Even adventurous cooks might pause at the suggestion that cinnamon and chicken could share a happy marriage, but in fact, there are many ways to incorporate cinnamon’s fragrant, woody spice into chicken dishes. Recipes for roasted, stewed, baked, fried, and even barbequed cinnamon chicken are readily available. Some of these draw out cinnamon’s sweet personality with honey, ginger, brown sugar, or other sweeteners; other recipes recall cinnamon’s darker, more savory subtext with minced garlic, curry or green herbs, chili peppers, or even beer.
One way to translate Asian-style cinnamon chicken to the Western barbeque grill is by letting the raw chicken parts rest for a few hours in a marinade composed of vinegar, wine or beer, honey, curry, and ginger, along with a good helping of grated cinnamon and perhaps some finely minced garlic. A low fire and longer cooking time help guarantee that this sweetly flavored dish will remain moist and won’t burn.
Chicken baked with rosemary, oregano, and garlic is another way to interpret the possibilities by dressing it in Italian culinary clothes. This dish is savory and wants only a dash of cinnamon’s perfume. Too much, and the meat is overwhelmed, while the other herbs become meaningless additions.
A garlic, onion, and tomato-based chicken stew with a tease of cinnamon will leave diners wondering where that subtle taste of magic came from. Chicken stew involves two steps; first, chicken, onions, garlic, cinnamon, and other veggies are sauteed, then a richly flavored liquid composed of wine, beer, or broth with tomato paste and fresh or dried herbs like rosemary, oregano, or basil is added. While it’s more time-consuming, the results leave guests begging for more.
Fried cinnamon chicken is another labor-intensive dish, but the results leave diners speechless — a good thing, as a mouth without words has more room for chicken. Fried cinnamon chicken can be made with a buttermilk batter sweetened with sugar and sharpened with a dash of cayenne in addition to the cinnamon, or the sugar can be left out. Battered chicken is coated with flour and sprinkled lightly with a little more cinnamon and rolled in breadcrumbs before frying.
Cinnamon will remember its Middle Eastern roots when it is baked or roasted into a chicken dish that pairs onion and olive oil with dried apricots, yellow raisins, cherries, and prunes. Rough-chopped mint stirred into couscous studded with lightly browned pine nuts is the perfect accompaniment. A light cucumber salad nicely rounds out this meal.