Here, an intriguing trinity of tangy lemon, earthy prunes and briny olives combines to create a complex flavor much bigger than its parts. Honestly, I suspect even olive-and-prune-fearing types might find a way to begrudgingly love this dish. (And you could always tag it with the "dried plum" euphemism, if you think that would help.)
One would never guess by the final outcome that this is a simple and quickly executed braise. The only prep work involves skinning chicken parts, pitting olives and smashing a clove of garlic. (In fact, the recipe calls for skin-on chicken parts, but I prefer to remove the skin.)
I probably don't need to tell you, but it's even better the next day.
I served this with orzo because I had it on hand, but it would also be great with couscous, egg noodles, mashed potatoes or polenta.
Quick Braised Chicken with Meyer Lemons, Prunes and Green Olives
1/3 cup brined green olives
3 1/2 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks (I used all thighs), skinned
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
all-purpose flour for dredging (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup chopped Meyer lemon, peel and all
2 whole cloves
3/4 cup plump pitted prunes
1. If olives are not pitted, remove pits by smashing the olives one at a time with the side of a large knife, then slipping the pits out. (Or use an olive pitter.)
2. Skin the chicken thighs, if desired.
3. Season thighs well on both sides with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, one piece at a time, shaking off excess flour.
4. Heat the oil in a large deep skillet or shallow braising pan (a 12 - 14 inch works well) over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown as many thighs as can fit without crowding, then turn and brown other side. Transfer thighs to a plate and repeat with remaining uncooked thighs. Set all cooked thighs aside and discard excess flour.
5. Pour off fat from the pan and quickly wipe out any black spots with a damp paper towel, being careful to leave behind any browned bits. Add the wine, vinegar, garlic, zest, and cloves to the skillet and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up those prized browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet.
6. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, arranging them so they fit in a snug single layer. Pour over any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Scatter over the prunes and olives.
Cover tightly, and reduce the heat to low. Braise at a gentle simmer, basting occasionally and turning the pieces with tongs halfway through, until the chicken is tender and pulls easily away from the bone, 30 to 40 minutes. When you lift the lid to baste, check to see that the liquid is simmering quietly; if it is simmering too vigorously, reduce the heat or place a heat diffuser under the skillet.
7. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the chicken to a serving platter to catch the juices, and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Skim any visible surface fat from the sauce with a wide spoon. Raise the heat under the skillet to high, and reduce the pan juices for 2 to 3 minutes to concentrate their flavor. Taste for salt and pepper. Retrieve and discard the cloves, if you like. Pour the juices over the chicken, and serve.
Recipe from All About Braising by Molly Stevens
Tip: Be sure to pay attention to the size of your pan. The chicken parts should fit snugly in one layer for the braising stage; a pan that is too big or too small with throw off the braising liquid level.
Recommended reading: This is a great book from Molly Stevens, a graduate of my culinary school alma mater, La Varenne.