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Easy braises for low-stress dinner — and the best leftovers

A metal pot filled with chicken in coconut milk with dates
Slow braises, like this chicken in coconut milk with dates, make easy, delicious work of planning meals throughout the week.
(Rebecca Peloquin / For The Times)
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With all the rain we’ve gotten over the past couple of weeks — not to mention the colder start to winter here too — I’ve been craving nothing but hearty braises. Not just because they’re delicious but because all this gray weather has made me pretty lazy. I need the easiest, most direct route to a dinner and, for me, braises are it. You season some meat or vegetables in a pan, throw in some liquid and let the oven do the work. But within that simple conceit is a world of delicious ways to achieve it.

Jenny Dorsey’s Chipotle-Braised Chicken is bright and spicy and cuts through any dreary weather. You marinate the chicken a day or two ahead in a mix of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, cumin and lemon juice, then braise it with tomatillos, ginger and chicken broth until fragrant and tender. The broth is a cure-all to anything that ails you.

Christian Reynoso’s Spiced Coconut Chicken With Dates, Cinnamon and Crispy Shallots is another one of those brilliant chicken braises that you go back to just for the sauce it creates. Coconut milk — spiked with cinnamon, sambal oelek and fresh ginger — surrounds browned chicken pieces and dates and reduces to a heady liquor while braising the meat. All you need are some crispy shallots, homemade or store-bought, and some fresh cilantro leaves and you’re set.

Over the holidays, I made a large batch of obe ata — the West African blend of tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions and chiles that adds flavor to so many meat and vegetable braises of that region — and have been using measured-out batches to braise just about everything in my fridge. If you’re new to the sauce, try Kiano Moju’s Beef Short Ribs Braised in Tomato and Red Pepper Stew, which utilizes the sauce for cooking down unctuous short ribs over several hours until they fall off their bones with a gentle nudge from a spoon.

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And if you want something less meaty, my favorite braise of all is for large wedges of good ol’ green cabbage. Normally, I sear the wedges first to char them and add smokiness to the braising liquid, but this recipe for Braised Savoy Cabbage With Anchovies eschews that technique. Instead, the cabbage — you can use Savoy or regular green — is braised in chicken broth perfumed simply with garlic, chile flakes and anchovies. The aroma that fills your house from making this will have you questioning why you ever make it any other way.

With all of these recipes, I make the whole batch one day, then enjoy the leftovers for days afterward. I scoop spoonfuls over warm rice or toasted bread and dinner is done, quickly and easily. And that’s just the way I need it right now.

Chipotle-Braised Chicken With Tomatillo Bean Salad

This chile-infused braised chicken dish is wonderful served with rice, corn tortillas or a large slice of toast. The tart tomatillo dressing in the bean salad adds plenty of acidity and brightness to the meal. Make the bean salad ahead of time to allow the tomatillo dressing to really soak into every part of the beans and cucumbers.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 50 minutes.

Braised Chicken with Tomatillo and a side of Bean and Cucumber Salad
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Spiced Coconut Chicken With Dates, Cinnamon and Crispy Shallots

Dates are paired with their cousin coconut in this deeply warming, slightly spicy chicken braise. Lime, cilantro and crispy shallots brighten and round out this dish that feels like a warm blanket on a cold day.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Spiced Coconut Chicken with Dates, Cinnamon and Crispy Shallots in a metal saucepan on a dark countertop.
(Rebecca Peloquin / For The Times)

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Beef Short Ribs Braised in Tomato and Red Pepper Stew

Nigerian “stew base,” or obe ata, is a blend of plum tomatoes, onion, red bell pepper and chiles, and it forms the foundation of these braised beef short ribs. In Nigeria, the base would be fried in oil to condense its flavor. Kiano Moju, however, prefers to reduce it slowly in the oven, where it cooks in the rendered beef fat and enriches the stew, which is best swiped up with pieces of fresh chapati.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 3 hours, largely unattended.

A black dish containing Beef Short Ribs in Tomato and Red Pepper Stew on a colorful tablecloth
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Braised Savoy Cabbage With Anchovies

Braising cabbage in chicken broth allows the liquid’s savoriness to seep into every bite of the sweet cabbage. Garlic, chile flakes and anchovies add plenty of flavor to the hearty vegetable. If you want to make the dish vegetarian, simply use vegetable stock and omit the anchovy, adding a splash of soy sauce or some dried mushrooms to the broth instead.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

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