rice

Iranian Chicken in Walnut-Pomegranate Sauce

Fesenjoon

As Parivash Rohani, from Ardestan and Shiraz, Iran, taught Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine, March 2016

Serves: 8
Cooking time: 2 hours active + 2 hours soaking rice

Ingredients


For chicken in walnut sauce:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 Tbsp + 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp + 1/8 tsp powdered saffron (Iranian saffron preferred)
  • 1 lb. walnuts
  • 17 oz. pomegranate molasses
  • 1-6 Tbsp sugar, depending on the sweetness of your Pomegranate molasses (sometimes it has sugar in it, sometimes not)

For saffron rice:

  • 4 cups basmati rice (Aahu Barah super sela brand preferred)
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 dash rosewater (optional)

For Shirazi salad:

  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cucumber
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp sumac
  • 3 Tbsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil

Equipment

  • food processor or blender
  • large bowl
  • measuring spoons (or eyeball it)
  • 2 large pots with well-fitting lids
  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • mixing spoon
  • liquid measuring cup
  • spatula
  • salad bowl
  • serving bowl
  • large serving platter
  • small plate or 2nd mixing spoon
  • strainer
  • medium bowl
  • tea kettle or small pan
  • small glass or ceramic dish

Instructions


1. Two hours or more ahead time, put the basmati rice in a large bowl, add 4 tsp salt, and cover the rice by a couple inches with cold water.

2. About two hours before you want to eat, cut onion into small dice. In a large pot with lid, saute onion in 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium high heat until soft. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Add chicken pieces to the onions and saute until golden. Add salt, pepper, and 1/8 tsp powdered saffron, and 2 cups of water. Wash cutting board, knife, and anything else that touched raw chicken with soap and water.

3. In a separate small glass or ceramic dish, cover 1/8 tsp powdered saffron with 1/3 cup hot water and let steep.

4. In food processor pulse walnuts in batches into a fine meal. You might throw in a tablespoon of sugar to help. Mix the ground walnuts into the chicken, along with 17 oz. pomegranate molasses. Mix. Add more water if you need to so the texture is loose and soupy. Cook this mixture on medium with the lid on, stirring occassionally, for about an hour until the liquid thickens into a thick sauce (think like the meat sauce on your spaghetti).

5. While the walnut sauce is cooking, peel the potatoes and slice into planks about 1/4 inch thick. Put potatoes in a bowl and cover them with water (so they don't turn brown before you use them).

6. After the walnut mixture has cooked for about 30 minutes, strain the soaking rice and put it in a large pot that has a lid. Cover the rice by 2 inches with water. Bring rice to a boil, and let it continue to boil like you would pasta - for about 10 minutes. When the rice still has a hard center, but is softening on the outside. Drain the rice in a strainer.

7. Cover the bottom of the pot that you used to boil the rice with olive oil and make a layer of potato planks in the oil. Pile the strained rice on top of the potatoes. Use the back of the spoon to create vertical holes in the rice, which presumably help the moisture get around evenly. Nestle the small dish of steeping saffron water on top of the rice. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the rice. Cover the pot and heat on low for about 30 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked and the potatoes on the bottom are crispy and golden.

8. Keep stirring the walnut sauce every so often. Taste it. It should taste tangy and delicious. If it's too sour, add more sugar. A little sour is good because it goes well with the rice.

9. Prepare the salad. Cut up lettuce, dice cucumbers and tomatoes and put in a bowl. Sprinkle sumac and dried mint generously to cover the top of the salad. Sprinkle salt as desired. Squeeze the juice of a fresh lime over the salad. Drizzle olive oil on top as you wish, about 4 Tbsp.

10. Taste rice to see if it is soft. When it is, fill the dish of saffron-water completely with rice and put it on the counter. Scoop most of the rest of the rice onto a large serving platter. Keeping the bottom layer of rice and potatoes in the pot for a minute.

11. Spread the saffron-soaked rice from the small dish over the top of the rest of the rice so the platter of rice looks beautiful yellow.

