Tomato Braised Chicken and Mushrooms over Polenta
I know I say this a lot - but this is one of my favorite meals to make. Hahah I’m serious! This dish came about a year or so ago out of my sheer craving for a tomato-based chicken entree. Braising is an easy cooking method that uses both dry and moist heat. Food is typically seared at a high temp, and then finished in a covered pot/pan at a lower temp while simmering in some type of liquid. It’s obviously often used for pot roast and spare ribs, to name a few yummy options.
My mind pictured a tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken thigh, seared and then cooked gently in a delicious tomato basil sauce. Crimini mushrooms hold up nicely in liquid, and the addition of fresh spinach is perfect to round out this dish. I’ve been a little apprehensive about posting this recipe because I cheat and use one of my favorite bottled sauces from TJ’s, their Tomato Basil sauce. I know that some people are super anti pre-made sauce, but honestly, it’s budget-friendly ($1.99/bottle), delicious, and makes this meal easy to throw together on a weeknight when time is so important. You can of course, substitute your own favorite homemade tomato sauce, but I am stickin to my guns - I love the TJ’s Tomato Basil.
I love pairing this chicken with a variety of things - fresh egg pappardelle, brown rice, quinoa..but most of all, I love it over polenta. Polenta is cornmeal boiled into a porridge, which can then be eaten as is, or can be baked, fried, or grilled. I love the texture, especially when the tomato sauce and caramelized onions mix with it. It’s pretty damn delicious. This recipe includes a super simple recipe for polenta, but you can dress it up in tons of ways - like my Cheesy Polenta with Lemon Thyme Mushrooms. It’s the perfect way to keep this meal light but satisfying. Whatever you choose to serve it over, let’s get cookin :)
What You Need: (Serves About 4)
- 6 bone-in chicken thighs. You can also use boneless.
- EVOO, salt & pepper
- Fresh parsley
- 1- 8 oz. pack of crimini (baby portobello) mushrooms
- 1 tomato - I like Roma
- 1 jar of TJ’s or other brand Tomato Basil sauce
- ½ medium yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 8 oz fresh spinach
- 1 cup polenta
- 3 cups of water or broth for cooking the polenta
What To Do:
- Mince 2 cloves of garlic and slice ½ of a yellow onion into ¼" ribbons. Chop up a tomato and remove the seeds. Quarter the mushrooms. Chop the parsley and place this all aside.
- Season the tops of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
- In a large skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil on medium-high heat. Dump in the onions and mushrooms - you want to get some color on them and start the caramelization of the onions. When the onions are just starting to turn translucent, remove them from the pan and place them aside.
- Boil 3 cups of water or broth. I like using broth because it really adds a ton of flavor to the polenta. Once the liquid is boiling, slowly pour in 1 cup of polenta and stir. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Even though it may seem like the polenta will stick to the bottom of the pot, once it’s cooked it releases easily. Season with salt, pepper, and even a pad of butter if you like.
- In the same skillet as you cooked the onions, heat evoo on high. You want to get the pan nice and hot before searing the chicken. A great way to check to see if a pan is ready is to wet your hands under the faucet and spritz a little water into the pan. If the water quickly bubbles and cooks off, the pan is ready. Throw the minced garlic in.
- Once the garlic is fragrant, which is just a few moments, with tongs, place the chicken thighs top (skin) side down and sear the chicken. Season the undersides that are now face up, with salt and pepper. You can totally use other seasonings as well; I like to keep it simple. Once you have some nice browning, you can flip them over and brown the other side. Each side should only take a few minutes.
- Now that the chicken is flipped, pour in the tomato basil sauce. Add the onions and mushrooms back in, and make sure the chicken is coated. Dump in your tomatoes. Lower the heat, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the inner temp of the chicken reaches 165F. The cook time will vary depending on the size of the chicken you have. Use a meat thermometer for best results! :)
- As your chicken reaches temp, or the juices run clear when pierced, dump in a bunch of fresh spinach. I use about ½ a 16 oz bag, since it cooks down so much. Taste the sauce for seasoning - I usually like a few good cracks of black pepper.
That’s it! It’s seriously the easiest thing to make - and it looks soo impressive and has tons of flavor! It tastes even better the next day, as all tomato sauce recipes do. Now…for tons of photos because I love this meal.
Serve the chicken over the polenta, and garnish with tons of chopped fresh parsley.
So easy and delicious. I like to cook off a large batch of chicken and keep it for the week. It’s great for bringing to work for lunch, and you can switch it up by serving it over pasta, quinoa, zucchini noodles…the options are endless! Thanks so much for reading, have a great week!!