Peanut Butter and Purple Onions

Sounds crazy until you try it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cinnamon Basil Chicken

As I've said, I love basil and warm spices, so when I saw a recipe putting them together...well. This was going to be a good one.

But I didn't realize just how good it was going to be. Really, even if this sounds a little odd to you, please give it a try. The cinnamon and star anise infuse the chicken and tomato sauce with a wonderful, semisweet savoriness. Then the basil sweeps in at the end to kick everything up a notch. Dreamy.

This is so good, in fact, that I've saved the leftover sauce for mixing with rice or pasta. I can't bear to throw it away!

This is from a wonderful cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld of The Herbfarm Restaurant. Highly recommended -- the pictures are gorgeous, the tips are helpful, and the recipes send you straight to the farmers' market for fistfuls of herbs.

Cinnamon Basil Chicken
Adapted from Jerry Traunfeld's The Herbal Kitchen

Serves 4.

6-8 pieces of bone-in chicken (I like legs best)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T. olive oil
1 lg. yellow onion, sliced into half-moons
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.5 T finely chopped fresh ginger
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, drained of half the liquid
3 three-inch cinnamon sticks
3 star anise pods
1.5 c. torn sweet basil or cinnamon basil, if you can find it

Heat the olive oil in a rather large skillet with a lid on medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then add to the skillet. Cook, uncovered, until the skin turns a lovely deep golden brown, then flip and cook on the other side for a few minutes more. Remove the chicken and set it aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook for about three minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to brown. Pour in the tomatoes and stir to mix. Drop in the cinnamon sticks and anise pods, then stir in 1 tsp. salt. Return the chicken to the pan and wait for the mixture to come to a simmer. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and cook for about 50 minutes, or until the chicken doesn't resist when you poke it with a knife.

At this point, if the sauce is watery, remove the chicken and boil the sauce, uncovered, until it's the consistency you like. At that point, return the chicken to the pan and add the basil, all at once with a grand flourish, and toss to mix. Devour.

* I couldn't find cinnamon basil this time of year, and sweet basil worked just fine.
* I forgot to drain half the liquid from the tomatoes, but no problem -- the sauce reduction step works well.
* I served the chicken with roasted asparagus and a basic green salad -- yum.
* I calculate the Weight Watchers Points for one serving of sauce at 2.5 points. Then add points for however much chicken you eat.


  • At 11:15 PM, Blogger Michele said…

    Sounds DELICIOUS!

  • At 12:45 PM, Blogger BNA said…

    Hiya Michele -- it's catapulted to the top of my chicken list!

  • At 12:34 AM, Blogger e! said…

    Wow, that sounds AMAZING... although I have NO idea what cinnamon basil is...

    Lately, I've been in an anise phase. A lot of Chinese meat dishes (char-siu ish recipes) call for it, and it gives the dish such a distinctive, lovely taste.

  • At 2:26 AM, Blogger Alicat said…

    mmmm...cinnamon and basil sounds like a fantastic pairing :o)

  • At 1:20 PM, Blogger BNA said…

    heya e -- at the risk of talking off the top of my head, cinnamon basil is a basil varietal with darker, purplish stems and leaves. Its flowers and leaves both smell distinctively of cinnamon. And I agree, anise is a remarkable flavor. Love it.

    give it a try,'s awesome!

  • At 8:19 PM, Blogger darlamay said…

    cinnamon basil chicken!?!?! YUM!


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