Thursday, February 18, 2010

Persian Chicken & Rice - you'll never go back!

A friend of ours invites a bunch of us over for music making, a bottle of wine, and dinner every so often - and we always have a grand time. But, I have never appreciated her hospitality more than last week, when she had us over and served us "Persian" Chicken and Rice!

We walked in the house and dinner smelled.... enticing, a bit floral, and toasty. She set out the dish, and the browned chicken looked lovely nestled in a golden rice pilaf. But it was the first bite, and then the second, that sent me over the edge - I might have actually moaned at the table. Composing myself again, I casually asked (while pouring her another glass of wine) if I could peek at the recipe - she claims to have gotten it from a piano student's mother years ago. The next day, I picked up a fresh chicken and an orange, and I was cooking!

It's actually the rice that is "Persian"... and you could make the rice as a stand-alone side dish. Here's how:
cook 1 1/2 c. jasmine , or other fragrant rice, in lightly salted water until done. (I use 1 1/2 c. rice to 3 c. water and it only took about 15 minutes, once it was simmering under cover)
Peel a nice juicy orange, cut the peel into small (1/8th inch) strips and cook in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and mince; set aside. Eat the orange as an appetizer.
Shred carrots to get approximately 3 cups (I used 8 medium carrots) and saute them in 1/2 c. butter over low flame for 8 - 10 minutes. To the carrots, add the orange zest, with:
1/4 c. slivered or sliced almonds
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8th tsp saffron (I used my tiny tin of threads Amelia brought back from India! If you have no saffron, use a pinch of turmeric for color)
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
cook a minute or 2 longer, then add 1/4 c. water and boil rapidly until it evaporates. Stir in the cooked rice. At this point, you could serve the rice alone, or continue as below for the Chicken and Rice version!
Start with the Chicken first if you want to make this as a combination dish.....
Brown 1 or 2 cut up chicken(s) in a bit of oil. When nicely tanned, add 1/2 c. broth (or water + bouillon) and simmer until the chicken is tender - I kept it covered for most of the time, taking the lid off for the last 5 or so minutes. When rice is finished and combined, pat is into a large, greased casserole dish, and nestle the chicken pieces into the pilaf. Bake, covered, 20 minutes at 375.
We serve it with curried sweet potatoes and spinach - a quick stove top dish that changes every time we make it, but always includes chopped crystallized ginger .

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