Ok, folks, today it’s back to the FOOD! Today’s recipe is one of the creations we shot at our video shoot last week. The video won’t be ready for awhile, so I figured I’d work up a post about the recipe, then we can post the video at our leisure. Recipes available in multiple media platforms. Gotta love that. As soon as I figure out how to bring it all together, that is 😉
Saffron Lemon Chicken is something I came up with randomly one day, while in search of an easy main dish with just a few ingredients but with an exotic kick. I wanted something that I could make with no stress, and something I could teach a friend to make and know that she really might actually make it someday!
Admittedly, one of the key ingredients, dried lemons, might seem exotic to many. Truth be told, I grew up with the things, so while they’re not quite an everyday ingredient for me, they are an ingredient that’s in my pantry at all times. They are a bit mysterious, though. Moreso than I realized until putting together this post. Keep reading to find out why. . .
So the first mystery is figuring out where to procure them. In Manhattan, I bought mine at Kalustyan’s, which is an amazing (and recently expanded) spice emporium. They sell ingredients for all sorts of cuisines–Persia, Arabic, Indian, Greek, Latin, and many more. So that might be your first call, stop, or Internet click–your local ethnic grocer. If that’s not an option, or you prefer to shop online no matter what, Amazon does carry dried lemons.
Before we move on, I have a random observation–on the recent day that I was at Kalustyan’s replenishing my dried lemon supply, Food Network was there as well. They were shooting an episode of Alex Guarnaschelli’s show, for an episode titled “Indian Dinner.” I just lurked for a minute as they prepared to shoot. 😉 Alex was petite but not scrawny, with camera perfect makeup and a fun energy. In fact, she seemed pretty funny and cool. To the owners, she said something along the lines of, “Hey you guys know me. I shop here all the time. I’m spending all my money on your black rice and spices. I gotta figure out a way to pay the rent now! ” It was pretty amusing. Since I was too shy to talk to them or even snap a sneaky photo, I’ll just post another shot of our video shoot instead:
Anyways, these are the dried lemons I bought there that day.
Ok, I know the package says both lemon and lime. Turns out that dried lemons, aka Omani lemons are also called “black lemons.” Apparently they’re sundried limes that have been boiled in salted water prior to being dried. Hmmmm, a bit confounding and mysterious, no? A bit of research reveals that Omani lemons are actually limes. Over there, meaning in the Middle East, I get the sense that limes are seen as just another kind of lemon. Yes, I know, a bit confusing, but for the purposes of today’s recipe, you can use a package that’s labeled either dried limes, dried lemons, or, as in the case of mine, tries to be all things to all cooks by carrying both labels.
The other possibly exotic ingredient, saffron, is relatively easy to find these days, if pricey. I recently spotted some decent-looking Spanish saffron for $5.99 at Trader Joe’s, but can’t vouch for its quality. If anybody has given this stuff a spin, please report back. I’m curious. Luckily, I have saffron on hand direct from the Motherland, Iran, so that’s what I used in this recipe. Yahoo!
Bria’s Easy Saffron Lemon Chicken
2 Tablespoons neutral cooking oil of choice
1 to 1 1/2 pound high quality (organic preferred) bone in chicken (breast, thighs, legs, or any combo)
1 large yellow or white onion
1 large PIERCED dried lemon, or 2 medium, or 3 small (basically use whatever you have on hand)
2 Tablespoons Saffron water (a few pinches of saffron gently ground by hand and marinated in a few Tablespoons of hot water. You can store the extra in a jar and keep the jar in the fridge)
Zest of 1 large lemon or of 2 small lemons
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Honey, agave or sugar (optional)
2 Cups of filtered water
1. Warm oil in a non-reactive pan or Dutch oven, over low heat.
2. As oil warms, remove any skin and excess fat from chicken pieces. Salt and pepper chicken pieces on one side.
3. Place chicken, seasoned side DOWN, in the heated oil. Season the side that’s up and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes to brown. Let that crust form–don’t move the chicken around once you’ve put it in.
4. As chicken cooks, remove onion skin, then cut onion into half moons. Make sure your slices are uniform in thickness. Set aside.
5. Check the chicken for proper browning, and flip to cook for two minutes (or more, if needed) to brown the other side.
6. Remove chicken from pan, and place on a pan or plate. Set aside.
7. Place onions in the pan, stirring gently to pick up any flavored or colored bits in the pan bottom. Over the medium heat, cook the onions for at least 5 minutes, and up to 10, stirringly frequently to prevent burning. If pan begins to get too dry, add in a bit more oil or a few splashes of water to keep things moving.
8. Add chicken back and any juices that have run into the plate back into the pan. Add in lemon zest, dried lemons, saffron water, and 1 cup of filtered water. If you want a thicker sauce, stop at one cup of water for now. For a more liquidy sauce, add in more water, but go easy. You can always add more, but taking it out isn’t as easy, and if you add too much water, it can dilute the flavor.
9. Bring mixture to a boil, then immediately drop down to a gentle simmer (low flame or heat). Add in a bit of salt and stir. Cover and cook for least 20 minutes, and up to an hour. Check periodically to stir and to make sure there is still liquid in the pan, adding more water as needed. Cooking the stew longer will encourage the chicken to fall of of the bone.
10. Adjust salt, and if sauce tastes too sour, add in a small amount of sweetener to adjust the flavor.
11. Serve with rice, bread, and/or vegetables of choice. Make sure to spoon some of the delightful saffron lemon sauce onto your plate as well!
A few snaps of the process. . .