Chicken Is Life
You could say that chicken thighs cooked in a deep pan and simmered for 45-hour is a specialty of mine. This version of the dish features dates and raisins and a little extra depth of flavor from the addition of allspice and clove. It’s a nice break from the constant salt and spice of the usual weeknight go-to’s and brings a little middle eastern flare to a simple dish. There’s tons of room for experimentation in here too, add in some extra aromatics with the onion maybe ginger and celery. Swap out the dates and raisins for other sweet fruits or something seasonal. I’ve made similar dishes with peach and finished it with a balsamic reduction.
Variations On A Theme
Variations on this theme have been tossed around in my kitchens for years. In buffalo it was always Italian themed. Chicken scarpariello style dishes with spicy Italian sausage, banana peppers, green and red peppers, and a healthy dose of cherry peppers and the brine they live in. I think I was being inspired by the abundance of banana peppers on everything in Buffalo, and the lack of the great Italian food I grew up eating. Then in Queens this dish really hit its stride in the form of a variation of chicken paprikash. Pretty standard dish, but without the cream or sour cream, because no one has those kind of calories to throw away on a weeknight.
Use What’s Around You
These days this dish lives on usually in the form of rosemary chicken. It’s super simple and takes advantage of the wild rosemary literally growing on the sidewalks of southern California. It’s a great weeknight dish (chicken, onion, rosemary, stock) that can be cranked out with minimal effort and a lot of down time before eating (to be used for doing laundry, paying taxes, or doing the dishes, yes being an adult is dumb). The moral of the story is that this dish, and variations of this dish should be a staple for any home cook. Regardless of the ingredients you chose to go with, this is a nutritious and easy way to get dinner on the table. That recipe is for another day, today we’re looking at some chicken with dates and raisins.
Let’s Get To Cooking
This chicken with dates and raisins recipe is a little more involved than some of the easier versions, but only due to the number of ingredients, the basic cooking process is the same. First things first we want to get everything ready to go in the pan, since this all comes together pretty quickly once the chicken is seared. So chop up the veggies, and measure out the ingredients and open up that jar of tomatoes. You’ll also want to grind up the clove and allspice (if you don’t have the pods, or a mortar and pestle, feel free to use just a pinch or two of each in their ground form), and in a separate small bowl prepare the spice rub for the chicken.
Mise and Prep
The basic breakdown of the recipe goes like this. Once everything is chopped up and our mise is ready, we want to spice our chicken on both sides liberally. If you end up with a little extra spice mixture, no biggie, we can just add it to the veggies when they go in the pan later on. I like to sprinkle the spice with one hand, and pat it onto the chicken with the other, this way only one of my hands gets raw chicken on it, and the other one is free to turn on the sink, squirt the soap, or take a sip of beer.
Sear The Chicken
Then we’re going to stick the pan on medium heat with some oil in it and sear the chicken. This is a critical step and it’s the first flavor layer that sets the foundation for the rest of the dish. By searing the chicken we begin to render out some of the fat from the skin and from the meat. We also change the profile of the spices in the rub. Some of them get a little smokier, some of them get a little bitter, and some of them just release a little bit of oil and fragrance. We’re also setting the stage at this point for some crispy skin at the end. You’ll want to keep an eye on the chicken here, it sears super quickly because of all the spices and we don’t want anything to burn, if it feels like it’s going too quickly turn the heat down a little bit and it will all be ok…everything getting stuck on the bottom of the pan is flavor we’re going to pick up later.
Build That Flavor
After all that chicken is seared it’s time to build up that next layer of flavor with the onion. Onion is one of my favorite veggies to cook with. One because it’s an excellent filler, any dish that needs a little more body and a little extra quantity, just pop in some sliced onion during the cooking. Two, because of the absurd range of flavors you can get out of this one vegetable. Cook it for a long time and it becomes super sweet, saute it for a couple of minutes and it sweats out it’s rawness and becomes aromatic and fragrant, grill it and the char is smokey and sweet. For this dish we’re using it in my favorite way…to get all that awesome flavor off the bottom of the pan. Onions have a bunch of moisture in them, so when they hit the hot pan they start to sweat and release that moisture, giving us the small amount of liquid necessary to get the fond off the bottom of the pan. I like to call this onion deglazing, and it’s one of my kitchen secrets, don’t tell anyone.
