One Pot Chicken with Caramelized Lemon and Dates
· 1 3 ½ – 4 lb. chicken or 3 lbs. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
· Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
· 1 tablespoon canola oil
· 1 lemon, cut into thick slices crosswise (about 1/4” thick), seeds removed
· 2 shallots, peeled if you want, halved lengthwise (or one red onion, peeled and cut into wedges)
· 4–6 Medjool dates, pitted
· 4 sprigs thyme or oregano, plus more for serving
· 1–2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large (at least 5.5 qt) Dutch Oven over medium–high heat. Place chicken, legs side down* and using tongs or your hands (be careful!) press lightly to make sure the skin comes into even contact with the pot. This is your chance to brown the legs! Rarely offered in whole chicken recipes, so take advantage.
*If using parts, just sear the chicken skin side down, working in batches if you need to.
3. Cook, without moving, until chicken is nice and browned, 5– 8 minutes. Seriously, no peeking! Nothing exciting will happen before 5 minutes, I promise you.
4. Add lemon slices, maneuvering the chicken however you need so that the slices come into contact with the bottom of the pot.
*If using parts, you may need to remove the chicken so that you can get the lemon slices nicely browned.
5. Let the lemons sizzle in the chicken fat until caramelized on one side, about 2 minutes. Add shallots, dates, thyme and 2 cups of water. Sprinkle the top of the chicken with crushed red pepper flakes and place the lid on.
*If using parts, you can leave the lid off.
6. Place dutch oven in the oven and roast until the dates are plump, the lemon is jammy and the chicken is almost but not totally cooked through, 20–25 minutes (it will look mostly cooked through and a little anemic from getting covered with the lid).
*If using parts, the chicken will be done now, no need to keep roasting.
7. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by ½ and the top of the chicken has an illustrious golden-brown color, another 20–25 minutes.
8. Remove from oven and let chicken rest in the Dutch Oven for 10 minutes before transferring it to a cutting board and carving. Serve alongside shallots, lemons, and dates with some more thyme sprinkled over.
DO AHEAD: This chicken can be made a few hours ahead, kept in the Dutch Oven. If you wish to reheat it before serving, pop it back into the oven without a lid for 10–15 minutes or so.
I am immediately attracted to one pot dishes for whole chickens. After decades of preparing chicken in every way imaginable, I have yet to master the art of cutting up a chicken. Whether I use my sharpest kitchen knife or defer to a pair of posh kitchen shears, I am often left with pieces that only look remotely like proper chicken parts. And thus, my attraction to whole chickens.
The week I decided to make this one pot poultry dish, I had also volunteered to prepare a meal welcoming a Syrian refugee family to Philadelphia. Lemons, dates and chicken sounded like the perfect remind-me-of-home dinner for a seven member family, after harrowing weeks of travel with five children under 11 years old. I prepared the one pot chicken to greet this exhausted family on their first evening in the US via a group called HIAS. A non-profit that provides refugees with resettlement assistance, HIAS offers home cooks an opportunity to prepare a welcome meal for new arrivals. Over the years, I have prepared dinners for families from Afghanistan, Burma and Kyrgyzstan.
This chicken dish was homey, saucy and could not be easier to prepare. My local store did not carry Medjool dates so I used packaged dates pieces, though I am certain whole dates would have added color and texture to the meal. Given the similarity of several of the recipes in Nothing Fancy to others I have acquired over the years, I would not purchase this book. However, the Syrian family gave the meal rave reviews!
Judith Stavisky, MPH, M.Ed
Thank you Judy for this wonderful review. I truly believe that people who love to cook build bridges that span differences in culture and politics. That you made this recipe and brought it to a Syrian refugee family reinforces my belief. If you are in agreement with me, you might want to consider reading Judy’s book. Do It Better! offers hope and optimism amidst today’s divisive conversations about immigrants and refugees. The book is available at Amazon and Thrift Books.
This concludes our reviews of “Nothing Fancy.” Our intrepid reviewers are taking a summer vacation, and we will return in September with recipes from and reviews of Patricia Well’s “Bistro Cooking”.