Chef Brock Granger’s Braised Chicken With Mustard And Olives
By Karla Wall
Chef Brock Granger, room chef at Ember Grille and Wine Bar in L’Auberge, is a SWLA native farm-boy through and through. Raised on a small farm in Lacassine, he learned to cook, as most people here do, by watching his mother in the kitchen.
“I went from sitting on the counter watching her cook to cooking for the family while she was at work,” Granger says. “My last year in high school, I attended half-days, and since she was working, and I was only busy half the day, I was expected to cook dinner for the family. My mom wanted her sons to be self-sufficient.”
Granger grew up cooking what they grew and raised on the farm — pigs, goats, quail, chickens, “everything but horses and cows.” There were lots of fresh canned fruits and vegetables to work with, as well.
So it’s no surprise that, when he wants relatively quick and easy comfort food, he thinks of braised chicken with onions in a rich, meaty sauce.
“For comfort food, it’s hard to beat a roast chicken,” he says. And the closest you can get to that without spending all day in the kitchen, he says, is with this braised chicken dish.
“Where we come from, this is comfort food,” he says.
Granger, having studied French cuisine at Sowela under chef Joe Heacook, can serve up elegant, complicated dishes with the best of them. He’s made a career out of it at Ember, first as a line cook in 2007, then as sous chef in 2012, and as room chef since 2016.
But it’s still this classic, simple comfort dish that speaks to his roots and that he’s chosen as his favorite “at-home” dish.
Granger starts by heating a cup of oil to shimmering in a large pan.
While the oil is heating, he seasons skin-on leg quarters with salt and pepper.
“You can use any piece of the chicken you want — breasts or thighs,” he says, “but with me and my two brothers to feed, my mother used leg quarters a lot.”
The chicken goes skin side down into the hot oil to brown up, which takes about 20 minutes. Granger then turns the chicken, reduces the heat a bit, and continues cooking “low and slow” until the chicken is golden brown.
He then removes the chicken, and pours out all excess oil, reserving about 2 tbsp. in the pan.
He then adds diced onion, saying that the process reminds him of his mother.
“She had a knack for picking the strongest onions, ones that would make you really cry when you chopped them,” he says.
Once the onions are lightly browned, he adds minced garlic, bay leaves and green olives (you can use black or green olives, or use capers, he says).
He adds the chicken back to the pan, along with its juices, and adds chicken stock (yes, broth is fine, but if you want to jazz up your broth, add some chicken wings and cook a bit — wings have a lot of connective tissue, and when it breaks down, it adds tremendous flavor and depth, Granger says). He “deglazes” the pan when adding stock, stirring the bottom to release all of the flavorful bits left from browning the chicken. He then adds mustard.
He simmers the mixture for about 45 minutes. For a thicker liquid, simmer a bit longer; for thinner, cook a shorter amount of time.
Want to go back in time and be a kid in your grandmother’s kitchen again? Take a bite of this dish.
The broth is rich, meaty and just salty enough from the stock and the olive brine. The onion, garlic and bay leaves balance the saltiness beautifully, and the Dijon mustard adds an interesting tang to the dish. The olives add not only the saltiness of the brine, but texture, as well. The meat is falling-off-the-bone tender and juicy. The house-made stock really makes the dish, adding a depth of flavor you simply can’t get using broth. What took about 45 minutes to make really did taste like something you’d spent all day in the kitchen cooking.
Serve this dish over rice, creamy mashed potatoes or biscuits, and you have the perfect comfort dish to cure what ails you and keep you warm on a cold winter night.
Braised Chicken With Mustard And Olives
Created by Chef Brock Granger, Ember Grille & Wine Bar,
L’Auberge Casino Resort
3 chicken leg quarters 1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced 2 bay leaves
2 T mustard ½ cup sliced green olives
4 cups chicken broth Smoked sausage (optional)
Salt & pepper Oil (vegetable or olive)
Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat oil on medium heat until shimmering. Sear chicken skin side down until dark golden brown. Flip chicken and continue to brown. Remove chicken from pan and remove excess fat, leaving 2 T in pan. Add onions and cook until light golden brown and translucent. Add garlic, bay leaves and olives. Sauté garlic until fragrant. Deglaze with chicken stock, scraping drippings from bottom of pan. Add chicken back to pan along with any juice on plate. If using smoked sausage, add to pan. Turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.