January 9, 2012

Happy once, happy twice, happy chicken thighs with rice.

We don't eat a lot of meat around here, but late last week I had come across a chicken and rice recipe that I've made before and loved, so when Rachel was wondering what our first ingredient for this project should be, I jumped at the idea of chicken. This recipe is a family favorite; suitable for company, but just right for a winter night of comfort food by candlelight for dinner. Num. So good. I got it from a friend, who got it from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy (available here, among other places, I'm sure). This recipe alone makes me want to go out and buy this book. Because honestly, if this is this good, WHAT ELSE IS IN THERE???????

There's really not that much to say about it. It's so good. So delicious. And really, so easy. Try it. Really.

Traditional Chicken and Rice (from 'Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy')

1/3 cup EV Olive Oil
1 carrot
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
2 large cloves of garlic (or 3. I loves me some garlic.)

1 T salt
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 c dry white wine

5 c chicken stock
2 c arborio rice

3 T minced flat parsley
2 T butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c grated Parmesan (do yourself a favor and don't use the green shaker stuff. Go get some from the fancy cheese section)

1)Chop the carrot, onion and celery into approx 1" pieces and put them in the food processor with the garlic cloves. Whir this until it makes a paste (pestata), until the veggies are chopped pretty finely.

2) Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or big pot on medium. When the oil is hot, add the veggie paste. Add 1/3 of the salt (Took me a long time to learn that 1T = 3t, so 1/3 of 1T was 1t. Who knew? Sheesh). Stir the pestata occasionally until it dries out, which should take about 5 minutes. This picture makes it look a little like ground beef. NOTE: I'm not sure if my stove wasn't on high enough or if my veggies weren't big enough, but it took more like 8-10 minutes for the pestata to dry out. It wasn't even quite dry when I got impatient and moved to the next step. Maybe I used too much oil?

3) While that's cooking, chop the chicken thighs into 1"x 1" pieces. Season the chicken with the remaining salt (2t, for the math challenged....). Add the thigh pieces and the bay leaves to the pestata. You want this to cook the chicken a little and let the veggies caramelize on the bottom of the pan some. Adjust the heat for that effect. Cook for about 5 minutes more total. NOTE: My grocery did not have thighs. Just breasts. (heh, heh.) So I used those instead. They worked in this recipe, but THIGHS ARE BETTER. The darker meat gives a more intense flavor all around. If it was the first time I had eaten it, I would have been impressed with the breasts. But having had the thighs......no contest.

4) Add the wine and let it cook down, scraping the bottom of the pan to get the brown bits up and in the liquid. When the wine has mostly evaporated, add the chicken stock and the rice. Bring the pot to a boil and then put a lid on it and turn the heat down. Cook for 14 minutes or until the rice is done. The chicken will definitely be cooked at this point if you've been stewing cubes of it for that long. NOTE: I think my stove wasn't on high enough because this took longer than 14 minutes. Is this the appropriate time to mention my loathing of electric stoves????? AAAAAAAARGH. It was still pretty water-y at 14 minutes. I let it go a little bit longer, and then just stirred the heck out of it and it worked.

5) Add the parsley, grated parmesan and the butter. Stir it up and serve. Top it with more cheese if you like. I think it needs just a touch of salt, too.

Wife rating: Excellent
Preschooler rating: Ate it without complaining. So.....also excellent.

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