This Simple Persian Chicken Thighs with Saffron and Apricots recipe is scrumptious! Paired with my Vibrant and Easy Tahdig Rice Recipe with Herbs will bring you on a magic carpet ride!
The Ease of Apricot Saffron Chicken
If you’re a follower of my culinary escapades, you’ve probably noticed that some of my recipes are, let’s say, more ‘hands-on’ and time-consuming than others. But fear not! This Apricot Saffron Chicken recipe is a walk in the park. Whether you’re armed with a trusty cast iron skillet or a Dutch Oven, you’re all set. The game plan? Simply chop your ingredients, tumble them into the skillet (hold off on the dates for now), and crown it with the chicken. As the butter melts, give that chicken a loving baste to achieve a glorious golden hue. Then, in the final 5-10 minutes, usher in the dates, crank up the oven to a low broil (if your chicken fancies a tan), and voilà!
How to Serve This Apricot Saffron Chicken
Persian food is steeped in history and tradition. Moreover, it reflects a beautiful blend of cultures, significantly influenced by its long-standing history and strategic geographical position. Central to this cuisine, and equally important, is an emphasis on fresh ingredients, fragrant herbs, and a unique balance of flavors. Illustrating this perfectly, a quintessential dish that captures the essence of Persian cooking is Tahdig – a golden-crusted wonder that proudly sits as the star at the bottom of a rice pot.
As mentioned in the introduction, this Apricot Saffron Chicken was created for my Vibrant and Easy Tahdig Rice Recipe with Herbs. Persian food, however, is rather diverse and I won’t fault you if you try it with something else – like Batata Harra, a spicy herby roasted potato dish. This chicken would be wonderful with some roasted potatoes like that. Or, keep it classic with a simple basmati rice.
Just so I can get a little bit of green in, I like making a side of cucumber, yogurt, and cumin salad to accompany it. And if you want it extremely delicious with a little spice, use Cafe Sucre Farine’s Zhoug! These are all just suggestions, I hope you go have some fun with it!
The Fruit of It…
Persian cuisine, with its wonderful array of spices, fruits, and herbs, presents an appetizing and delightful experience. Iran, formerly known as Persia, is predominantly arid, except for its northern coast. This dry climate has led to the popularity of drought-resistant fruits like dates and barberries in Persian cooking.
Originating from the date palm, dates boast a beautifully semi-sweet flavor and are highly prized in Persian cuisine. Their mild sweetness pairs perfectly with savory dishes. In fact, southern Iran is the world’s largest producer of dates, underscoring their cultural significance. Date palms symbolize friendship and prosperity in Iran. For this recipe, I’ve used pre-pitted dates.
Next up on the menu are Barberries. Not as well-known in the U.S., these tiny, tart red berries are culinary gems similar to currants. What’s remarkable is their ability to thrive in arid conditions – talk about nature’s resilience! But here’s the juicy part: barberries are antioxidant powerhouses. Remember the Goji berry craze, famed for its high antioxidant content? Well, hold onto your aprons, because barberries boast an antioxidant level that’s nine times higher than Goji berries! Need a substitute in my Apricot Saffron Chicken recipe? Gojis, dried currants, or dried cranberries will do the trick. However, for the authentic taste, you can find dried Barberries in the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean aisle of your local grocery store or even on Amazon. Berry impressive, right?
You may not know this, but Prunus Armeniaca (aka Apricots) have been growing in Persia since antiquity. The first known major cultivation of Apricots was in Armenia, making a short journey into Persia. To this day Armenia cultivates over 50 different variety of apricots. Supposedly, there have been evidence of apricots found in China dating even further back to 4000 BC. As this isn’t a dissertation on apricots, I ended my research there. Either way, apricots have played a long roll in Persian culture and dried apricots were once a major commodity for trade.
In Persian culture, apricots are more than just a sweet treat; they’ve been a cornerstone of trade and cuisine. In my Apricot Saffron Chicken recipe, they bring a symphony of flavors to the table. Imagine the honeyed notes of apricots dancing with the earthy sweetness of dates and the zesty tang of barberries. Throw in some saffron, chicken, and other savory delights, and voilà – you have a dish that’s as rich in taste as it is in history!
Cast Iron Skillet or Dutch Oven
Ah, the age-old question in the kitchen: to use a cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven? Through my countless adventures in cooking Apricot Saffron Chicken, I’ve played the culinary matchmaker with both. Here’s the scoop:
Cast Iron Skillet: This is your go-to for achieving that oh-so-desirable crispy skin on your chicken thighs. It’s like giving your chicken a sunbath that ends in a glorious tan. But, and it’s a big but, watch out for the fruit! Keep those apricots away from the top; unless you fancy charred fruit (spoiler: you don’t).
Dutch Oven: Think of this as the nurturing parent of cookware. It envelops your chicken in a warm hug, ensuring everything cooks evenly without playing favorites. The result? Moist, tender chicken with a hint of browning. Craving that crispy skin? Here’s a little trick: in the last 10 minutes, let your chicken thighs bask under a low broil. It’s like giving them a quick spa treatment for that perfect finish. And remember, whether you’re team skillet or team Dutch oven, give that chicken a loving baste at least once during cooking. It’s like saying, “I care about you, chicken.”
Tips and Trick to This Persian Apricot Saffron Chicken Recipe:
- I like to use chicken thighs, they have more flavor than breasts. But this can work just as well with chicken breasts.
- As mentioned, use either a cast iron skillet or dutch oven. I have a 6 qt. Amazon Essentials Dutch Oven, it’s been my buddy for years and works just as well as any Le Crueset at 1/6th the price. And if you REALLY want that pretty gold handle on the Le Crueset, just buy a 4 pack of Gold Stainless Dutch Oven Handles on Amazon! I really use and abuse my Dutch Oven, make sure you get one with a metal handle or just replace it to allow for for higher heat cooking.
- If you’re going to use a cast iron skillet, I recommend a Lodge 12in Cast Iron Skillet. While Amazon’s prices look pretty reasonable, you may be able to find it at HomeGoods for less.
- To get that nice crisp skin on the chicken, make sure you place it at the top of the pan, and baste or spoon some of the good juices on top of it.
- For reheating, a microwave works fine. You can also crisp the skin back up in an airfryer. If in the airfryer, I’d give it about 7-8 minutes at 350° F.
- Make sure your dates are pitted! And don’t forget to only add them in towards the end – or they will look like mashed potatoes.