12. Fill a large wide bowl or your sink with cold water. Submerge just the bottom of the rice pot in the cold water for about 30 seconds. This helps the crispy rice and potatoes come up. Now loosen the fried potatoes and fried rice in the bottom of the pot with a spatula and put them on another platter.

13. Transfer chicken in sauce into a serving bowl. Serve yellow rice, crispy rice and potatoes, chicken in walnut sauce, and salad family style on the table. When making individual plates, Parivash likes to scoop the fesenjoon right on top of her pile of yellow rice.

If you like this dish, try it with lamb or beef meatballs instead of chicken.

Congolese Fried Tilapia

With Yellow Rice and Red Sauce

As Ariane Kambu Mbenza from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, taught Lindsay Sterling in Yarmouth, ME, in May 2013.

Makes: 8 servings
Cooking Time: 1 hr 15 min + 6 hours marinating
 

Ingredients

  • 2.5 pounds whole Tilapia with the skin on
  • 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp + 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 + 2 + 2 Maggi cubes (for no msg, use 1 tsp Better than Bouillon per Maggi cube)
  • 2 Tbsp + 1/2 cup + 2 cups vegetable oil or red African palm oil
  • 2 pounds carrots, peas, and green beans cut into bite size pieces (she used a frozen medley)
  • 4 cups basmati rice
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp super hot dried chili powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 cloves or 2 Tbsp chopped garlic 
  • 16 oz. tomato puree

Instructions

Day Ahead:

1. Marinate the fish. Cut heads off 2.5 pounds tilapia and slice across fish into individual portions. Rub fish with oil, 1 Tbsp parsley, and 2 crumbled Maggi cubes. Let marinate for 6 hours or over night.

Day of:

2. Shallow-fry the fish. Fill a fry pan 1/4 inch deep with oil. Bring oil up to medium-low heat. Gently place fish pieces in oil with plenty of space around each (if the pan is crowded, the skins won't get crispy). Let fish cook slowly (about 20 minutes) so you don't burn the outside while the inside is still raw. I would say she had her heat on medium low and her fish cooked for 10 minutes a side. The skins were golden all around and crispy. Delicious!

3. Saute rice and veggies with seasonings. Cover the bottom of a deep, large saute pan or soup pot (with lid) or rice cooker with oil. Add 2 pounds frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans) and saute until thawed, or add fresh vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes. Put 4 cups basmati rice in a bowl, cover with water, and drain. Cover with water again and drain. Add rice to the vegetables and stir in 2 tsp parsley, 2 crumbled Maggi cubes or 2 tsp Better than Bouillon, 1 tsp black pepper, 2 tsp turmeric, and 3 Tbsp butter. Stir and let cook on medium-low for 30 minutes, stirring every so often.

4. Boil the rice. Separately heat up about 7 cups of water water (for adding to the rice later). I think cooking the rice without the water allows the grains to soak up the oil, flavored with all the things you put in it. I also suspect that it helps the grains stay separate, and not get all mushed together. After 30 minutes, add enough hot water to cover the rice by 1/4 inch (this is less than you would for plain rice because those veggies don't suck up water, quite the opposite - they provide moisture!) Cover and let cook on low for 15 minutes.

5. Make the tomato sauce. Pour enough oil in a small saute pan to be about 1/4 inch deep and add sliced onion. Saute on medium-low for 20-30 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp chopped garlic. Continue cooking. You don't want to brown the onions, just get them softer and softer, so adjust your heat accordingly. Add 16 oz. tomato puree, 1 Tbsp parsley flakes, 1/2 tsp dried piri piri or birds-eye chili powder (lighter in color and much hotter than the chili powder at your American supermarket). As the onions continue to cook they will disintegrate into the tomato puree. Disappearing onions is the secret to the sauce! Add 2 crumbled Maggi cubes or 2 tsp Better than Bouillon. Sauce is done when onions have disappeared and the sauce is smooth. (FYI, this sauce is great with rice, fried, chicken, potato, seafood, anything!)

