If you have a well-stocked pantry and 45 minutes, there is no reason that a weeknight chicken dinner needs to be boring. Now I don’t always have the same things on hand and these kinds of recipes aren’t authentic anything. But if you cook long enough or enjoy trying new things when you eat out, you develop a sense of what sort of goes together. I also make use of my nose. I may not always know what spice I want by name, but I know it by sniffing. I also try to take into account the esthetics of the dish, which unsurprisingly perhaps turns out to usually help with the taste as well. This dish needed a pop of green so I added some frozen peas towards the end.
I don’t totally recall the occasion, but Frances and Matthew sent us a gift from D’Artagnan a while back and it included all kinds of wonderful goodies – some things I had tried and others, like a venison sausage with dried sour cherries, I hadn’t. It sat in my freezer until the other night after we had finished eating the cassoulet. I thought that before it got freezer burn, I really should use it. I had ordered some boneless, skinless chicken thighs figuring I would find a use for them. So now I had the basis for tonight’s meal.
I always, always keep an interesting array of dried fruits and nuts on hand that I buy from Nuts.com. If you live in the United States, you REALLY must try them! Frances is now a total convert. Check out what I came up with for an ordinary Thursday night. This should be a guide for you to try something different. If you don’t have this sausage on hand, try some andouille or chorizo and then adjust your spices.
Chicken with Almonds, Dried Cherries and Rice
Yield: 4-6 servings
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter + 1 Tablespoon more
1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 5)
1/2 pound pork and venison sausage with dried cherries
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf, dried or fresh
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
Kosher Salt and Cracked Black Pepper to taste
1.5 cups Basmati Rice (Mine was white, but you could use Brown or Texmati rice)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 cup blanched almonds (whole or slivered)
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon Ras al Hanout (I buy it on Amazon, but you can also make your own)
2 Tablespoons honey
- Place 3 Tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch Oven and heat until it starts to sizzle. Add the chopped onion, about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and saute for about 3 minutes.
- Add the chicken thighs and bay leaf and saute, turning just until it begins to lightly brown.
- Add the chicken stock, cherries, turmeric, cloves, another 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste) cinnamon sticks and Ras al Hanout. Bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, add the rice and stir through. Tuck the sausages into the rice. Cover the Dutch oven tightly and turn the heat down to a simmer. Check it if you aren’t sure. Then cook for 35 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking, saute the almonds in 1 Tablespoon of the butter, moving them around until they just begin to brown. Add the honey. Turn off the heat and toss in your peas, gently mixing them together.
- At the end of the 35 minutes cooking time, remove the lid from the Dutch oven. The liquid should have been absorbed and the rice is very moist. Stir through the almonds and peas. Adjust your seasonings (add the pepper here) and enjoy.