I confess I’m not a big fan of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which I find tasteless enough to be considered the tofu of meats (no offense, tofu lovers). Instead, for most purposes I almost always go for the thighs, with the bone in for more flavor and quicker, more even cooking. I like to leave the skin on, too; however, in a quick braise like this one, it can get too rubbery. This is a very stripped-down take on traditional Moorish flavor combinations; eat it with white or brown rice or farro (see Notes), which will soak up the complex sauce wonderfully.
Yield: Serves 1
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 small bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (about 6 to 8 ounces total)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 large green olives, pitted and chopped
4 prunes, pitted and chopped
2/3 cup fruity red wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
Toast the almonds in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until they are lightly browned and begin to smell toasty, 2 to 3 minutes. Watch carefully; nuts can burn quickly. Immediately transfer to a dish to cool.
Pour the oil into the skillet you used for toasting the nuts and set over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, scatter the garlic slices in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is tender and starts to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon to a plate.
Increase the heat to medium-high. Season the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper, set them in the pan, bone side up, and cook until they are deeply golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
Return the garlic slices to the pan, along with the green olives and prunes. Pour in the red wine and immediately decrease the heat until the liquid is barely simmering. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid or double layer of aluminum foil. Let the chicken cook undisturbed until an instant-read thermometer inserted into its thickest part (without touching bone) reads at least 165°F, about 10 minutes.
Remove the cover and use tongs to transfer the chicken to the dinner plate. Loosely cover with foil. Increase the heat to high and let the wine sauce bubble for a few minutes until it thickens. Taste, adjust the seasoning as necessary, and add butter if you’d like a little more richness.
Pour the sauce over the chicken on the plate, top with the toasted almonds, and eat.
I love the nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture of farro, the ancient wheat grain that’s become popular in recent years, thanks to the ongoing influence of regional Italian cooking traditions in the United States. I also find it exceedingly easy and forgiving to cook. Some cooks suggest soaking it overnight and then cooking it like rice, but I find it easiest to simply boil it like pasta until it’s as tender as you want, no soaking required.
You can find farro in health-food stores and stores with a good selection of traditional, imported Italian ingredients. Imported Italian farro typically comes in a l-pound bag, often vacuum sealed. Here’s how I like to cook it:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Add the farro and continue boiling until the grains are mostly tender but still have a slight chewiness to them, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh colander and cool.
One pound of dried farro makes about 6 cups cooked, which you can refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Just transfer it to the refrigerator to let it defrost overnight or all day before using.