Compose the Dish
Now that we have two layers of flavor, one from the seared chicken, and one from the onions, our chicken with dates and raisins recipe is ready doe little acidity and some richness. Pop in that can of tomatoes, let it get to know the onions. This is also when I add in the clove and allspice so they start to bloom with the dates and raisins before adding in the extra liquid.
Set It And Forget It
Once the stock is added all that’s needed is to nestle in the chicken so it’s about ⅔ submerged, bring it up to a simmer, then pop it in the oven uncovered for about 40 minutes. That’s it! Chicken with Dates and Raisins complete! I like to leave this dish uncovered so that some of the liquid evaporates and it gets a little thicker. What we’re going to end up with here is super moist chicken (like seriously moist), a sweet rich sauce, with layers of flavor and little date and raisin flavor bombs. I love to serve this with some yellow rice to soak up all that extra sauce. If you like it to be a little thicker, just take the chicken out of the pan, and simmer the sauce until you get it to the desires thickness. Enjoy!
Chicken with Dates and Raisins
- Cutting Board
- Deep Oven Safe Pan
- Mortar & Pestle
- 3 tsp Garlic Powder
- ¼ tsp Fresh Rosemary Finely Chopped
- ½ tsp Paprika
- ¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
- ¼ tsp Fresh Black Pepper
- ½ tsp Kosher Salt
- 4 Whole Cloves
- 3 All Spice Pods
- 1 Large White Onion Sliced (with the grain)
- 3 Cloves Garlic Minced
- 15 Seeded Dates Sliced
- 4 tbsp Raisins
- 14.5 oz Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes 1 can
- 2 Cups Chicken Broth
- 5 Chicken Drumsticks
- 4 Chicken Thighs
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- First things first we want to get our spice mixture all mixed up. Take the garlic powder, rosemary, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and salt and mix them in a small bowl. Pre-heat oven to 375.
- We also want to slice up the onion and open the can of tomatoes before we get to cooking since this will all come together pretty quickly. To slice the onion chop off both ends, place the onion on one of the ends and cut it in half vertically. Then place the onion half's flat side down and slice with the grain of the onion. By cutting them this way they'll keep their shape a little better through the braising process.
- Using most (if not all) of the spice mixture liberally season the chicken on both sides. The trick here is to use one hand to sprinkle the spice, and the other hand to handle the raw chicken. This way there's no cross contamination and you can keep drinking your beer with the non-chicken hand between spice sprinkling.
- Put 2 tbsp of olive oil into the pan and set it on medium heat. Once the oil is hot add in the chicken thighs skin side down. If you got skinless or boneless thighs it's all good. We're going to brown the chicken on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Because of the spices they'll brown pretty quick to keep an eye on them.
- Once the thighs are browned on both sides take them out and put them on a plate (pro tip: less dishes if you use the same plate that you seasoned the chicken on). Grab the drumsticks and brown them on all sides as well. When the drumsticks are browned place them on the plate with the thighs.
- Add in the onions to the pan and cook them over medium low heat for 5-7 minutes or until they loosen up a little. As the onion is cooking use them to scrape the delicious frond off the bottom of the pan. Halfway through cooking the onions add in the garlic and the rest of the spice mixture, continue to cook.
- When the onions are soft add in the tomatoes and use them to get any residual brownage off the bottom of the pan. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer then add in the dates and raisins. Cooks for a minute just to combine, then add in the chicken stock. Mix everything together and bring it up to a simmer. (We're still on medium/medium-low heat).
- When the mixture in the pot comes up to a simmer, nestle the chicken pieces so they're about 1/2 to 2/3rd submerged in the liquid, keeping the skin side of the thighs up (we want crisp skin!). Bring it all up to a simmer, once simmering place the pan uncovered in the oven for 40 minutes.
- After 40 minutes the amount of liquid should be reduces, the chicken should be super tender, and the skin should be nice and crisp. Enjoy!