Chicken Braised with Cinnamon

Chicken is braised with saffron, cinnamon, and lavender. It can be made ahead of time for the best flavor, which makes it perfect for entertatining. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, couscous, or polenta.

A decorative bowl with chicken braised with saffron, cinnamon, lavender, and almonds over rice

This lovely dish, as contemporary as it sounds, is inspired by an Andalusian cookbook dating back to the 13th century, offering insights into the manner in which spices were used in Islamic Spain, explains author Deborah Krasner. And making us think they dined better in the Middle Ages than we’d ever imagined. Originally published May 3, 2002.Renee Schettler Rossi

Chicken Braised with Cinnamon

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 45 M
  • 2 H
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 4 reviews
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Print RecipeBuy the The Flavors of Olive Oil cookbook

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Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat until the pot’s edges are warm to the touch. Then add the olive oil and let it warm until it’s hot and shimmery and is beginning to thin and flow. Add the 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 2 batches unless your pan is very large. As the chicken pieces brown, turn them and sear the other side. Transfer the browned pieces to a plate. When all of the chicken is seared, drain off all but a very thin film of fat and oil.
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, until just cooked through, about 45 minutes.
Place the chicken pieces on a platter 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.
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.
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.

Recipe Testers Reviews

The divine medley of tastes from this dish is still sumptuously smacking on my palate. Tender chicken that succulently falls from the bone, boldly flavored with a unique spice blend and enlivened by the sweet toasty crunch of the honey and almonds, it brings to the table a very surreal and ultra-satisfying dining experience.

I served this for a small dinner party with a spinach and dried cherry salad, crunchy baguette with an herbed compound butter and a toasted-almond banana ice cream. My appreciative sated guests swooned. This dish is undoubtedly in the top ranks of my frequently made recipe list.

This recipe’s long list of small amounts of ingredients had me wondering if they were all necessary and worth the bother (though only the lavender buds took any effort to track down). The resulting aromas and complex flavors of the dish convinced me that I wouldn’t have wanted to leave out a thing. I was unable, however, to verify the headnote’s contention that the dish improves over time because there was not a morsel left over. This is definitely going on my short list of potluck dinner dishes.


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  1. Any thoughts on doubling the recipe? Should I just double the spices? I’ve had varying degrees of success with that over the years and am wondering if anyone has any advice. I’d like to make this for my book club but I need to feed 8.

    1. Jan, cinnamon can be tricky. If it’s strong, it’s like eating a Red Hot candy. Since we didn’t test the recipe by doubling it, my suggestion is to make two batches. I know, I know. What a pain in the butt. But I’d hate for your book club to have anything less than perfection.

  2. After a recent move I cleaned out my recipe binder which is how I’ve always organized my favorite recipes and kept track of various milestones. I can look up what I made when meeting a best friend’s new-at-the-time girlfriend (now partner for over 10 years with two kids), the meals that we enjoyed as new parents, as well as desserts that I’ve made for my former bosses’ birthdays over the years. It’s always a treat to read through this binder and it is one of my most prized possessions!

    I was so happy to come across *this* recipe which I first tried on October 26, 2007 and wrote the note “Best dish I’ve ever made! Look for more recipes on this website.” I ended up becoming a recipe tester several years later and still feel the same excitement at reading their weekly emails as I did so many years ago. Try this (and all the others) and you will feel like a goddess/god in the kitchen!

  3. Just made this tonight- unbelievable recipe!! I couldn’t find the lavender so I used rosemary instead. So delicious- toasting the almonds made a huge difference! I did skip the part about pouring off the excess fat after it had been cooking as well- didn’t seem greasy or fatty at all! Also made my kitchen smell amazing! Thanks!

  4. This is the recipe that got me hooked on the LC website 5+ years ago. I still make it every so often and marvel at how wonderful it is. I’ve tried it with couscous and polenta and it’s great both ways.

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