Cooking Class: Spread your wings

By FAYE LEVY
September 28, 2011 16:59

With several festive occasions coming in succession, an aromatic chicken-and-rice dinner seems the perfect choice.




Roasted chicken

Roasted chicken 311. (photo credit: Tirithel/Wikimedia Commons)

On my family’s table, as in many Israeli homes, hot, aromatic chicken with rice is a favorite holiday dish. With several festive occasions coming in succession – Rosh Hashana followed immediately by Shabbat, and a week later the meal before the Yom Kippur fast – chicken with rice can be the perfect choice.

There are many ways to pair chicken with rice. To simplify preparation and serving, some like to cook the chicken and the rice in the same pan, either by baking or by cooking them in water.

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Another popular technique is using a savory rice mixture to stuff the chicken. A third method is to cook the chicken in liquid and use some of the chicken broth to cook rice to accompany the bird.

To cook chicken and rice together and include vegetables as well, you could prepare chicken and rice with eggplant.

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Benny Saida, author of Food of the Balkans (in Hebrew), makes it by first cooking chicken pieces in water. After discarding the skin and bones, he cuts the meat in large pieces and bakes them with rice, fried eggplant cubes, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, hot and sweet paprika, turmeric, nutmeg, ginger and the chicken’s cooking broth.

Nira Rousso, author of Table Talk (in Hebrew), makes a colorful stovetop entree of chicken, rice and vegetables. Her Spanish chicken with rice calls for browning chicken pieces with chopped onion and garlic, and later adding sliced carrots, green pepper strips, frozen peas and tomato juice diluted with water. Once the mixture is boiling, she adds rice, which cooks with the chicken and vegetables. Rousso also adds halved pimento-stuffed olives.

However, if the dish is intended for a Yom Kippur before-the-fast menu, it’s better to omit such salty ingredients.

Poached or, as some people call it, boiled chicken, is customary for the prefast meal in many households. It seems to me that the reason is related to the salt used in koshering chickens. Cooking chicken in water draws out some of the salt, and the resulting chicken is less thirst-provoking.

Poached chicken is suitable not only for the Yom Kippur eve dinner but actually is the basis for quite a few festive dishes that can be ideal for Rosh Hashana and Shabbat.

Following tradition, you would make the dish more festive for Rosh Hashana and less seasoned for the pre- Yom Kippur meal.

A dish that could be good for either holiday is stuffed chicken with rice and ground meat. Gracia Grego, author of Lebanese Cooking (in Hebrew), puts pine nuts and sauteed ground beef in the rice stuffing, which is lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and cinnamon. She poaches the rice-stuffed chicken in water together with vegetables such as artichoke bottoms, chard, zucchini or fried potato cubes. Grego notes that you could also add small rice kubbeh (Middle Eastern meat-stuffed dumplings) at serving time.

Moroccan Jews prepare a similar entree – squab (pigeon) stuffed with rice and ground beef, a dish that can also be made with baby chickens. Fortunee Hazan- Arama, author of Saveurs de Mon Enfance, flavors the stuffing with saffron and nutmeg and braises the stuffed birds in saffron- seasoned water.

A saffron rice and beef stuffing is also good in turkey baked with chicken soup, wrote Rivka Levy-Mellul, author of Moroccan Cooking (in Hebrew). As is, the dish makes a nice main course for the Yom Kippur pre-fast meal, but the finishing glaze makes it ideal for Rosh Hashana. It’s composed of a generous amount of sliced onions cooked slowly in oil, and then simmered to a sweet sauce with honey, prunes and cinnamon.

Even more sumptuous is Levy-Mellul’s rice-stuffed squab. The rice is mixed not only with ground beef but also with raisins, prunes, dried apricots, chopped toasted almonds and walnuts and is flavored with parsley, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and sugar. A honey-saffron glaze and more raisins and almonds complete the Mediterranean feast – certainly a sweet beginning for the New Year.

CHICKEN STUFFED WITH FIGS, ALMONDS AND RICE
Makes 4 servings

Aromatic ground coriander flavors this chicken and its rice stuffing. This dish is delicious for Rosh Hashana or Shabbat.

To make it for the dinner before the Yom Kippur fast, omit the salt when seasoning the chicken and use little or no salt in the rice. Bake the chicken in a deep pan with enough water to cover the chicken by one third to one half.

Spoon the stuffing lightly into the chicken to avoid squashing the rice. To substitute brown rice for the white rice, cook the stuffing for 35 to 40 minutes after the water comes to a boil.

If you prefer, you can cook the chicken without stuffing, and serve the rice beside it.

This recipe is from Faye Levy’s International Chicken Cookbook.

3 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups hot water
2 tsp. ground coriander
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup dried small dark figs, stems removed, quartered
Cayenne pepper to taste
A 1.8-kg (4-pound) chicken

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a deep frying pan over low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add rice and saute for 2 minutes. Add water, 1 tsp. coriander, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook without stirring for 18 minutes or until just tender. Preheat oven to 205ºC (400ºF). Toast almonds in a baking dish in oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Leave oven on.

Fluff rice with fork. Gently stir in almonds and figs. Add cayenne. Taste and season stuffing well. Let cool. Rub chicken with remaining oil and sprinkle it on all sides with salt, pepper and about 1 tsp. coriander. Spoon enough stuffing into chicken to fill it, without packing it tightly; reserve extra stuffing at room temperature.

Set chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and roast until juices come out clear when a skewer is inserted into thickest part of thigh, about 1 hour. If juices are pink, continue roasting chicken a few more minutes. Transfer chicken to a carving board.

Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Heat remaining stuffing in a skillet over low heat, stirring with fork. Or heat in a covered dish in microwave. Spoon into a serving dish.

Serve chicken and its stuffing on a platter. Serve remaining rice mixture separately.

SEPHARDI SPICED CHICKEN RICE WITH LEMON AND MINT RELISH Makes 4 servings

This flavorful, colorful entree is quick and easy to prepare because the chicken is boneless and is a good choice when you need a holiday dish in a short time. The recipe is from The Jewish Heritage Cookbook by Marlena Spieler.

Spieler notes that dark chicken meat, such as thighs, is good in this recipe and less expensive than breast meat.

To vary the recipe, you can substitute pumpkin or butternut squash for the carrots.

If you’d like to make the dish vegetarian, Spieler recommends substituting a 400-gram (14-ounce) can of chickpeas for the chicken; add them to the rice just before the end of cooking.


Lemon and mint relish (see Note below)
250 gr. (9 ounces) boneless chicken, diced
1 tsp. ground turmeric
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 small-medium carrots, diced or chopped
seeds from 6 to 8 cardamom pods
500 gr. (21/2 cups) long-grain rice
250 gr. (9 ounces) tomatoes, chopped
3 cups chicken stock

Prepare the relish: Mix the diced chicken with the turmeric and half the garlic. Heat a little of the oil in a pan, add the chicken and fry briefly until the chicken has changed color and is almost cooked.

Remove from pan and set aside. Add carrots to pan with remaining oil; then stir in remaining garlic, cardamom seeds and rice. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes and chicken stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the rice is tender. A few minutes before the rice is cooked, add chicken and mix in with a fork. Heat through.

Serve with the relish.

Note: Lemon and mint relish: In a bowl, mix 3 diced tomatoes, 1 large handful of fresh mint, chopped, 5 thinly sliced green onions, the juice of 2 lemons and salt to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.

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