Braised chicken with dried apricots, blueberries, and shallots

The trick to hosting a dinner party is preparation, preparation, preparation. Unless you want to go crazy with last minute details, you need to prepare as much ahead of time as possible. That also means that you don’t want to be serving anything that needs careful attention to reach proper doneness, like steak or delicate fish, unless you want to be spending a lot of time away from your friends while tending to it. The best party dishes are braises or fattier fish that give you more room for temperature error, just in case you get distracted socializing with your guests.

With the temperatures not yet reaching boiling hot despite it being late June, I wanted to braise, but it being summer, I did not want to make something very heavy, like beef or lamb. Chicken seemed like a good choice. Chicken is always a good choice, unless it’s chicken breast, in which case you again have the paying attention issue. Chicken thighs, however, are a very forgiving meat, and works great for a dinner party where you may want to leave the pan in the oven (turned off, of course), to keep warm until everyone is ready to eat.

To the chicken, I added dried fruit and some white wine from the first bottle we opened for the evening, and paired it with a saffron and dried sour cherry rice. We had much fewer leftovers than I expected.

16 chicken thigh pieces

2 cups dried apricots

3/4 cups dried blueberries

3 large shallots, thinly sliced

ground cinnamon

ground cumin

salt and pepper

1 cup white wine (or chicken stock, if you don’t want to use wine)

oil, for sauteing

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Heat up a stainless steel pan with side handles (because it will be going into the oven) over medium – high heat. Pat dry the chicken, and salt and pepper it on both sides. Add a few tablespoons of oil to the pan, and then the chicken, skin side down. Allow to brown up on one side before turning it over, and do not overcrowd the pan – you may need to do this in batches. Remove to a deep bowl.

Add the shallots and cook for about 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent. Add the dried fruit, cinnamon, and cumin to your taste. Cook for a few minutes. Add the wine, and allow to cook for a few more minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, nestling it in the fruit and onion mixture.

Place in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced.

I served mine with a saffron and cranberry rice.

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