Curling Up With Chicken and Rice

Mother Nature has been less than kind to many parts of the country this winter, which is officially less than a month old. Some folks might say this bad mood of hers has gone too far. Here in Washington state, Spokane has been walloped with record snowfall -- more than six feet of snow since mid-December -- and then the rain came, causing evacuation-strength flooding in large swaths south and west of Seattle. Avalanches, mudslides, the whole nine. Good times.

Chicken and rice makes everything nice. (Kim O'Donnel)

While perusing Facebook, I learn that AMA reader Sara G. is battling “50 mph winds and horizontal snow” in Lincoln, Neb. And over the weekend, I get an e-mail from my gal pal (and college roommate) Susan, who reports from Holden, Mass., where a huge ice storm in late December effectively blacked out the entire town. For a week.

Here in Seattle, we are gray and misty but are far from feeling this kind of Mother Nature-induced pain (unless you count the city’s wretched handling of snow removal last month). Offering you my condolences would do little good, so instead, I’d like to dedicate today’s recipe to those of you getting the short end of the weather stick.

Growing up, you may have had some version of chicken and rice, the one-pot wonder that seems to find its place in cuisines around the world. You may know it as chicken pilaf, chicken pilau, maybe arroz con pollo, but the results are always the same -- more like porridge than stew and the culinary equivalent of shelter from a storm. Best of all, the recipe calls for just a handful of ingredients that you probably already have on hand. And in just an hour, you can turn that weather frown upside down! Keep this one handy for when the next storm strikes. I’m just sayin’…

And please send all chicken-and-rice tales my way, either in the comments area or today at 1 ET for What’s Cooking.

Mom’s Chicken With Rice

Adapted from “West Coast Cooking” by Greg Atkinson

1 3-4 pound chicken, cut up, or 5-6 thighs, preferably free-range
1 tablespoon salt (My suggestion is to use 1 teaspoon salt per 1.25 pounds of chicken; do the math accordingly)
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups aromatic rice, such as jasmine or basmati
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 cup white wine that you enjoy drinking
3 cups chicken broth (I did a mix of broth and water, based on what I had on hand)


Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or equally deep pan fitted with a lid (I used my wok), brown chicken in oil turning them to brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add onion and sauté until soft and slightly browned. Stir in rice, garlic, bay leaf and thyme, then add wine and broth. Bring mixture up to a boil.

Return chicken to pan, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until rice has absorbed the cooking liquid and chicken is cooked through about 35 minutes. Optional but really: Squeeze 1/2 lemon over the entire dish just before serving. Serve hot.

Makes at least four servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  January 13, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Chicken/Poultry , Dinner Tonight
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Thanks for recipe. It sounds yummy. My version is similar, but with a tomato twist. After browning the chicken, I add one chopped green pepper with the onion. I add garlic too. For the liquid I use one canned of drained diced tomatoes and 1.75 cups chicken stock. I also add herbs (thyme, bay, etc) plus some pepper and maybe cumin. Simmer covered until the rice is tender. Yummy!

Posted by: nac1975 | January 13, 2009 9:23 AM

I should have mentioned in my post above that the liquid quantities are for one cup of rice.

Posted by: nac1975 | January 13, 2009 9:24 AM

I make something similar, but to make it a true one-pot dish (and to up the veg count), I take the pot off the heat after the chicken has cooked, add some frozen peas and cover tightly, letting it sit for 5 minutes. I also like to stir in some chopped parsley, chopped garlic and grated lemon zest (a gremolata, if you're feeling fancy) just before serving.

Posted by: jbs280 | January 13, 2009 9:28 AM

Sounds good. I made something pretty similar last weekend, when instead of horizontal snow, which I can attest, we did experience in Nebraska yesterday, we just had a short ice storm. But I used barley instead of rice because we had kind of OD'd on rice that week. Barley was an awesome substitution as it has that same sort of nutty flavor as basmati and excellent chewey texture. It does take longer than rice, though, and needs more liquid. Still, mmmmmmm.

