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Asha's Lemony Saffron Chicken & Potatoes

Recipe by: Asha Loupy

Serves 4

Asha's Lemony Saffron Chicken & Potatoes
Photo by:  

Asha Loupy

In a Food52 video about her Persian-ish Rice, Samin Nostrat says one of her ideal ways to enjoy it is with poached chicken flavored with saffron, chicken and onions. This stew is inspired by Samin's love for a big plateful of crispy-meets-soggy goodness. Chicken thighs and drumsticks are slowly browned, rendering their fat to create an extra luscious, silky sauce. Plus, a double dose of lemon—slices of caramelized lemon and chopped preserved lemon—adds a bright, lively freshness that pairs beautifully with the rice and a generous dollop of yogurt.

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  • Two pinches of Kashmiri Saffron
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon powdered Guntur Sannam Chillies
  • 2 pounds chicken legs (about 3–4 legs), thighs and drumsticks separated
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Meyer lemons, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 3 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 head of garlic, top quarter cut off
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved (if they are larger than the size of a golf ball, quarter them)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon preserved lemon, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon mild, floral honey, like orange blossom
  • 2–2 1/2 cups chicken stock


  1. Heat a small pan over medium low heat. Turn off the heat, add one pinch of saffron threads let sit for 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pound the saffron into a coarse powder. Add the kosher salt and powdered Guntur Sannam Chillies to the saffron and mix well.
  2. Pat the chicken dry and place on a large plate or baking sheet. Sprinkle the saffron chilli salt over the chicken, making sure to season both sides. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  4. Place the olive oil in a cold cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet. Place the chicken, skin side down in the pan and heat over medium heat. Cook the chicken slowly until the fat begins to render and the skin turns golden, about 10–14 minutes. Don’t rush this step, the rendered fat will make for an extra luscious sauce, plus you don’t want to burn the saffron and chillies on the chicken. Flip the chicken and cook for another 5–8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving the drippings in the pan, and set aside.
  5. Increase the heat to medium high and add the shallots, garlic head, cut side down and lemon slices in a single layer. Caramelize on one side, about 2–3 minutes, and then transfer them to the plate with the chicken.
  6. Add the potatoes, cut side down, to the skillet and brown on one side, about 4–5 minutes. Flip over and add the wine, chopped preserved lemon, honey, remaining pinch of saffron and the reserved caramelized shallots and lemon slices. Gently stir to combine and cook for one minute to burn off the alcohol, making sure to scrape any of the bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. 
  7. Add 2 cups chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Nestle the chicken pieces back into the skillet, skin side up, making sure the chicken is not totally submerged in the braising liquid (you want to maintain that crispy skin), and bake until the potatoes are fork tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 35–40 minutes. Check the chicken halfway through cooking and if the sauce is reducing too quickly, add more chicken stock, a quarter cup at a time.
  8. Serve directly out of the skillet, or transfer the chicken pieces to a shallow serving bowl, arrange the potatoes, shallots and lemons around the chicken and spoon the sauce around the chicken (making sure not to pour it over that crispy skin you've worked so hard to achieve). Enjoy with Samin Nosrat's Persian-ish Rice and plain yogurt.

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