Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Penne with Braised Chicken and Dates

This warm, inviting, flavor-loaded dinner takes a little time, but the ingredients and preparation are simple and easy. Tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken and a rich vegetable- and wine-based broth make a tasty, savory sauce for the pasta. A few chopped dates melt into the broth and add caramelized sweetness—an unexpected flavor bonus in your bowl.

Top the dish with a few shavings of buttery, slightly piquant Manchego cheese for a deliciously eclectic finish.

Note: You can do most of the cooking a day ahead—through step 7, as noted below.

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs medium, bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (6 to 8 thighs)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 oz dates, pitted and chopped (about 1/2 cup chopped dates)
  • 8 oz penne
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
  • shaved Manchego cheese, for serving
Vegetables, Garlic, and Dates
Shaved Manchego and Shredded Parm
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven (or large, ovenproof pot) over medium heat and add the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook until beginning to brown, 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the celery, onion, and carrot to the pot and cook until crisp-tender, 3 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and tomato paste and cook, stirring to incorporate the paste, 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Return the chicken and accumulated juices to the pot and bring to a simmer.
  5. Cover tightly and braise in the oven until the chicken is tender, 1 hour. Uncover and braise 15 minutes longer.
  6. Use tongs to transfer the thighs to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle. Shred the meat and discard the bones.
  7. Place a large sieve over a bowl and strain the broth through it. Use the back of a spoon to press as much liquid as possible from the solids then discard them. (Note: At this point, the strained broth and shredded chicken may be stored in separate containers in the refrigerator overnight. Allow the chilled broth to warm gently to loosen the fattiness before adding the butter, dates, and chicken.)
Chicken Beginning to Brown
Lightly Browned Chicken 
Vegetables Beginning to Cook 
Tomato Paste and Wine Added 
Broth Mixture with Chicken Returned
Braised Chicken 
Shredded Chicken 
Strain the Broth, Pressing on Solids
Strained Broth
  1. Return the liquid to the pot and stir in the butter, dates, and shredded chicken. Cook over low heat to warm throughout, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the penne in boiling, salted water until al dente, 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  3. Add the pasta and reserved water to the pot with the chicken mixture, stirring to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Regianno and basil.
Chicken and Dates Added
Pasta Added 
Basil and Parm Added
Divide among 4 bowls and top with shaved Manchego cheese.

Penne with Braised Chicken and Dates

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