Recipe: Hard Cider and Leek-Braised Pastured Chicken Thighs

Chef Katy Sparks crafted a cozy meal of chicken thighs using garden herbs, leeks, and a bottle of dry cider. This takes simple, local ingredients and arranges them into a fine meal. I love that this recipe is so approachable and simple. No hard-to-find ingredients or complicated techniques are required.

Hard Cider and Leek Braised Chicken Thighs

This recipe illustrates the wisdom of letting the ingredients tell you what they want to become. I had just opened my first delivery box of pastured meats from Wrong Direction Farm in Canajoharie, New York — they conveniently ship direct to consumers in our region. The chicken thighs were so generously sized and judging from their deep color these chickens had done their fair share of walking around the WDF farm. I knew they would take to low and slow cooking beautifully and that I didn’t even need to add a stock because the bones in the thighs would flavor the broth themselves. I did need a good dry wine but was fresh out so I grabbed what turned out to be even better: a crisp and dry hard cider from Hilltop Orchards that had just enough residual sweetness to make the broth really sing.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Katy Sparks


  • 4-6 large, bone-in pastured chicken thighs
  • 2 T olive oil, butter or bacon fat from pastured pork
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 oz hard cider I used JMash Farmhouse Hazy from Hilltop Orchards in Canaan, NY.

Spice Rub

  • 1 tsp freshly ground coriander seed
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp minced rosemary
  • 1 tsp minced thyme


Combine all the spice rub ingredients and season the flesh side of the thighs first and the skin side if there is any remaining rub. Let the spice rub season the thighs for up to 4 hours in the fridge before cooking.
Heat the fat in a heavy-bottomed braising pan until shimmering. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, and brown over medium heat until an even gold color. Turn over and lightly brown the other side. Remove from the pan and let rest on a plate or platter.
Add the leeks and garlic into the pan and cover with a lid over medium low heat to “sweat” until tender. Avoid browning.
When leeks and garlic are tender, return the chicken to the pan. Add the hard cider and cover. Cook over a low heat or in a low oven (300 degrees) for about 90 minutes or until the chicken is almost falling off the bone.
Serve with roasted potatoes, broad egg noodles, or a thick slice of good country bread.

Originally published at Rural Intelligence.

Photo Credit: Katy Sparks

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