sunday night special: cinnamon-stewed chicken with orzo and broccoli.

This traditional Greek dish comes from a recipe I spotted in Health Magazine while in college. I lusted over this recipe for years, waiting for the day I would own my own Dutch oven to cook it in.

This chicken is a flavorful comfort dish that’s both healthy and budget-friendly. (And a little bit romantic too! Perfect for a Valentine’s day dinner with your sweetheart or your best friend!)

Just do the chopping and prep work, and let it simmer while the sweet aroma of cinnamon fills your kitchen with warm, spicy goodness. Mmm…

I call this dish a Sunday Night Special because it is the kind of recipe you can make on a Sunday night and continue to eat leftovers from all week long. A great way to eat chicken leftovers is to shred it and toss it into a salad.

Life gets so busy during the weekdays. Late-night events at work, workout classes, happy-hour with friends, appointments, you name it.

Having the comfort of coming home to a quickly-reheated dish that is delicious and nutritious is awesome — certainly WAY more exciting than any frozen meal and WAY more budget-friendly than any take-out food.

If you can commit some time to cooking on Sunday nights, your tummy, your waistline and your wallet will SCORE big time.

This Sunday Night Special is “especially” special for me because it marks the FIRST time I have ever purchased and handled a whole (yes, WHOLE) chicken.  Hooray, I finally did it! I’m so proud of myself! Buying a whole chicken can be a very frightening thing. Even more frightening is the process of cutting it up. Pulling out the gross liver stuff inside? Bones? Snapping? AHH!!!

But I survived, thanks to my handy-dandy Shun Classic Kitchen Shears. These puppies can make even the most amateur of bird-slicers feel like a modern-day Julia Childs. If you’re more of a white-meat-only kind of guy or gal, this recipe can also be made with chicken breasts alone. Don’t worry, you can still feel proud of yourself. 🙂

I cooked this dish in my 9 1/2 qt. Le Creuset Dutch Oven, and boy, did it make a difference. This enameled cast-iron pot enhances the process of slow-cooking by evenly heating the food all the way around the pan, yielding a moist, fall-off-the-bone result. This recipe can certainly be made in another kind of cookware — just be sure to watch the heat level to avoid burning or over-cooking.

This dish is made even more delectable with the addition of whole-wheat orzo, which lends itself to absorbing the extra sauce from the chicken, as well as a healthy dose of bright green veggies.

Please bear with me, friends…I promise my photography will get better as time goes on, and hopefully invest in a good camera.

For now, photography aside, please just trust me that this is some of the BEST chicken I have ever tasted. It is juicy, tender and super-packed with flavor. Try it out, and you can be sure to impress your loved ones!

Cinnamon-Stewed Chicken
Adapted from Cat Cora, Health Magazine January 2009
Makes ~6 servings, depending on the size of the chicken

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2 teaspoons ground organic cinnamon

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 4-5 lb whole chicken, cut into about 8 pieces
(If you’re brave like I was, buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself. If you’re short on time and are not enthused by the liver-removing, bone-snapping process, buy a pre-cut bone-in whole chicken. Or, if you’re not enthused by any of the above, just use plain chicken breasts. Note that this method will not yield results as juicy and tender as the first two methods.)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Bianco. Sauvignon Blanc is another good option.)

2 cups organic low-sodium chicken broth

2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

~1/2 cup ricotta salata cheese, grated

For the side dish
2 cups dry whole-wheat orzo pasta

Few heads of broccoli, cut into spears

1. First and foremost – get your mise en place! Meaning, make sure you measure out, wash, chop, and place items in individual bowls! This will eliminate any and all stress from the cooking process!

2. Mix cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, and rub with cinnamon seasoning.

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over high heat. (Don’t overcrowd chicken). Brown chicken in oil for about 5-6 minutes on each side (this will vary depending on how hot your pan is). Turn frequently with tongs. Remove chicken when nicely browned and a little crispy on all sides; set aside.

4. Lower heat to medium-high. Add onions and half of the minced garlic cloves and cook, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes or until onions are soft and golden brown. Add wine to pan, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spatula.

5. When wine has evaporated, add broth, tomato paste, oregano, and remaining garlic. Return chicken to pan. (Liquid should cover the chicken about three-fourths of the way.) Cover and simmer over low heat about 45-50 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Meanwhile, during the final ~15-minute stretch of cooking, cook the orzo pasta according to package instructions and steam the broccoli for a few minutes.

7. Before serving, remove skin from chicken. Serve topped with sauce and sprinkled with ricotta salata and a few grinds of pepper, with orzo pasta and broccoli on the side. Serve extra ricotta salata at the table for the cheese lovers in your house. Enjoy with the remaining white wine, if desired.



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