Think outside the roasting pan with Shabbat chicken dinner

If you notice your family quietly reciting their ABC’s (Anything But Chicken) as they sit around the Shabbat table, perhaps it’s time to rethink your weekly roast chicken.

So, think outside of the roasting pan; a braised chicken can be one of the tastiest dishes I know. The liquids that go into the pot serve as a marinade, and the end product is a savory sauce. I like to borrow flavors from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines to create an aromatic, exotically flavored main dish for Shabbat.

Chicken Provençal | Serves 4

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
4 skinless whole chicken legs
1 fennel bulb — quartered, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 15-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-oz. can whole tomatoes, finely chopped, juice reserved
16 oil-cured black olives, pitted and quartered lengthwise
6 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 tsp. coarsely chopped rosemary
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup water or chicken stock

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter.

Add the fennel, onion and garlic to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans to coat them with the oil; then add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat until the juices thicken slightly, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken and water, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 40 minutes; turn the chicken halfway through. Season the stew with salt and pepper and serve.

Braised Chicken with Onions and Raisins | Serves 4

11/2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups peeled and cubed white potatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup black mission or Calimyrna figs, cut into halves
11/2 cups fresh orange juice, strained
4 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 Tbs. soy sauce

3 lbs. chicken pieces (white and dark meat)
1 tsp. salt
several grindings of black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. paprika
4 1/2 tsp. olive oil

Prepare the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl and set aside.

Prepare the chicken. Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a plate.

Combine the salt, pepper, garlic, allspice, and paprika in a small bowl. Rub the spices into the chicken skin.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the chicken pieces and brown, cooking 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Pour the sauce over the chicken and simmer, covered, over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through and very moist, 30 to 45 minutes.

Serve the chicken pieces over rice, with the sauce spooned on top.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].