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Chicken with Saffron Rice and Warm Asparagus Salad

Topped with a warm asparagus salad, this braised chicken dish is perfect for spring, when there’s still a chill in the air but you’re craving the fresh flavors of the new season.

Ingredients:

  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 3 Tbs. plus 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 chicken, about 3 1/2 lb., cut into 8 pieces (2 thighs,
      2 drumsticks, 2 breast-wing portions, 2 lower-breast portions)
  • Salt, to taste, plus 1/2 tsp.
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 large jarred roasted pimiento peppers, seeded and chopped
      (about 1 1/2 cups)

For the warm asparagus salad:

  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbs. capers, rinsed

Directions:

In a small bowl, soak the saffron in the 3 Tbs. wine for 20 minutes. Oil a slow-cooker insert.

Pat the chicken dry and season generously all over with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is hot, working in batches to avoid crowding, add the chicken and sear, turning as needed, until golden brown, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Pour off most of the fat from the pan and return to medium-high heat. Add the onion and bay leaves and sauté until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the oregano, the 1/2 tsp. salt, several grinds of pepper, the saffron mixture and the 1/2 cup wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Transfer the contents of the pan to the slow cooker, add the stock and stir in the rice. Nestle the chicken in the rice. Cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 3 hours.

Uncover and check to be sure a little liquid is still visible at the bottom of the cooker. If it appears dry, add 1 Tbs. water. Sprinkle the pimiento peppers evenly over the rice, then cover and cook for 15 minutes more.

Meanwhile, make the asparagus salad: In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, the 1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Set the vinaigrette aside. Remove the tough stem ends from the asparagus spears. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lower 2 inches of each spear, then cut the spears into 1 1/2-inch lengths. Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add all the asparagus pieces except the tips and cook for 4 minutes. Add the tips and cook until all the pieces are just tender, about 2 minutes more. Drain well. In a bowl, combine the warm asparagus, parsley and capers. Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly (you may not need all of it) and toss well.

Spoon the chicken and rice onto a warmed platter or individual plates and top with the asparagus salad. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2010).