Tzimmes was not a dish I grew up, and so the idea of stewed, mushy vegetables with dried fruit has never much appealed to me. I say “idea,” because I am pretty sure I have never actually tasted it. The dish always seemed too sweet to be appealing, even if sweet foods are traditionally enjoyed for the New Year.
But recently, while thinking of new ways to reinvent a few classic Rosh Hashanah dishes, I began thinking about tzimmes. And perhaps with a couple of very liberal (and namely, savory) changes, who’s to say it couldn’t become something newer, grander and much more enticing for a palate like mine?
The result of my experimentation was this: a colorful, show-stopping and completely non-traditional chicken dish. Here, wonderfully savory chicken complements the sweet tzimmes of yore, which I’ve updated by swapping fresh, juicy plums and apricots for their dry, prune-y counterparts, adding sweetly swirled candy cane beets (you can also use red or golden beets), switching out regular carrots for vivid, tri-colored ones and tossing in a handful of golden raisins to be plumped up with aromatic pan juices. Alongside requisite onion, aromatic rosemary and heady cloves of garlic, the striking fruit-and-vegetable mixture roasts in a cinnamon, ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend) and spiked date honey sauce.
Once the fruits and vegetables have softened just a bit, they’re topped by the chicken and doused in a saffron-infused white wine mixture, which saturates the entire dish as all its components roast together, in happy, fragrant harmony.
The result is a colorful, delicious dish with tender fruits and vegetables, bronzed chicken and a saffron-and-white-wine-flavored gravy that puddles at the bottom of the pan and would be splendid spooned over fluffy couscous. Serve this holiday-worthy chicken with even more wine and with shreds of fresh green parsley and watch as even the most vehement of tzimmes haters comes slowly, then speedily around.
For the fruits and vegetables:
- 2 bunches small colored candy cane beets, tops removed, scrubbed and sliced
- 1 bunch colorful young carrots, scrubbed and thicker ones sliced in half
- 4 apricots, halved, some quartered
- 4 big purple plums, halved and some sliced
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced into thick rings
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- chopped parsley, for serving
For the chicken, sauce and saffron white wine marinade:
- 4 chicken bottoms, cleaned
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cups good white wine
- 3 Tbsp date honey (silan)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 pinches cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp ras el hanout
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rub the chicken bottoms with the sea salt and the 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary.
- Toast the saffron threads in a small pan over low-medium heat, for about 3-5 minutes, until they are slightly toasty and fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat, add the 1/4 cup of water and let it sit and turn yellow as the saffron infuses its flavor into the water.
- Combine the cooled saffron water, of which you should have 1/4 cup, with the white wine. Mix and set aside until needed.
- Make the marinade: Whisk the date honey, oil, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and ras el hanout in a large bowl.
- Add the chicken pieces, carrots, onion, cardamom pods, garlic, apricots, plums, carrots, beets, golden raisins and rosemary to the large bowl and toss to combine.
- Remove the chicken and set aside, in a clean, baking paper-lined pan until needed. Spread the fruits and vegetables on a baking paper-lined rimmed baking sheet.
- Pour half of the saffron/white wine mixture onto the chicken and half onto the vegetables. Cover the vegetables tightly with foil. Roast 15 minutes, then remove from oven. Remove and discard the cardamom.
- Remove foil, lower the heat to 400°F and top the vegetables with the chicken and the rest of the saffron/white wine mix.
- Continue to roast until the beets and carrots are tender, the chicken is golden brown and the whole mixture smells absolutely divine, around 40 minutes to 1 hour. (If the fruits and vegetables get too dark, you can remove the sheet tray from the oven, place the chicken in another pan and return that pan to the oven until the chicken is nice and golden, leaving the vegetables out.)
- When the chicken and vegetables are done, transfer chicken mixture to serving platter. Pour pan juices over. Top with shredded parsley before serving.