Trouble With Toast

Top Chef D.C. sucks, but this recipe (Pasta with Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream) definitely does not | September 21, 2010

Well, as you can see, I’m not doing a full-on recap of the Top Chef finale – mostly because the season has been so icky-poo that I just don’t care anymore, but also partially because a RESTAURANT spoiled me as to the end result.  Seriously, I had managed all day to stay away from blogs (oh, go read Jordan Baker’s recap) and newspapers and various and sundry foodie media, and I get home and start rollin’ through the ol’ Facebook feed, and the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group had a big “CONGRATULATIONS KEVIN” status update since he used to work at one of their outposts, like, a zillion years ago.  Annoying.  Anyway, I’m clearly not sad the season is over – maybe they should just scrap TC and play continuous seasons of Top Chef Masters.

Moving on…

I may not have won the title of Top Chef, but I made this awesomesauce pasta dish last week, and it was bangin’.  As I was cleaning and consolidating my spice shelf – what? – I noticed that I had some delicious saffron strands just calling out to be used.  This recipe was the perfect choice, as the slow cooking really brought out the saffron’s flavor – and, of course, it kept the chicken nice and tender and made the whole shebang ridiculously rich and tasty.

Of course, slow-cooking takes a time commitment (duh), so don’t try to throw this together on a random Tuesday night.  However, DO try it out – it was one of the few dishes EVER about which my husband had no comment other than, “Mmmm…this is really good…nom nom nom.”

  • 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds chicken thighs with skin and bones
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped white onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
  • 2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 pound paccheri (giant rigatoni) or regular rigatoni
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh basil

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken, skin side down, to skillet and cook until golden, about 7 minutes per side.  Transfer chicken to plate.  Add onions and garlic to skillet (don’t discard chicken drippings); saute until onions are slightly softened, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Add wine and saffron to skillet and bring to a boil.  Continue to boil until liquid is thickened and reduced by less than half, about 8 minutes.  Add two cups chicken broth to skillet.  Return chicken to skillet; bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover; simmer gently until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour total, turning chicken after 30 minutes to prevent burning.  Transfer chicken to plate and cool.

Reserve skillet with juices.  Remove skin and bones from chicken and discard.  Tear chicken meat into bite-sized pieces; place in medium bowl and reserve.

Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm, stirring occasionally.  Drain; return to pot.

Meanwhile, spoon off fat from juices in skillet; discard fat.  Add cream to juices in skillet and boil until sauce is reduced to 2 1/2 cups and is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes.  Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice, then chicken pieces.  Stir over medium heat until heated through, adding more broth (1/4 cup at a time) to thin sauce as needed/preferred.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken mixture to pasta in pot and toss to coat.  Stir in basil.  Serve immediately.

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