6. Serve a big pile of rice on half the plate. Next to that, a nice piece of fish, and a pile of the red sauce on the last third of the plate.

Dominican Rice and Beans

As Angel Ferreras from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine.

Note: Along with meat and fried green plantains, these rice and beans make up the classic Dominican lunch called La bandera (the flag). It's named after the flag, Angel explained, because the meal is as Dominican as the flag and it's served everywhere in the country. These rice and beans are so easy to make and delicious, my family has this dish probably every other week. 

Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

For the beans:

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp Adobo seasoning (main ingredients: salt, turmeric, garlic powder)
  • 1/4 green pepper, cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 1/8 red onion, sliced into small segments
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 can Roman beans, drained and rinsed (pinto, kidney, red, or black would work as well) 
  • 4 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves

For the rice:

  • 2 cups white rice (Goya Canilla brand long grain enriched white rice recommended)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

1. Put all the ingredients for the beans in a medium sauce pot. Bring up to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes. 

2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil with 2 Tbsp vegetable oil and 2 tsp salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with lid.

3. Add rice to the boiling water, stirring with a wooden spoon. After five minutes or so, when spoon stays standing up in the cooking rice, or no water is standing above the rice, turn heat to low, and cover the pot with a lid.

4. After ten minutes, turn the rice so that the rice that was on top is on the bottom. Recover. Cook another ten minutes. When rice is cooked, increase the heat to medium-high for two minutes so that the rice on the bottom fries and gets crunchy/toasted but doesn't burn. 

5. Spoon the fluffy rice into one serving bowl and the concon - the crispy rice at the bottom of the pot - onto a separate serving plate. (If you run cold water on the bottom of the rice pot, it makes the rice release much more easily. Also, you can slice through the concon in the pot to make chunks that are easier to pry/lift out of the pan with a spatula. 

6. Serve beans, rice, and concon in separate bowls family style on the table. Serve with Dominican tostones and meat for the popular lunch: la bandera

 

Albanian/Greek Chicken Pie

Kotopita

As Bill Dilios, from Politsani, Albania (formerly part of Greece), taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, ME.

Serves: 10 for dinner, 20 as an appetizer or side
Cooking Time: 2 hours plus thawing overnight

Ingredients

  • 1 box phyllo dough
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large yellow or sweet onions, medium dice
  • 1 stick butter, cut into 1/2" chunks + 1 stick butter
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubs
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 boullion cube, 1 tsp boullion paste, or 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs

Equipment

  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • mixing spoon
  • large soup pot 
  • large mixing bowl
  • medium bowl
  • pastry brush
  • Bill's special kotopita pan [link to store]:
  • or 3 pie plates
  • or 2 9x12, 2-inch deep baking dishes 

Instructions

1. Thaw phyllo dough. The day before you want to make kotopita, transfer the phyllo dough box from the freezer to the fridge to thaw it. Then an hour before you want to start cooking, take the phyllo box out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter. If you forget to take the phyllo out of the freezer the night before, you can thaw it on the counter in 2-3 hours. 

2. Make the filling. Saute onions with 2 Tbsp oil and 1 stick butter (cut into chunks) until onions are soft, 5-10 minutes. Cut the chicken pieces into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the onions. Wash all surfaces that raw chicken touched.  When chicken is half-cooked (opaque on the outside but still translucent in the center), add rice and saute for 2 minutes without browning anything. Add chicken stock so that the rice is just floating in liquid, about 3 cups. Add crushed bouillon cube, bouillon paste, or salt as desired and incorporate. Saute, stirring frequently, until the liquid disappears and you have a thick mass of chicken and rice with no runny liquid. Remove from stove and let cool. Mix in three eggs.

