There are some recipes that I have enjoyed ever since I was a child and that I will continue to make until I am no longer able to. These are recipes that stand the test of time. There are some recipes that over time, get changed, or ingredients added, or they become modified. Not this recipe. Never a change, and never a need to change. (OK, I did make one change, but it is really not necessary. (Lets see if you can spot it. Hint – I add wine to everything).
It’s funny, but it’s almost as if the energy of my mother comes around every now and again and says “You know, you haven’t made this for a while and I have a taste for it”, because out of the blue, I will need to make that recipe, like now!
I had one of those moments this past week. It has been a while since I made this dish, and making it brought back a flood of memories. I swear the food tastes better when I draw from these memories and I am over flowing with the spirit of family, and of course, love. So, despite the fact that I may need to get to the market, this recipe is happening tonight! My mom requested it 🙂
This is one of a select few that my mother typed out, and I love when she tells her story of how the recipe came to be. In the case of my mother’s infamous “Spanish chicken and rice” it was a restaurant inspired dish, that brought forth a new food experience for her, and it would develop and grow into something that she would make quite often after discovering it. I’m talking about rice.
My mother said the only way they had rice in her household growing up was in rice pudding. Once she discovered what she was missing out on, there was no stopping her. There were many casseroles, one pot meals, skillet dinners, etc. that revolved around rice, but this one has to be one of the all time family favorite. I knew immediately when she was making this as the smell of saffron filled the house.
It starts with some basics – Chicken (whole cut up) skinned and de-fatted. I can get natural chicken already skinned in the form of legs and thighs, and I also think this recipe works best with dark meat, so that’s what I used. The thighs were boneless and worked fine. I would have preferred the bones in. Just rolling with the punches.
Another modification (due to what I had in the house) was canned whole tomatoes rather than fresh. Along with tomatoes, also needed are some other basics like onion, green pepper, garlic, rice, saffron, chicken stock, bay leaf, a little flour, some green peas, and of course seasonings. This recipe goes quickly. The longest part is browning the chicken, the rest of the recipe goes very quickly so have the ingredients prepped and ready.
This recipe used two pans, only because I transferred it to a very large casserole pan, as I was once again feeding an army (not really, only three people). But that is the beauty of this recipe, it gets thrown into a casserole or dutch oven and the cooking happens in the same pot. It can easily be downsized or multiplied to a larger batch (if you really do have to feed an army). If you brown the chicken in a dutch oven and set aside, you can use that same pan for the vegetables, transferring the chicken back and the whole thing can be made with one pot! I love that! (I am the head dishwasher, can you tell?)
Anyway, to continue….
I could have done these next steps simultaneously as the recipe directs, but again, I opted for using only one pan. So, I thought it made the most sense to start with the rice and vegetables so as the chicken browned I could place the pieces on top of the rice, as the recipe states. You can reverse these steps, which I think would add additional flavor from the browned chicken, but any of these ways are successful. Tips and tricks are always helpful, yes?
So, I started by warming the oil in the large, deep, skillet. Then I added the chopped onion, along with a little salt and pepper. Once soft, I added the rice and the garlic. I let the rice begin to toast (slightly). At his point it was necessary to add some liquid, but rather than do the next step, I deglazed with some white wine, a generous glug, glug, glug., and allowed that to simmer just a few minutes until the liquid was gone. I added 1 scant tsp. of salt for each cup of rice and 1/4 tsp. or more of fresh ground pepper (my chicken stock was salted). Next I added the tomatoes (I grabbed them from the can, gently squeezed to extract extra liquid and crushed into pieces by hand. Next I added the green pepper and bay leaf. Then I put the mixture into my casserole and began browning the chicken.
Once the chicken is browned, place it on top of the rice.
To the same pan that I browned the chicken in, I added the chicken broth and saffron. Once it comes to a boil I pour it over the chicken. Then I cover the whole thing loosely with foil and place it in my 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or so. I opted to bake an additional few minutes without the foil. The recipe states to bake it for about 45 minutes, but since I made mass quantity 🙂 I gave it an additional few minutes, as there is nothing worse than either crunchy rice, or soupy rice. It is very easy to take a fork and test the rice at 45 minutes.
During the last few minutes of baking, cook the peas in a little butter. I used a bag of frozen peas. When the casserole is done pour the peas over the casserole and if you like you can garnish with chopped pimento for more color.
This is truly a one pot (pan) meal, so all it needs is a nice leafy salad, and if you like, a piece of crusty bread.
Here is my mom’s recipe –