Dinner at My House: Weeknight Fancy Chicken and Rice

I love to cook. I enjoy chopping what needs to be chopped with my favorite knife. I delight in putting all my ingredients into little bowls so they are ready when I’m ready for them. And I like to pour a glass of wine to sip while I stir.

But sometimes I just want to get a meal on the table. I want something that’s quick and easy but still tasty enough that I’m proud to serve it. Weeknight Fancy Chicken and Rice, which I found on the New York Times Cooking is exactly that. And more.

It’s a traditional Southern favorite (chicken and rice) scented and spiced with some favorite ingredients of classic Indian cuisine (turmeric, star anise, green cardamon). That’s the fancy part, and your family will recognize that–even if it’s just “Hey, why is this rice so yellow?” Tell them, “It’s golden, not yellow, and therefore it’s fancy.”

Weeknight Fancy Chicken and Rice was the feature recipe in Sara Bonisteel’s review of chef Asha Gomez’s debut cookbook, My Two Souths:  Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen, written with Martha Hall Foose.

The dish takes less than an hour to make, and here’s how to do it.

Weeknight Fancy Chicken and Rice

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup ghee (or use unsalted butter)

1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

6 green cardamom pods, crushed

3 whole star anise

1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 ½ teaspoons turmeric powder

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

2 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 ½ cups basmati rice

¼ cup chopped dried apricots

¼ cup sliced raw almonds, toasted

¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

PREPARATION

In a medium saucepan with a lid, melt ghee over medium-high heat. Add onions, cardamom, star anise and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and a very deep golden brown, about 15 minutes, lowering heat if necessary to keep from burning them. Add garlic and turmeric; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, or until very fragrant. Add chicken and cook for 4 minutes, stirring to coat chicken with the onion mixture.

Add stock and remaining salt, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Add rice, stir and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice has absorbed liquid, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 12 minutes. Remove lid and fluff rice with a fork.

Transfer chicken and rice to a bowl, taking care to remove and discard cardamom pods and star anise. Garnish with apricots, almonds and cilantro. Serve at once.

Serves 4 to 6.

Note:  If you want to have ghee on hand (and you might since it gives a certain nuttiness to your dish), follow Chef Gomez’s simple recipe for it. Just melt your butter in a pot over low heat. Let it simmer until it foams and sputters. Once the sputtering stops and the milk solids in the pot turn a khaki color, remove it from the heat and skim off the foam with a spoon. Strain remaining butter into a container. Leave any solids behind in the pot. Ghee keeps for up to six months in the refrigerator.

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