Chicken Braised in Cinnamon and Cumin with Tahini

Chicken Braised in Cinnamon and Cumin with Tahini

This text and recipe is posted from the book LEMON, LOVE & OLIVE OIL by Mina Stone. Copyright © 2021 by Asimina Stone. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission. 

Photo by Cassandra MacLeod.

From the author: 

The warm and aromatic flavors of this dish envelop you in a cloud of comfort as they float through the house. It is a saucy chicken dish, simple yet full of flavor, with spices that are very Greek but also incorporate a visit to the Middle East. I like to serve this with whipped lemony tahini as a contrast to the sweet, spicy flavor of the tomato sauce. A side of buttery Basmati Rice with Cumin Seeds, Cinnamon, and Butter is a perfect pairing.

Serves 4 to 6


For the chicken:

1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces (cut the breasts into 4 pieces; reserve the wings and backbone for another use)
1 large yellow onion, sliced into half-moons
1 head garlic
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 (28-ounce / 794-g) can whole peeled tomatoes
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, chopped, for garnish

For the tahini:

½ cup (120 ml) tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup (60ml) water

Generously season the chicken pieces with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil into a large pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin-side down, and sear until golden brown, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Reduce the heat to low and add the onions and a good drizzle of olive oil. Cook the onions for 1 minute, adding a splash (about ¼ cup) of water to scrape up the golden bits from the bottom of the pan. Slice off just the top of the head of garlic so the cloves are exposed. Remove most of the loose papers around the garlic. Add it whole to the pan with the onions, then add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and cumin.

Cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and sugar. Add the chicken pieces, skin-side up, and just enough water so that just the top of the chicken pieces peek through the sauce. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 60 minutes, until the sauce is thick and the chicken is very tender and soft. The sauce should have the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thin, remove the lid for the last 10 minutes of cooking in order to thicken it. Allow to cool, taste, and add more salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary.

To make the tahini: while the chicken is cooking, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, water, and a pinch of salt until the sauce is thick and creamy. I like to serve this dish with the tahini in a bowl alongside the chicken, or spread as thick layer on the bottom of a serving dish with the chicken spooned on top. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro and serve.

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