chicken and rice

This weeknight-friendly recipe for chicken and rice is from "Keeping It Simple" by Yasmin Fahr. 

Everywhere in the world where people eat both chicken and rice, you'll find a one-pot dish like this that you can make in a single skillet.

Yasmin Fahr specializes in one-pot dishes. She wrote a column for more than two years on single-dish cooking for Serious Eats, and her new book, "Keeping It Simple" (Hardie Grant Books, $24.99), is packed with ideas and tips for weeknight dinners that don't require a ton of effort.

This dish exemplifies her strategy: Build flavors from the bottom of the pan, cooking individual components that need extra time first and then finishing the rest of the ingredients together. For seasoning, she uses cumin, saffron, lemon juice and black pepper with cilantro (or parsley) on top at the end. It's a simple combination inspired by her Persian roots, but you could use your favorite combo from the spice cabinet.

Chicken and Rice

Growing up in my house, it was very important to both our parents that we ate well and always had dinner together as a family. Inevitably, what was at the center of this dinner was some form of chicken dish. My mother made a chicken stir-fry, a roasted "chicken with greens" (Cornish hens coated in dried oregano and other herbs) and "lemon chicken" (roasted Cornish hens in a lemon and saffron bath with whole black peppercorns and red potatoes). All were served with fluffy basmati rice.

This recipe is inspired by these dishes, as it's a one-pot combination of seared chicken that's finished on top of a bed of lemon-saffron rice. The idea is to get a nice color on the chicken and add some of their rendered tasty bits to the overall dish as they will finish cooking with the rice. As a note, the skin will get a little soft during the cooking process but will still taste delicious. Though the rice ends up being softer than traditional Persian rice, the taste and smell are undeniably as rich and wonderful as my childhood memories.

If you have leftovers, pull the chicken off the bone for sandwiches or to serve on top of salad. For an easy soup, heat low-salt stock with chopped vegetables such as potatoes or carrots, and, when cooked, add leafy greens and shredded chicken to warm up for 5 minutes. If you find yourself chickenless, heat up the rice, crack an egg in it and make a quick fried rice, stirring in baby spinach and serving with sambal.

- Yasmin Fahr

• 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

• 1 tablespoon hot water

• 2 cups low-salt chicken stock (broth) or water

• 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed

• 2 lemons, juice of 1, 1 cut into wedges, for serving

• 1/2 cup fresh parsley or cilantro leaves and fine stems, roughly chopped, for sprinkling

Season the chicken all over with salt, pepper and cumin. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until very hot - less of a gentle, wavy shimmer and more like aggressive lava when you move the pan. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until it easily releases from the pan, and skin is crispy and well browned, about 4 to 7 minutes. (Test the chicken at 4 minutes to check its resistance.) Use tongs to flip and brown the other side, about 3 to 6 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of a small metal or sturdy bowl, grind the saffron and mix with hot water until dissolved.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the chicken stock to the skillet, scraping up anything stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the rice, juice of 1 lemon and saffron water and then season with salt and stir to combine. There will probably be a little fat in the pan, which is great. If it's charred or black, though, rinse it out quickly and add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the rice/stock mixture.

Cover with the lid, bring the liquid to an active boil and then lower the heat to maintain an active simmer. Remove the lid and lay the chicken, skin side up, carefully on top. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, most of the liquid is absorbed and the chicken has finished cooking, about 15 to 20 minutes. Use this time to clean up, set the table and make sure your pepper mill is stocked.

Remove the rice from the heat, fluff with a fork, cover and let it sit for a few minutes while you prep the herbs. Divide between plates and finish with loads of pepper. Top with the herbs and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.

- From "Keeping It Simple: Easy Weeknight One-Pot Recipes" by Yasmin Fahr (Hardie Grant Books, $24.99)

Addie Broyles writes about food for the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas. She can be reached at abroyles@statesman.com, or follow her on Twitter at @broylesa.

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