A Great All-In-One Dish for Busy Weeknights

Chicken with Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Spinach 2Everyone does it! We pick up the phone and call for take-out when our lives are so rushed there’s no way we can get homemade food on the table. I confess that I have the neighborhood pizza place and the near-by Mexican restaurant on speed dial for weeknight emergencies. The truth is, though, that I’m never thrilled with these quick fixes. I’d much rather be pulling something fresh from my fridge to heat up — something like Chicken with Tomatoes, Chick Peas, and Spinach, a new dish I created recently.

Here is a recipe that wins on more than one front. It’s simple to prepare, calls for easily found ingredients, and holds up well when made a couple of days ahead. Oh, and did I mention that it’s healthy and inexpensive too! You simply season chicken thighs (with or without the skin, your choice) with basil and oregano, then brown them along with chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Next, the thighs and vegetables are simmered in stock, tomatoes, and wine about 45 minutes until tender. Finally, you stir in chickpeas and baby spinach and cook only minutes more.

I’ve made this dish several times over the past month, and found that I can cook it to the point where the chickpeas are added, then refrigerate it. At serving time, I pull the skillet from the fridge, place it on a burner to heat up, and stir in the fresh spinach. Although I like to serve this colorful mélange with some quickly sautéed polenta rounds or with pasta, it can easily stand alone as a main course. Voilà–an answer for those chaotic days when you crave new, interesting fare instead of predictable, lackluster take-out!

Chicken with Tomatoes, Chick Peas, and Spinach
8 bone-in chicken thighs (3 to 3 1/2 pounds total), with or without skin, trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped carrots
1/3 cup chopped celery
4 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken stock plus extra if needed
6 tablespoons dry white wine plus extra if needed
One 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 to 5 ounces baby spinach
Olive oil for sautéing
1 to 1 1/8 lb roll of pre-cooked polenta, cut into 1/2-in rounds (see market note)

1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. In a small bowl combine the basil, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Reserve half of the seasoning, and use the rest to season the chicken thighs on both sides.

2. Heat the oil in large, heavy frying pan (with a lid) over medium heat. When very hot, add the thighs in a single layer, and sauté them until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes or more per side. Remove to a plate. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pan and sauté, stirring, until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, remaining seasoning mixture, and red pepper flakes and stir 1 minute more. Then add the tomatoes, stock, wine, chicken thighs and any juices that have collected on the plate.

3. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until the chicken is fork tender, turning once, 35 to 45 minutes. (The liquids will have cooked down, but not thickened; if you want more sauce, add an extra 1/2 cup stock plus 2 tablespoons wine to the pan.) Stir in the chickpeas and cook 2 minutes. (The dish can be prepared ahead 2 days ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.) Stir in the spinach and cook, uncovered, just unit it wilts, 2 to 3 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

4. For the polenta heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large, heavy frying pan in a thin layer. Place over medium heat and when hot, add enough rounds to fit comfortably in a single layer. Sauté until hot and just taking on some color, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining rounds.

5. Serve the chicken in shallow bowls over polenta rounds. Serves 8 with one thigh or 4 with two thighs.

Market note: Pre-cooked polenta is often not refrigerated and can be found in the pasta aisle at the super market.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2013

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