Thursday, June 19, 2014

Quick One-Dish Dining with Cauliflower and Chicken

I don't mean to break out the violins or start wailing "Woe is me!" here, because, when you get right down to it, we're pretty darn lucky to have the bounty of seasonal produce that is coming into the farmers' markets and to have terrific local supermarkets that fill in the gaps. But sometimes I envy those who can reach into their cupboards and break out a box of macaroni and cheese or Hamburger Helper for those nights when you need to get dinner on the table pronto.

But really, even those "instant" dinners require at least a half hour of prep and cooking, especially if you're adding a salad or vegetables to the mix. Fortunately—or unfortunately, if you think about it—I don't actually like the bland, dusty, overly salty taste of most of these convenience foods, so my solution has been to come up with quick, one-dish dinners that I can throw on the table in short order, not to mention actually feeling good about feeding them to my family.

This one was a what-do-I-have-on-hand solution when I'd just hit "send" on my story about Ben Meyer and looked up to see Dave walking in the door after a hard day at work. Oops. So I rummaged through the freezer, found some chicken thighs I'd stashed in there, opened the veg bin to find a head of cauliflower and pulled a can of tomatoes out of the pantry.

Just about 45 minutes later we were sitting down to what turned out to be a dish we'll be having again* even when I'm not in a rush!

Spanish-style Cauliflower, Chicken and Tomatoes

1/4 tsp. saffron threads
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. chicken thighs, cut in 1” pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)
2 bay leaves
1 28-oz. can tomatoes
1 head cauliflower, separated into small florets
10-12 green olives, sliced crosswise into 1/8” slices  (I used Spanish anchovy-stuffed olives)

Place saffron threads and salt in the bowl of a mortar and pestle and grind the saffron threads into the salt with the pestle. There’s no need to pound it…the sharp edges of the salt crystals will do most of the work for you.

Pour oil into a deep skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken and brown, turning pieces occasionally. Add onion and garlic and sauté till tender. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to keep it at a steady simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice.

* Next time, assuming I'm not pulling this together at the last minute, I'm going to add chopped Spanish-style chorizo to the sauté. Even more delicious and totally company-worthy.

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