Rigatoni with Wine-Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream

Doesn’t the name of this dish alone entice you? Even now, after making and eating this meal,  typing the title makes my mouth water. There’s something beautiful about it, lyrical almost. I don’t know if it’s the pasta, the chicken cooked in wine, the saffron-scented sauce, or a combination of the three that I find so alluring.

What I do know is that the end product was every bit as delectable as I’d imagined. Saffron can be prohibitively expensive (especially in Israel – I happened to bring some from home) but this dish is well worth the luxury. The light sauce highlights the delicate saffron flavor and all the other hints of flavor – wine, garlic, onions, lemon, basil – come together for an elegant, complex flavor profile. I promise you, you will be licking the bowl and asking for seconds.

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Rigatoni with Wine-Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream

Adapted from Epicurious.com
Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

INGREDIENTS:
2 to 2½ pounds whole chicken breast, cut into large pieces (or chicken thighs with skin and bones)
Salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped white onions (or a combination of onions and shallots)
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound rigatoni
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
⅔ cup chopped fresh basil
Pepper

METHOD:
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate. Add onions and garlic to drippings in skillet; sauté until onions are slightly softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add wine and saffron to skillet; bring to boil. Continue to boil until liquid is thickened  and reduced by less than half, about 8 minutes. Add 2 cups chicken broth to skillet. Return chicken to skillet; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer gently until chicken is very tender (adjust heat to prevent boiling and turn chicken over after 20 minutes), 30 to 45 minutes total. Transfer chicken to plate and cool. Reserve skillet with juices. Shred chicken meat; transfer to a medium bowl and reserve.

Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; return to pot. Meanwhile, add cream to juices in skillet and boil until sauce is reduced to 2½ cups and is thick enough to coat spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice, then chicken pieces. Stir over medium heat until heated through, adding more broth  to thin sauce as needed and adding more lemon juice by teaspoonfuls, if desired, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken mixture to pasta in pot and toss to coat. Stir in basil. Serve pasta in large bowls and garnish with chiffonade basil.


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