March is a confusing month for me. It seems sunnier out, there are fluke 50 and–gasp!–52 degree days and then there is this “first day of spring” that shows up on my calendar but does precisely nothing to thaw my cold fingertips. I’m sick to death of all of my winter clothes but if I am dumb enough to go out in new short or half-sleeve tops, I shiver all day.
The produce isn’t much better. The peas, rhubarb and other spring goodies either haven’t appeared yet or have made a sub-par showing just when I am 100-thousand percent winter squash-ed and brussels sprout-ed out. Worse yet, even though it remains light out at 6:30 p.m., I still crave rich, heavy braises.
But digging through my recipe files a couple weeks ago, I found gold: an old article from the New York Times magazine that really gets this–in fact, it was published three years ago this week. The chicken recipe enclosed is warm enough to make the 40-degree day more bearable but with lighter, brighter ingredients than traditional braises.
Amanda Hesser calls it a “transitional” dish; we called it an undeniable hit. The only thing that threw me, however, was the good amount of fat that accumulated in the pan from the chicken–something that wasn’t easy to skim because the juices were muddied by bread crumbs. But my oh my was it ever tasty. Sweet toasty marcona almonds, the slightest smokiness from a chipotle chile we left in the pot the entire time hovered around chicken so tender, you could cut it with the side of your fork making me question, once again, why I ever cooking chicken any other way. Seeing as this is the rare braise that can be made in an hour, you could be asking yourself this too this very evening.
One year ago: Risotto al Barolo; Green Crostini
Chicken With Almonds and Green Olives
New York Times, 3/27/05
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup blanched almonds (preferably Marcona)
1/2 cup country bread, torn into small pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Small pinch saffron
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks Sea salt
Flour, for dusting
1 dried red chili
1 Spanish onion, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup pitted green olives.
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large braising pan. Add the almonds, bread and garlic. Cook over medium heat so the garlic softens and the bread toasts but nothing burns. Scrape into a food processor and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the saffron and parsley and pulse to a coarse paste.
2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and dust with flour. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the braiser and place over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown all sides, then remove to a plate. Wipe out the pan. Add remaining oil, the chili and onions and cook until softened. Discard the chili. Nestle chicken in the pan, pour in the wine and reduce by half.
3. Add the almond mixture and the broth, bring to a simmer, cover the pan and braise in the oven until the chicken is almost tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the olives and cook until the chicken is very tender, 10 minutes more. Serve from the pan. Serves 4.