Saffron artichoke chicken thighs are roasted to perfection and served with fragrant basmati rice.
The world loves to eat chicken and rice in the form of Mexican arroz con pollo, African Jollof rice and chicken, and everything in between.
The Persian brand of chicken and rice (zereshk polo ba morgh) is especially delicious and near to my heart. Tart barberries (zereshk) are plumped in hot butter and scattered over a mountain of fragrant long grain rice. A mixture of hot water, melted butter and precious saffron is drizzled over the rice and served alongside chicken sautéed with onions and turmeric.
Zereshk polo ba morgh is one of my mom’s specialties and a family favorite in my parents’ home. My mom’s zereshk polo ba morgh, with signature jus spooned over her perfect rice, was inspiration for this dish.
For my own twist I added fresh lemon juice and artichokes to amp up the chicken jus. I replaced traditional onions with shallots for a more subtle allium flavor. Just like mom, I used moist chicken thighs, browning the chicken skin before roasting to keep the skin crisp and yummy.
This dish is easy enough for a weeknight meal and special enough to impress company. Serve with plain basmati rice or with zereshk polo and a side of Greek yogurt.
2, 14-ounce cans of artichoke hearts in water, drained
Juice of 4 fresh lemons
¼ cup hot water
⅛ teaspoon saffron threads, powdered in a mortar and pestle
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Place the chicken thighs inside a large roasting pan in a single layer.
Evenly season the chicken on both sides with kosher salt – use about 1 tablespoon of salt.
Place the salted chicken skin side up, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight or at least 1 hour.
Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven (or other heavy bottomed sauce pan) over medium-high heat until the oil begins to ripple, about 3 minutes.
Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, in a single layer. The chicken should sizzle upon contact with the pan otherwise remove the chicken and continue to heat the oil a few minutes more.
Cook the chicken until the skin is golden brown and crisp, 5-8 minutes- move the chicken to a plate. You don’t need to sear the other side because you will roast the chicken in the oven.
Combine the hot water and saffron in a measuring cup, stir to combine and allow the saffron to steep.
Once you’ve seared the skin on all the chicken pieces and moved them to a plate, add the shallots to the empty pan along with ½ teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the shallots are soft and just starting to brown, 3-5 minutes.
Add the cooked shallots, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, saffron water, and garlic to the roasting pan. Mix to combine.
Add the seared chicken thighs (skin side up), and their juices, to the roasting pan with the artichokes. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the plastic wrap and roast the chicken for 30-40 minutes until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees and the juices run clear.
Halfway through baking, add a dab of butter to the skin side of each chicken.
Serve the chicken with basmati rice, spooning the artichokes, shallots, and jus over the rice.