for the dish. (You don’t need the diacritical marks for a web search.) As you’ll see from browsing through them, there are a lot of variations, so don’t be afraid to make some recipe adjustments of your own.
There’s no use buying an expensive Belgian witbier for this recipe, or even using good homebrew (unless you’ve got some to spare). For the witbier, I used Shiner White Wing because it was relatively cheap — at least compared to Belgian imports — and a little spicier than Blue Moon or Shock Top.
Chicken in Witbier
by Chris Colby (adapted from a recipe in Saveur)
A savory chicken recipe, made with witbier. The coriander and orange peel in witbier add to the flavors in this dish (and you’ll sure smell them as the sauce cooks).
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
24 fl. oz. (710 mL) witbier
1.25 cups (300 mL) chicken stock
3 Tbsp. flour
4 carrots (chopped)
1 celery rib (chopped)
1/2 bunch parley leaves (finely chopped) — about 1/2 cup in volume (not compacted)
10 mushrooms, white or cremini (chopped)
5 strips bacon (chopped)
1 yellow onion (coarsely chopped)
5 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 chicken quarters (thigh and leg), skin on
peanut oil (for frying chicken)
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
10 small red potatoes (quartered) — optional
4 cups rice
Combine the beer, stock, and flour in a large pot and begin heating to a boil. Stir the flour in until it all dissolves. Chop carrots, celery, mushrooms, and parsley and put in pot. Fry the chopped bacon in a frying pan. Set crispy bacon bits aside. Pour off some of the bacon fat. Leave just enough to sauté the onion. Sauté onion in the remaining bacon fat until it turns golden. Add garlic and fry onion and garlic mixture until garlic reaches a golden color. Add onion and garlic to pot. Add peanut oil to frying pan and heat. Salt and pepper the chicken and fry it in peanut oil. (Your oil temperature should be around 350 °F.) Fry chicken until outside is browned, then add chicken to pot. (You don’t need to cook the chicken completely in the frying pan.) Add bay leaf to pot. Simmer the chicken in beer for at least two hours. Remove the bay leaf. Some fat will rise to the top of the mix. You can skim this off, if you want. Add pepper to taste. (The chicken stock will be fairly salty and this will cook down, so you probably won’t need more salt.)
When you’re ready to serve, cook the rice and put it on a plate. Take a leg quarter and put in on the rice. (The longer you cook the dish, the more the chicken will have a tendency to fall apart. So be gentle when extracting the pieces from the sauce.) Ladle some sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with bacon bits. You can reheat the bacon bits in the microwave.
Serve with beer. A witbier is a good choice, but any malty beer would go well with this, I think.
You can serve the potatoes on the side, or wait until 30 minutes before the dish is done and chop and add them to the sauce at that time.
Stock vs. Broth (and Sauce Thickness)
If you can’t find chicken stock, you can use chicken broth, but stock is going to make for a thicker sauce. If you want a thicker sauce, simmer it longer before frying and adding the chicken. You could also try adding a little more flour or corn starch.