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Many years ago I was a “white meat” snob. I claimed to not like dark poultry meat. I knew dark meat was generally juicier, less dry, and more flavorful, but I went with the thought that “ladies” eat white meat.  I am not certain where I came up with that, maybe something to do with dieting and the fact that white meat does have less fat and calories.

But honestly, there isn’t a huge difference. One-half cup of chicken breast has 129 calories, 5.2g fat, and 52mg cholesterol. One-half cup dark meat has 135 calories, 6.3g fat, and 61mg cholesterol. So, once in awhile it really is OK to eat a chicken thigh or leg quarter, especially when it’s in your freezer and you are diligently working on cleaning out that freezer. When am I NOT trying to clean out the darn freezer? It’s a never-ending battle.

This pasta chicken dish made me happy that I had that chicken meat stash.  Feel free to sub white meat for the dark, but trust me, it’s darn tasty with the juicier, moister, and more flavorful thigh meat!

Pasta with Dark Meat Chicken and Creamy Saffron Sauce

3 chicken leg quarters (attached thighs and legs) with skin and bones
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups peeled and diced onion (red, white, green; whatever you have on hand)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 cups dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup fat-free or regular half-and-half
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup cherry tomato halves
1 pound farfalle (bow-tie) pasta, cooked al dente
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Generously season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to skillet, skin side down, and cook until golden, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate.  Discard all but 2 tablespoons dripping from the skillet.

Add onions and garlic to drippings; sauté until onions are soft and translucent, about 7  minutes.  Add wine to skillet and bring to a boil.

Place saffron threads in the palm of your hand and crush, add to skillet. Continue to boil until liquid is thickened and reduced by half, about 7 minutes.  Add 2 cups chicken broth and return chicken to skillet; bring back up to boil.

Reduce heat to low a low simmer. Cover; simmer gently until chicken is tender and cooked through, turning over after 25 minutes, cooking for about 50 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a clean plate and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Reserve skillet with juices. Remove skin and bones from chicken and discard. Tear chicken meat into bite-size pieces; place in a medium bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, spoon off fat from juices in skillet and discard fat. Add half-and-half to juices in skillet and boil until sauce is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, cherry tomatoes, and chicken pieces. Stir over medium heat until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to chicken mixture in skillet and toss to coat. Stir in basil and serve.

Serves 6

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