Posted by: khachiya1 | January 13, 2009 11:23 AM

Last night I wanted chicken and rice but didn't have any rice so instead I made a riff on paella using Italian orzo pasta. I sauteed some strips of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in olive oil, removed them from the pan, then sauteed chopped onions, added minced garlic, a grated plum tomato, a dab of tomato paste and some crumbled saffron. Sauteed these for a bit, returned the chicken to the pan, then added a cup of orzo, a can of chicken stock and extra water and some green beans. When the orzo was almost done, I added some coarsely chopped shrimp and at the last moment, some frozen peas. My husband liked it enough to ask how I did it so he can add it to his meal list when he gets to experience a few days alone.

Oh, I had to stir it off and on to keep the orzo from sticking. the orzo would have been too hard to make a nice crust like paella should have.

Posted by: fran426 | January 13, 2009 12:42 PM

chicken and rice: I saw this dish on your blog and wondered -- Have you tried making it in a pressure cooker? That got me through college! Although the rice does get awfully puffy ...

Kim O'Donnel: I don't own a pressure cooker (choice I made due to space limitations), but I'd be curious to hear if fellow pressure cooker-ers have done something along these lines...

Lmthib: Please check your instructions for the cooker before using rice in it. Many of them will be clogged by rice and other "foaming foods" (see the list in instructions). A clogged release valve will cause an explosion. Use a rice cooker or a regular pot to be safe.

I do most of my cooking in my fuzzy logic rice cooker now - measure, fill and go watch tv for 45 - 60 mins.

Posted by: lmthib1 | January 13, 2009 2:16 PM

Lmthib1, thanks for sharing these useful tips!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | January 13, 2009 2:18 PM

Khachiya1, I'm a big fan of barley and could see it working beautifully in this recipe. I like it with lots of fresh lemon juice!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | January 13, 2009 2:20 PM

Strangely enough (considering I am six hours ahead) I just made this for supper.

My kids love this - our variation uses tomato paste and cumin.

Just the thing for a rotten winter day.

Posted by: siro50 | January 13, 2009 3:25 PM

For the rice cooker:

2 chicken thighs
1 rice cup measure
water to line
1 onion chopped
2 T salt
1 T black pepper
2 T chicken stock concentrate
1 can stewed tomatoes (drained or use as water for rice)
1 cup chopped celery, zuccini, squash, or canned veggies (drained) etc

Measure the rice and add water to line
Take the skin off chicken and brown with onions if desired (use 1 T olive oil)
Add tomatoes, and other veggies into pot

Turn on pot and put down lid. Cook until cooker signals. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Suggested veggies or fruit:
apples, corn, potatoes, sw potatoes, any kind of canned beans (white, black, red, chick, etc - drained), pineapple,

Other seasonings:
seasoned salt, cajin, onion soup mix, ginger, ground mustard, cumin, ...

The only thing to limit you is your pantry or imagination. Change the meat, increase the amount of rice...

Posted by: lmthib1 | January 14, 2009 11:32 AM

Here in Lombardy - right next door to the Italian rice fields that enthused Jefferson way back in the 1780s -a traditional mountain chicken and rice dish is "riso alla pitocca" ("stingy rice"): It has the added grace of being fairly rapid. Brown about 1/2 a good sized onion in butter. Add chicken breasts and skinned thighs. Pour over a glass of white wine and cook through, browning well; cut the meat into bite -sized pieces, removing bones. Cook rice al dente in abundant water ( we would use an Italian risotto variety - Arborio, Ribe,Sant'Andrea, or Roma, probably - that does not get "mushy" ). Drain the rice and add to the chicken pieces. Add an herb of choice - perhaps thyme - and a powdering of nutmeg and ginger (not more than a 1/4 tsp. or so) and toss it all together in the butter and onions until the flavors are well blended. Serve hot with grated parmisan.

Posted by: laurie8 | January 16, 2009 12:02 PM

Laurie8, love this! Thanks for contributing all the way from Italia. Can't wait to make this variation.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | January 16, 2009 12:21 PM

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