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As with many recipes of mine, it started out as one thing and developed as I began rooting through my cupboards and fridge. When I am unable to sleep, which is all-too-often, I grocery shop in my head and make up recipes and menus. And over time and as I actually begin to grocery shop and cook, the dishes morph.
This Harvest Chicken recipe is one such. Delicious, fragrant, fruity and with a bit of tang, it is also perfect for the upcoming Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. It’s a one-pot meal that can be adapted to the ingredients on hand. And it is prepped in about 30 minutes with the remaining time spent in the oven while you go do other things. And don’t we all have other things to do?
The recipe below is how I made it, with some suggested alternative ingredients. Strict measuring is not essential here – this is home cooking, not baking! Depending on appetites or sides, this recipe would generously feed 4 but could also feed more if you are serving younger children or dieting women. Feel free to increase the amount of chicken but that ultimately might require two pans.
Over the years, I have observed that cuts of meat or poultry and varieties of fruits and vegetables seem to go in and out of fashion and availability. For instance, the “saddle” of chicken was once a quite common cut, easily found in every grocery. But I almost never see it now. So if you cannot find chicken thighs with the legs attached, the “saddle,” then use just thighs or thighs and legs. I do not recommend white meat. It can dry out and birds are bred with enormous breasts these days that I believe are rubbery and generally tasteless.
And while Japanese Sweet Potatoes are flavorful and packed with nutrition, regular sweet potatoes or yams can be used. I am using prunes and dried apples soaked in a combination of prune and orange juice. Why? because that’s what I happened to have. But dried apricots or pears would be lovely too. And if you only have apple juice, pineapple juice or orange juice – well use that.
You don’t see leeks at the store, then use onions or shallots or some combination. The important thing to remember is that we eat with all of our senses. So cook with gusto and use your eyes and nose when creating a dish. And, of course, your tastebuds. But you can tell A LOT about spices and seasonings that would work simply by smelling them. It’s as if you are creating your own food “perfume.”
I hope that you will try this Harvest Chicken recipe soon.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
About 2.5 pounds of chicken saddles (thigh with leg attached) or thighs and legs with bone in and skin on
4 Tablespoons Canola, Avocado or other neutral oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 large leek, well washed and thinly sliced – white and light green parts only
8 ounces moist dried fruit (I used prunes and apples, but you could also use apricots, peaches or pears or a combination)
About 1.5 pounds of sweet potatoes or yams (I used Japanese sweet potatoes this time), peeled and cut into pieces (I did this lengthwise, but you also use a large cube, if you prefer. Just try to make the pieces fairly equal in size.) You could also use a butternut squash if you like.
1.5 cups of dry white wine or chicken stock
1 cup of juice (prune, orange or apple)
8 to 10 large cloves of peeled garlic
1 rounded teaspoon of each: kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and ground turmeric
Rounded 1.5 teaspoons baharat
About 2 teaspoons of tamarind paste
Chopped flat-leaf parsley for serving
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the juice over the dried fruit and warm the mixture. Cover and allow to steep for about 30 minutes.
Take chicken out of fridge one hour before you start cooking. Make small deep slits in the meaty part of the chicken. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the chicken parts and also dust with 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric. Gently rub the spice mixture into the skin of the chicken. Set aside.
In the largest, heaviest oven-proof pan you have (or use two, if necessary), heat the 4 Tablespoons of oil until it shimmers. Add the chicken front-side down and brown for 8 minutes at a medium high heat. I like to add a spatter screen at this point, which helps keep clean-up manageable.
Once the chicken has gotten nicely seared, it should release easily from the bottom of the pan. Turn the chicken over and add all of the remaining ingredients, including the soaking liquid from the dried fruit. Scatter the garlic cloves, fruit, sweet potatoes, leek and onion around the chicken. try to push the sweet potatoes into the liquid as much as possible.
Cover the pan and place in the oven. Cook for 40 minutes. Then crank up the oven heat to 375 degrees F. Uncover the pan and continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes. You can give a stir to distribute the ingredients into the liquid. Everything should be beautifully browned. That’s it! Garnish and serve.
This can be made ahead and gently rewarmed. There is no need to add a grain because of the sweet potatoes, but if you want to serve this over rice, by all means. You do you.
L’shana tova u’metukah!