One-dish chicken dinners for two (or four)

Sumac-Braised Chicken Stew. Photo by Keri White

Cooks love a one-dish meal. And winter really lends itself to this type of cooking — these dishes generally involve a lengthy simmer or braise and have a comforting, warm vibe.

I have discovered two fantastic chicken dishes, one an oven braise, the other a stovetop meal. Both were inspired by recipes I read about — one in The New York Times’ food pages, the other in The Wall Street Journal, but I tweaked both to my preference, my audience (read: vegan cheese for a meat dish) and what I had in my fridge. Toss a simple green salad, and dinner is done.

Meals like this usually accommodate larger crowds, but for many of us these days, we are not gathering the whole family, so I have scaled these accordingly.

Sumac-Braised Chicken Stew

Serves 2-4
I used a whole bone-in breast for this, but you could use whatever bits you like — thighs, legs, even a whole fryer cut in pieces would be fine. I marinated the chicken overnight, which resulted in a wonderfully tender and flavorful dish, but if you don’t have time for that, fret not. The braise will do just fine without that extra step.

But if you do proceed with the marinade step, you will use a portion of the spices in the marinade and the rest in the assembly of the dish. If you skip the marinating, just use the entire amounts listed in the recipe as you prep the meal.

I served this with spaghetti squash, which cooked alongside the stew in the oven. I just scraped out the squash, tossed it with a bit of salt and pepper, and dinner was ready.

1 whole bone-in chicken breast, cut down the middle, and each breast cut in half again (4 pieces total)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, divided
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sumac
1 tablespoon salt, divided
1 tablespoon ground cumin, divided
Generous grinding of fresh cracked pepper
½ teaspoon cinnamon, divided
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in large chunks
½ cup chicken stock

In large zip seal bag or sealable container, mix the chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil, one of the onions (sliced), 1 tablespoon paprika, ½ tablespoon sumac, ½ tablespoon cumin and ½ tablespoon salt. Rub the marinade into the chicken, and refrigerate it for 2-24 hours. Before cooking, bring the chicken to room temperature.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Dump the chicken in the pan with onions and potatoes. In a small bowl, mix the oil and spices. Pour these over the chicken, onion and potatoes, and rub the spice blend over all ingredients to distribute. Add the chicken broth, cover the pan with an ovenproof lid or aluminum foil and bake in the oven, approximately 1 hour. Check the pan periodically to ensure that the liquid has not evaporated; if it is nearly gone, add more broth or water in ¼-cup increments. It should not be soupy, more like a stew.

The dish is done when the chicken is totally tender and the potatoes are cooked through.

Taste for seasoning, adjust as needed and serve.

Lemon Chicken with Couscous

Serves 4
I adjusted this dish, inspired by a recipe I saw in the New York Times, to my personal preferences.

I served it with sautéed greens, but most any green vegetable or salad would complement this nicely. I would avoid starchy vegetables simply because the couscous provides a good amount of carbs, but greens, string beans, broccoli or a green salad would be a nice counterbalance to this dish.

1 lemon
2 ounces crumbled vegan feta or haloumi cheese, if desired
¼ cup salted almonds, coarsely chopped
3 shallots, divided
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds boneless chicken breast, cut in large, bite-sized pieces
¾ teaspoons salt
1½ cups Israeli couscous
1½ cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon dried oregano flakes
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped

Zest the lemon and place the zest in a small bowl. Remove the peel and pith, then coarsely chop the lemon, placing all flesh and juice in the bowl with the zest. Add the almonds, 1 of the shallots (sliced thinly), red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and vegan cheese, if using. Set aside.

Generously salt the chicken. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet, and sear the chicken on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove the chicken to a plate. Add the remaining 2 shallots, cut in chunks, to the pan, and cook to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the couscous, and stir to coat. Then add the broth and oregano, and bring to simmer.

Return the chicken to the skillet, along with any drippings from the plate, stir, cover and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, the couscous is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

Remove it from the heat, fluff the couscous, top it with the lemon mixture and then sprinkle it with chopped parsley.

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