Some recipes stick with you. I first saw this recipe over a year ago and I couldn’t shake the romanticism of the idea- rice “jeweled” with spices, dried fruits and nuts. What you see below is a year in the making. A mashing together of things that inspired me. Rice cooked alongside chicken thighs for comfort, greek yogurt for a healthy dose of richness, cranberries for subtle sweetness, in addition to nuts and saffron.
I am currently in possession of excessive quantities of saffron. There was the $5.99 Trader Joe’s bottle that was such a steal and bought on a whim. Then the quart size bag my mother brought back from Bali. A little bit goes a long way so don’t be intimidated by the addition of saffron. Exotic spices such as this, in smaller and more affordable quantities, are easy to find in bulk sections and your local grocery store.
My method for this dish came from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Chicken with Carmelized Onion and Cardamon Rice). Only the chicken and rice are left, I’ve changed everything else. It’s the method itself of cooking bone-in chicken with rice that yields the ultimate comfort food. The addition of greek yogurt adds a creaminess and richness to the dish without the weight that heavy cream would bring. The crunchy slightly burnt bits at the bottom are the best. Make sure to scrap them up as you serve each portion.
Saffron Chicken and Jeweled Rice
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole chicken quartered or ~3 lbs chicken thighs/legs/breast on bone
Salt and Pepper
1 cup greek yogurt (1 or 2%)
1/3 cup pinenuts
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated from whole nutmeg is preferred
1 2/3 cup basmanti rice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Special Equipment Needed: None
Heat the water on the stove until boiling. Turn off heat and crush saffron threads into the water. Let sit 10 minutes. After 10 minutes slowly add the saffron/water mixture to the yogurt starting in small amounts and slowly adding more.
Heat olive oil in a large pan with high sides over medium high heat. Add the chicken skin side down and cook until skin is crisp and golden brown. Turn over and brown on the opposite side then transfer to a plate. Drain fat from the pan leaving about 1 tablespoon of liquid in the pan. Add the pine nuts, nutmeg and rice, stir to combine. Cook until the pinenuts begin to brown. Next add the cranberries, then pour the water/yogurt mixture over the rice. Tuck the chicken back into the rice leaving the skin exposed. Cover the pan and cook over the lowest heat setting for 30 minutes. Transfer to the oven under high broiler for 2-3 minutes to crisp up the chicken skin.
Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Wine Pairing: The subtle richness to this chicken and rice dish may make it a perfect pairing to an oaked Chardonnay. Given the addition of nuts, dried fruit and yogurt this dish had enough body to stand up to red wine. I went a different route and paired with an aromatic Garnacha (Grenache) blend. The low tannins but velvety and rich fruit flavor paired perfectly.