Monday, September 12, 2011

Chicken with Figs, Two Ways

A recent offer of fresh figs sent me on a search for a good savory recipe that I could include them in. After much taste testing (mostly good, occasionally horrid) I ended up with two recipes that I wanted to share with you. The first is an elegant presentation - great for that "I want to impress the boss" dinner or if you want to make something nice for The Other Half. It comes from one of my go-to cookbook, "The Silver Palate" and is a definite crowd pleaser. The second is a much less fussy, though no less tasty recipe that my whole family will eat - even the pod who eats virtually nothing. 

Silver Palate Chicken with Figs 
Couple of notes: I could not find green peppercorns the first time I made this so I substituted black peppercorns instead. If you do that, cut the amount of peppercorns you use to 2 teaspoons - black peppercorns have a much stronger favor. FYI - I finally found the green ones by the pickling spices.

Take the time to marinate the chicken a day ahead. It really makes a difference in the depth of flavor. I served this with wilted spinach cooked with in chicken stock with a little garlic, salt and pepper, and jasmine rice.

2 chickens (2 and a half to 3 pounds each), cut into 8 pieces each
6 large cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup best-quality olive oil
4 teaspoons green peppercorns (packed in water), drained
1 cup imported black olives
1 and a half cups dried apricots
1 cup dried small figs or large fig fresh figs, cut into pieces
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Madeira
1 cup large pecan pieces (optional but adds a nice crunch)
Grated zest of 2 lemons

One day before serving, combine the chicken, garlic, thyme, cumin, ginger, salt, vinegar, oil, peppercorns, olives, apricots, and figs in a large bowl.  Marinate covered in the refrigerator overnight.  Remove the bowl from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Arrange  the chicken in a single layer in a large shallow baking pan.  Spoon the marinade mixture evenly over the chicken.  Sprinkle with the sugar and pour the Madeira between the pieces. Cover the pan with aluminium foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake, basting frequently with the pan juices, until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a sharp skewer, 40 to 50 minutes.

Using a fork and slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, olives, and dried fruit to a large serving platter. Drizzle with a few large spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle with the pecans.  Sprinkle the lemon zest over all.

Moroccan Chicken

The greatest thing about this recipe is the relatively low hands-on time. This is a great soccer practice night dish and is finished with couscous or rice and a nice salad to make a tasty and quick dinner. It is low in fat and calories but high in protein and fiber - an extra bonus if you are trying to watch your weight.

Notes: Fresh ginger spoils much quicker than I can use it so I often buy a large piece, cut it up into 1" sections and put them in a freezer bag in the freezer. When I need fresh ginger I take out a piece per tablespoon needed, let it defrost slightly, peel it with a peeler and then zest it with a microplane or mince it depending on the recipe. You get all the lovely flavor of fresh ginger but without all the waste.

I buy skin-on chicken breasts, then split and skin them. It's important to have the bone though - it helps to keep the chicken moist. The recipe is not as tasty if you use boneless breasts and dries out too quickly.

2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 spanish onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
(1) 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander (I prefer to use roasted ground coriander - it has a warmer taste) 
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
(6) 4 oz. skinless, bone-in chicken breast
(1) 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
6 dried figs, cut in half or about a cup of fresh figs, cut into pieces
salt and black pepper to taste

Warm oil in Dutch oven or heavy pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes (with juice), broth, parsley, paprika, coriander, lemon rind, cinnamon and saffron. Add the chicken, placing breast side down in the pan), chickpeas and figs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 45 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center when tested with a sharp knife.

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