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Chef's Corner: Spanish Chicken with Saffron, Onions, Pomegranate & Olives

Created by Chef Erik Anderson (from a recipe his mother would make) the origin of this stunning dish can be found in America Farm to Table by Batali and Webster. We found the flavors to linger through the evening and in our minds even to the next day. It's that good! While his recipe calls for a whole chicken, we prefer using only chicken thighs which are tasty and less prone to overcooking. This is our adaptation.

Serves 4. The recipe can easily be cut in half for 2.


Spanish Chicken with Saffron, Onions, Pomegranate & Olives

  • 1 TB kosher salt

  • 2 tsp ground cayenne

  • 1 (3 to 3 1/2 lb). chicken cut into 10 serving pieces OR equivalent such as 8 medium sized chicken thighs

  • 3 TB extra virgin olive oil

  • All-purpose flour for flouring chicken + 1 TB more for the pan

  • 1 scant tsp. saffron

  • 8 cups julienne onions (about 2.5 lbs)

  • 1/2 cup Moroccan olives OR black oil cured olives OR Oven Baked Black Olives (we used Cinqua brand from Howies)

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 1/4 tsp sugar (optional)

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

  • Seeds from 1 pomegranate for serving

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced for garnish

Brining (optional): We like to brine chicken pieces in 1 quart of water mixed with 1/2 cup of salt for about 45 minutes in the refrigerator.

Pat the chicken dry. Mix the salt and cayenne then season the pieces with the mixture. Lightly flour the chicken.

In a large cast iron pan (an enameled cast iron dutch oven works even better), heat the oil until very hot. Brown the chicken pieces (generally 6 to 8 minutes per side), removing each piece to a plate when it is browned.

Add the flour, saffron and onions to the pan. Add any remaining salt/cayenne mixture. Stirring continuously to wilt and lightly brown the onions (about 10 minutes) cook over medium-high heat, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned particles.

Return the chicken to the pan. Add the chicken broth and olives. Bring the broth to a light boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer until the chicken is done, about 15 more minutes. We use an instant read thermometer to check temperature. When chicken thighs reach 180 degrees F., turn off the heat. (If using a whole chicken, we carefully watch when the breast is cooked and remove it while the darker meat continues until it is done.) Taste for seasoning, including adding 1/4 tsp of sugar if needed. Then leave covered to rest, 5 to 10 minutes.

Warm oven proof dinner plates to rather hot (optional, but really helps keep things warm--but be careful).

Divide chicken on the plates. Sprinkle with the cilantro, pomegranate seeds and scallions.

We like to serve it with white rice.

WINE SUGGESTION: A "GSM" (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blend) goes well.

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