I feel like I blinked in October and suddenly December is upon us! So before I let any more of the holiday season get away from me, I wanted to post the recipe for my favorite December meal. I make this every year on the winter solstice, but it's so easy to throw together, so fragrant and beautiful, it will make any weeknight festive! The whole spices and fresh basil make the kitchen smell amazing, and when you taste it you will do a happy dance. Or at least, I did!
This recipe comes from The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld, which is a gorgeous book that everyone should check out!
1 frying chicken, about 4-1/2 lbs, cut into 8 pieces without the backbone (I use 4-1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts instead.)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced from root end to top
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
one 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained of half the liquid (I used 5 chopped fresh tomatoes instead and about 1/4 cup tomato puree)
three 3-inch cinnamon sticks, preferably "true" cinnamon
3 star anise pods
1-1/2 cups torn leaves of sweet basil or cinnamon basil, gently packed
Season all sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid. (I had to bring out a second pan to fit all my chicken!) When the pan is hot, put the chicken pieces in the pan, skin side down, and cook uncovered until the skin turns deep golden brown, at least 6 to 8 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook another 2 to 3 minutes on the other side. Take the chicken out of the pan and pile it on a platter.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan. Stir them around for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they soften and begin to brown. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and 1 tsp kosher salt. Put the chicken back in the pan. When the tomatoes come to a simmer, cover the pan, turn the heat to very low, and cook for about 50 minutes, or until there is very little resistance when you pierce a thigh with the tip of a paring knife. If the sauce seems watery, turn the heat to high and boil it uncovered until it thickens. Scatter in the basil as you toss the chicken in the sauce with tongs. Serve right away.
You can't go wrong with this dish, the slow cooking brings out all the wonderful flavor and aroma of the spices and makes the chicken very tender. And the colors are so beautiful, it will impress all your holiday dinner guests!