Based on a list of ingredients in an anonymous 13th-century Andalusian cookbook, this recipe for chicken braised with saffron, cinnamon, and lavender reflects the way aromatic spices were used in Islamic Spain. I think they create an exotic yet homey dinner in cold or wet weather. You can buy dried lavender buds in stores that sell bulk teas and spices, or by mail; make sure they are pesticide-free and fit for human consumption. The flavor of this dish improves over time, so it’s a good candidate for making ahead and reheating; or for leftovers for later in the week. Serve the braised chicken it over rice, couscous, rosemary mashed potatoes, or polenta.–Deborah Krasner
Chicken Braised with Saffron, Cinnamon, Lavender, Almonds
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 2 H
- Serves 4
- 2 tablespoons peppery olive oil
- 4 whole chicken legs, thigh and drumstick separated or 1 whole chicken, cut up
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup dry sherry or Marsala
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 1 tablespoon very hot water
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1/2 heaping tablespoon dried lavender buds
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
- 1. Heat a large heavy Dutch oven or braising pot over medium heat until the pot’s edges are warm to the touch; then add the olive oil. When the oil is hot and shimmery and is beginning to thin and flow, add the pieces of chicken, skin side down, until the bottom of the pot is filled. Don’t overcrowd the pot. You will need to brown the chicken in at least two batches unless your pan is very large. As the chicken pieces brown, turn them and sear the other side. Remove the browned pieces and hold them on a platter. When all of the chicken is seared, drain off all but a very thin film of fat and oil.
- 2. Add the onions to the pot and cook over low heat until limp and translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Then add the spices and cook for another minute or two. Mix in the sherry, saffron water, and balsamic vinegar and return the chicken to the pot. Cover tightly and let cook slowly, over the lowest possible heat, turning once, for 45 minutes or until just cooked through.
- 3. Remove the chicken pieces, and pour the excess fat into a defatting pitcher or scoop it off with a spoon. (If you are serving the braised chicken later in the day or the next day, you can chill the liquid and then remove the hardened fat with a spoon). There will be about 1 1/4 cups liquid.
- 4. About 20 minutes before serving time, heat the vodka to just below boiling in a small pan. Take it off the heat and add the lavender buds. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Then strain out and discard the flowers, and add the vodka to the defatted pan juices. Heat the juices to cook off the alcohol, 3 to 4 minutes.
- 5. Return the braised chicken and its sauce to the pot and heat gently until warmed through. Pour the honey over the top, add the toasted almonds, and serve.