Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice:
My niece Holly Sue is a chef. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, many years ago she left a restaurant career to raise her family, but later started a highly successful at-home personal chef business when her boys were approaching middle school age.
Her clients pick up made-from-scratch family dinners twice a week. The waitlist for folks who want to get in on those meals is substantial, filled with the names of hungry households that long for scrumptious food eaten at their own dining tables.
Holly Sue told me that one of her go-to dishes for her family is a vibrantly-seasoned chicken and rice dish from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, “Jerusalem” (Ten Speed Press, $35).
I tasted it and fell in love. The combinations of flavors are both surprising and delicious. Cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom pods come to the party, along with currants, deeply caramelized onions and fresh herbs, ingredients that give the mixture irresistible appeal. If you want, the dish can be made in advance and chilled, then reheated slowly on low heat adding some chicken broth to the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. It’s served topped with a good dollop of Greek-style yogurt and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice
Yield: 4 generous servings
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
2 medium-large yellow onions, halved, thinly sliced
2 1/4 pounds skin-on bone-in chicken thighs, see cook’s notes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 whole cardamom pods
4 teaspoon whole cloves
2 long cinnamon sticks, each broken in two
1 2/3 cups raw basmati rice
1/4 cup currants
2 1/4 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley, divided use
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Optional garnish: 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt mixed with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cook’s notes: I like to trim away excess skin that hangs over the sides of the meat, leaving about a 2-to 3-inch wide piece of skin atop the chicken thighs.
1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large deep skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add onions; cook until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place in small bowl and wipe out pan. Place chicken in large bowl and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons each salt and pepper. Add remaining oil, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon; use clean hands to mix together well. Heat pan again and place chicken (skin side down) and oil-spice mixture in it. Sear chicken 5 minutes per side and remove from pan (this is important because it partially cooks the chicken). Remove chicken from pan. The spices can stay in the pan but don’t worry if some spices stick to the chicken. Remove most of the oil in the pan, leaving behind a thin layer in the pan. Add rice, caramelized onion, 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of black pepper. Add currants and stir well; return seared chicken (skin-side up) in single layer, pushing them down into the rice.
2. Add boiling water over the rice and chicken; cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes. Take pan off heat, remove lid and quickly place a clean tea towel over the pan and seal again with the lid. Leave undisturbed for another 10 minutes. Add herbs, using half of the parsley. Use a fork to fluff the rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot or warm, each serving topped with a good dollop of yogurt and some chopped parsley.
Source: adapted from “Jerusalem” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed Press, $35)