This here isn’t your ordinary chicken and rice.
And I realize that I’m one lucky duck because I was raised on this lovely stuff. I won’t do the other stuff.
Won’t do it.
Let’s talk about this.
Chicken and rice--- so underestimated and so underappreciated. Two beautifully simple ingredients like these should honestly be prepared with the careful intent to bring out the very best flavors and textures that so effortlessly complement each other.
Actually, this is why many of our favorite dishes are also the most simple and unassuming dishes---you can just about discern the ingredients from one another but they also marry very well together without creating a hodgepodge of flavors that just end up tasting like one big mess of a flavor. Simple is always key. Essentially to everything in life, really.
And this is why French cuisine is so wonderful and why it tastes so darn good. And this is also exactly why I revere Persian cuisine. Because generally speaking: Well-balanced, simple flavors + well-balanced nutrition = H³ (Health, Happiness, Harmony)
I picked this recipe up from my Persian Mama when I moved away from home. It’s got incredible flavor, it’s perfect for this time of year, it’s hearty, yet it’s also very simple (Well I found the word of the day!) and light at the same time. I hope you really love this one.
First of all, you’ve got perfectly cooked Persian rice (which just means you cook the basmati rice in a specific way) that’s not sticky, mushy, or really anything like regularly cooked rice.
Persian rice gives a perfect texture, it’s fragrant, it’s super long-grain, and it’s great for any dish. It’ll take your meals from bland to spectacular. Alright, I get that I’m starting to sound somewhat infomercial-ish but I’m dead serious here.
I mean yeah, OK---frankly, I’m trying to sell something here. But it’s not a product. It’s just a method to cooking simply, starting with rice. There’s a reason Persians take such great pride in their rice. So why not give it a try?
For real though, do it already, yeah?
AND, as if you needed more of a reason, the tahdig (crispy rice at the bottom of the pot) is a delicious little crunchy treat to eat alongside your meal too! Persian rice produces this golden crust beneath the bed of fluffy rice that will make your tastebuds sing every time you take a bite. And especially with some of the broth from the chicken spooned over the top of the rice and tahdig---yum for tum! Because the grains of rice have such a great texture, you won’t compromise that with the broth the way you would with any other rice. It’ll just make it happier!
Yurm for turm.
OK! So then you’ve got your rich and juicy, flavor-packed and luscious chicken that’s cooked over the stove in its own naturally released broth. You add a few essentials (onion, turmeric, salt and pepper) and you’re on your way to food paradise.
It’s such a simple dish, but I can’t explain how gorgeous the flavors are together and like I said a bunch and a half, it really is the simplicity of these flavors that makes for such a beautiful meal, done right.
Chicken and Rice (Morgh Polo)
- 3 lbs chicken tenders and thighs, thighs have skin on
- Some ghee for braising chicken and for rice
- 1 white or yellow onion diced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups basmati rice dried
- ½ teaspoon ground saffron mixed into ¼ cup hot water
For the Rice:
- Boil water in a large pot and add plenty of salt (just as you would if you were cooking pasta) and 4 cups rinsed rice. Put stove on med-high heat. Don’t let it over-boil. When the rice is just hard in the middle and soft on the outside (al dente rice!), turn off the burner and drain the rice into a colander.
- Add ghee to the large pot to cover the bottom of it and put on medium heat. Add the rice to the pot, poke some holes with the back of a spatula almost to the bottom of the pot to release steam, and cover.
- When steam rises to the lid of the pot (this is easy to tell with a clear lid, otherwise wait about 5 minutes) remove the lid and add small dollops (about 2 tablespoons or so) of ghee along with most of the saffron-water mixture to the top (the small remainder will be added to the chicken). Replace the lid with a large folded napkin or kitchen towel placed directly and tightly underneath it to catch the steam.
- After about 5 min, put on med-low heat for ~30 min or until the pot sizzles when you splash a couple drops of water on side of it—whichever happens last. You can either carefully flip the rice over onto a serving platter so that you can see the beautifully crisp tahdig (crispy rice at the bottom of the pot) or just serve yourself directly out of the pot, but make sure to dig for some tahdig at the bottom! It’s a treat!
For the Chicken:
- In a large pot on med-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of ghee. After ghee is hot, swirl it around the pot and add in chicken thighs, skin down. Let them cook for a few minutes and then they should be easy to lift up when they’re ready to flip. Cook for a few more minutes on other side and remove them from the pot and onto a plate.
- Cook the chicken tenders the same way and then add back in the chicken thighs and add the onion. Place on medium heat and add turmeric powder, salt, and pepper and move everything in the pot around to coat.
- Add about 3 cups of water to the pot to keep it from burning, mix ingredients around, and place lid on top.
- After 20 min, place on med-low and cook for about another 20 minutes or until chicken is tender.
- Add a bit of the saffron-water mixture on top of the chicken while it’s simmering.
- If the liquid in the pot starts to evaporate, don’t let it dry out. Add more water to replace liquid loss.
- When plating, add this liquid/broth to your chicken and your rice for added flavor.