Adobe Stock / timolina
“This makes a great family dinner,” says Marie Rama, co-author of Bacon Nation. “You’ve got orange juice, honey, cinnamon, and ginger — all this wonderful Middle Eastern flavor — and then you add bacon, and you say, ‘Wow — this is better.’ ”
6 slices thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 organic chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into 10 pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, if necessary
3 medium-size cloves garlic, minced
1 strip (3 by 1 inch) orange zest, finely chopped
2 large pinches saffron threads
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 star anise point
About 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice (from ½ navel orange)
2 tablespoons honey
1 bay leaf
12 pitted prunes
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
Couscous or quinoa (optional), for serving
Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned and most of the fat is rendered, 7 to 10 minutes, stirringoften and adjusting the heat as necessary. Using a slotted spoon,transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour all but about 1 ½ tablespoons of the bacon fat into a small bowl andset it aside.
Heat the bacon fat in the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add theonion and stir to coat it with the bacon fat. Add 1 tablespoon of the chicken stock, cover the Dutch oven, reduce the heat to low, and cook the onion until it is very soft but not browned, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
As the onion cooks, trim any excess fat off the chicken pieces. Run the chicken pieces under cold running water and pat them dry with paper towels. Season the chicken lightly with salt (the bacon will also impart salt) and black pepper to taste. Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, about 1 minute. If necessary, addenough olive oil to the skillet to measure a total of 2 tablespoons.Working in batches so as not to crowd the pieces in the skillet, brown the chicken until golden, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate.
When the onion has cooked, add the garlic and orange zest to the Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the saffron, crushing it first between your fingers, and the cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper, and star anise point. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the orange juice, honey, bay leaf, and the remaining 1 cup and 3 tablespoons of chicken stock, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Scatter the prunes and drained bacon over the onion mixture. Add the browned chicken and any juices on the plate. Cover the Dutch oven, let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the chicken simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the butternut squash and let simmer until the squash is tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. The chicken is cooked when an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching a bone, registers 165 degrees F.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, and squash to a serving bowl and cover the bowl with aluminum foil to keep warm. Using a large spoon, skim the fat off the surface of the pan juices. If the pan juices are more than about 1 cup, let themboil for a few minutes to concentrate them. Remove and discard the bay leaf and anise point and pour the pan juices over the chicken before serving it with couscous or quinoa, if desired.
â€‹NOTES: To remove the zest from the orange, run a vegetable peeler or a paring knife from the stem to the blossom end, removing as little as possible of the bitter white pith under the orange-colored peel. Then, finely chop the zest. To remove a point from a star anise, using your fingers simply snap it off the whole anise star.â€‹