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A joke in my household growing up was, "What's for dinner—chicken?" because my mom, great cook that she is, often resorted to Cornish hens for family dinner. She had ways to mix up the flavors and, I will admit, mastered these dishes. In fact, a variation of this recipe made with tender chicken thighs, saffron, and potatoes was a childhood favorite.
When the pan filled with a steaming yellow-gold liquid arrived at the table, I would slip the tender chicken from the bone and slide it inside a toasted pita. Then, I'd snuggle in a few pieces of potato and ladle the lemony juice with a few peppercorns into my impromptu sandwich before taking a massive bite. The spicy peppercorns, creamy potatoes and silky bites of meat infused with lemon and saffron was a combination that I looked forward to as the kitchen filled with the sweet aroma of the cooking liquid that would quickly drip down my hands, onto the plate.
This variation is slightly different as my mom would cook whole Cornish hens, and I opted for quicker cooking chicken thighs that are seared in the pan for super crispy skin and then finish braising in the oven. The potatoes are cooked alongside the chicken so that they soak up the lemon-saffron juice and soften.
Saffron is a pricy ingredient, which is why so little is used—but it goes a long way. Should you find it too much to spring for, opt for a pinch turmeric for the same color but a slightly different flavor.
The dish is saucy, so it's ideal for soaking it up with bread or spooning over rice.