Today’s weather, okay let’s be honest the weather for the last few weeks has been damp with that distinctive chill in the air. The type that makes you feel cold, urging you eat something warm and delicious, but must be easy. This One-Pot Autumn Chicken and Rice is just that. It is truly spectacular. Oh, did I mention this is easy?
I have distinctive memories about the aromas and flavours of this meal. Rice was a rarity at my house, probably because my Dad was not a fan of rice and really was a roti, bread, and potatoes kind of man. So my Mom would make this dish when company, the extremely special kind, was visiting. That list included her father, my Nana ji.
My Nana ji was everything to my mom. Their bond was inexplicable, one thing is for sure, my Nana ji softened my Mom. While he was alive and visiting, my Mom would have a child-like quality about her whenever he was around. They laughed, joked and had deep heart to hearts. More so, he would also have loving conversations with my Dad, who saw him more of a father than father-in-law. Nana ji sadly passed away in 1999, but he left an indelible mark on our family.
He was cute, slim, and had the most distinctive and lovable laugh imaginable. If I am perfectly honest, he reminded me of Bugs Bunny. He wasn’t fussy, especially about what he was eating. However, my Mom, who expresses love through food, would spend hours preparing dish after dish for him. She made this one pot creation for him because he was a fan of rice, moist chicken, and always wanted to eat something that quelled the chill in his bones.
Okay so this dish is an easy one pot meal that merges perfectly cooked Basmati rice, very tender chicken and delicious aromatics: caramelized onions and garlic, along with fresh cilantro. I should have a quick disclaimer here, I LOVE one pot meals, because of their ease. Seriously, who wants to wash stacks of dishes. Really though, I love how the rice soaks up all of the chicken juices and the caramelized goodness.
Now I would be a fool if I thought this was some new fangled dish. Essentially, variations of chicken and rice are made globally. However, those countless variations don’t offer the cumin, bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and cloves that makes this one so fragrant. They also don’t have garlic and onions sliced thinly and fried, until they turn brown and caramelize.
So how does this one-pot magic happen? The ingredients initially take turns in the pan (this is when the chicken should be browned), the onion and garlic sautés, then the rice gets a glossy coat, until finally all three come together, along with whole spices and leaves to simmer, covered without any fuss.
Then the magic happens. The rice slowly absorb the stock and become tender in about the same time as the chicken becomes moist and cooked through. Sprinkle with cilantro, fluff with a fork and voila, deliciousness.
For me, this dish can be compared to an Indian or Pakistani biryani, even an Iranian tadik (rice with a delicious brown crusty layer). In fact, this could be done here as well if you wanted to add a textural element to this creation. I would suggest serving this with a peppery arugula salad and some yogurt beaten with extra virgin olive oil, maybe even some pomegranate seeds.
Next time I’ll add an additional onion and brown the chicken with its skin on. This recipe makes enough chicken for four hearty servings. Since the rice is heady with spices and aromas, I suggest you eat any leftover rice with just poached or fried eggs.
Reminder: Remove the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and cloves before serving, they are not meant to be eaten.
One-Pot Autumn Chicken and Rice
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 whole chicken (cut into pieces)
5 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp whole cloves (rounded)
1 long cinnamon stick, broken in 2 or 3 pieces
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
2 teaspoons of garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 1/2 cups of basmati rice
5 cups stock (heated)
handful of cilantro, chopped
salt and fresh cracked black pepper
In a large sauté pan for which you have a lid over medium heat. Add the oil and onion, and cook for 10 minutes, and then add garlic stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic has turned a deep golden brown. Add bay leaves, cardamom, cloves,cinnamon, cumin, garam masala, coriander. Season with salt and pepper. Add rice and cook until glossy and coated. Add in chicken pieces and coat with mixture. Pour the stock over the rice and chicken, allow to come to boil, then cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 40 minutes. Finally, add the cilantro and use a fork to stir them in and fluff up the rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.