One of the reasons I pop into the kitchen nearly every day is to create or recreate a memory. I feel like… standing over the stove, I can bring back to life a meal, not just in taste, but in feeling, too… like I can feel the heart and laughter inside the food.
It might be that I’m always chasing those good feels or trying to create new good feels in the kitchen. It’s just my way.
This pot of chicken and rice is a memory recreated. My favorite Friday night in Israel a few weeks back was a Shabbat dinner with a friendly family of strangers. Ori and Anna welcomed all of us sun-weary travelers into their home for an incredible table of food (that Anna tenderly mentioned took her three nights after work to prepare).
A big pot of chicken and rice was my favorite dish on the table (before I discovered a lemon pie in the kitchen) and it was only luck that I happened to be seated near the chicken pot for dinner. The dish was spiced with Baharat, a Middle Eastern spice blend that combines black pepper, coriander, cumin, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, paprika, and a few other warming spices. It’s savory and round and brings an incredible comfort-food mood to every dish it touches. Also, no two baharats are the same. Think of all of the differences you may have encountered with garam masala. Spice blends are always unique. (See if you can find Baharat at your grocery. If not, the recipe below includes instructions to make your own version.)
The next day I found Baharat at an old spice market outside of Tel Aviv so I could recreate this dish and it’s warm memories at home. Thanks to Vibe Israel for the incredible introduction to Israel and deep love to Betzavta who so graciously pairs host families with travelers for Shabbat dinner in Israel. If you make it to Israel, you must have Betzavta find you a family to dinner with!
In the meantime, here’s dinner for us. The invitation, of course, is to find some friends (new or old) to share it with.
One-Pot Chicken with rice, lots of spices, a splash of wine and a sprinkle of parsley. It’s simple. It’s supposed to be.
The key is to layer each element of this one-pot dish with seasoning and flavor.
We’ll start with chicken. I’m using boneless, skinless chicken thighs because well… I like them, they’re flavorful and economical and that all lines up in my book.
We’ll season out meat generously with salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and smoky paprika.
In a large oven-proof skillet, add several tablespoons of olive oil and brown the seasoned chicken on both sides. Not until the chicken is cooked through, just until it’s nicely browned all around.
How do you like them? You might like a fine dice. I liked a thick slice for this dish. I like an onion bite.
Slice them however you’d like. The thick slices will just a bit longer to cook down and there’s not a thing wrong with that.
Where there are onions there are garlic. I coarsely chopped my garlic because a) I hate chopping garlic and b) I love bit bites of softened garlic. Win win.
Saute the onions and garlic in a large oven-proof skillet.
We’ll remove the browned chicken from the pan and place it on a plate. Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions and garlic and saute slowly until the onions sweat and start to break down. We don’t need anything to brown we just need everything to soften.
To the softened onion and garlic add a few tablespoons of tomato paste, a few tablespoons of the baharat seasoning, and we’ll stir until the mixture is mixed through and fragrant.
Shake in the rice and stir to coat and toast. I love a rice-in-a-hot-pan-SIZZLE.
To the sizzling mixture we’ll add a good splash or three of white wine.
If you don’t have white wine on hand, a light beer is a good swap.
If you don’t want any booze in the mix, a splash of chicken broth will do a great job of deglazing the pan.
Stir until the wine, beer, or broth absorbs and nestle the cooked chicken back into the pan.
Tuck in a few bay leaves.
Add the chicken stock and see that that all of the rice is submerged. Place the lid on the pot and set it in the oven to cook for 25 minutes.
It feels like magic! The rice puffs to soft, the chicken will cook to fork-tender, and the entire kitchen will smell like dinner.
I served mine with a cucumber tomato salad to bring so fresh flavor and color.
Parsley to top the cooked chicken and rice.