3. Preheat oven to 395. 

4. Assemble the pie. See how he did it in this video. You melt a stick of butter in cereal bowl and get a pastry brush out. Bill made one awesome, giant pie in a what looked like an extra-large, deep-dish pizza pan. Alternatively you can use three pie dishes or 2 9x12 baking dishes. Brush the bottom and sides of the baking dish with olive oil. Layer whole phyllo sheets over the bottom of baking dish, overlapping the edges of the pan by roughly 2 inches. (No folding, cutting or fussing!). 

Now be like Jackson Pollock with the butter brush dripping melted butter on the phyllo. You don't need to brush the butter around - just drip enough butter so that it looks like it's starting to rain on a sidewalk. Make another layer of phyllo overlapping the edges again. Drizzle butter again. Layer phyllo again. Drizzle butter again. When you have about five layers of phyllo, make a layer of chicken filling about 1/2" inch deep. Cover with two more layers of phyllo/butter drips. Add another layer of filling about 1/2" deep. Do five more layers of phyllo. Fold all the draped edges of phyllo on top of the pie. Brush butter over the dry edges of phyllo, folding them down onto the pie. 

If you are using multiple pies, when you complete one pie, just follow the same process and make another one in another dish. 

5. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning the temp down to 385 after ten minutes. When the entire pie is golden brown, remove from oven and let the pie cool for 10-20 minutes. 

Bill Dilios teaches how to cook his favorite dish from Politsani, Albania.

6. Serve. A cool trick for cutting the pie: place a large cutting board (one that is bigger than the pie itself) over the top of the pie. Holding the pan and the cutting board together, flip them over so that the pan ends up upside down on top of the cutting board. Now just lift the pan off the pie. Use a serrated bread knife to pie into squares or wedges, depending on what look you want.

Once pie is cool, store leftover pie in tinfoil in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 350 degree oven or toaster oven.

 

 

Azerbaijani Yellow Rice

Pilaf

As Zemfira Ahmadov, from Baku, Azerbaijan, taught Lindsay Sterling in Portland, ME.

Serves: 10
Cooking Time: 1/2 hour active, 2 hours total
Note: The rice has a wonderful scent, flavor, and texture - individualized and firm - not soft or mushy. 
Perfect with: meat dishes such as Azerbaijani cornish hen, or Azerbaijani beef.

Ingredients

  • 3 c. basmati rice
  • large tortilla or potato sliced into 1/4 inch planks
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/3 c. ghee (a little less than a stick of butter's worth)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Equipment

  • large pot with tightly fitting lid
  • clean cloth towel
  • strainer
  • small plate
  • large serving platter

Instruction

1. Cover rice generously with water in a large bowl and massage rice to aid rinsing off white powder. Strain. Boil rice as you would pasta, for 8 minutes, and strain. It should be slightly uncooked and not yet fragrant or flavorful. Strain and let dry for 5-10 min.

2. Melt ghee in microwave or stovetop. Oil the bottom of a large pot and fit large tortilla in the bottom of the pot. With a small bowl or dessert plate take some of the rice out of the strainer and sprinkle it into the tortilla. Repeat, making a mountain of fluffed rice in the tortilla with the mountain peak in the middle of the pot.

3. Once you have a mountain of fluffed rice in the pot, sprinkle turmeric all over the top like the mountain is dusted with yellow snow.

4. Pour melted ghee in a small stream over the surface area of the rice mountain with a small drizzle as possible.

5. Cover the opening of the pot with two layers of paper towels or a clean cloth towel. Seal the lid over the towel, which keeps condensation from dripping back down into the rice. Fold edges of towel on top of lid so they don't dangle by any fire. Cook on low, setting 4 out of 10, for 1 1/2 hours.

6. Use a small dessert or salad plate to lift the rice out of the pot and toss the rice lightly onto a platter. The goal is for the rice to be fluffed onto the platter. 

 

 

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Iraqi Chicken and Rice

As Mona Galee, from Iraq taught Lindsay Sterling, in Westbrook, Maine, July 2011

Serves: 6-8

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Note: Mona served the chicken and rice as part of a full feast, including dolmas, fresh salad, watermelon cubes, tomato-chili flake soup and lemon-mint savory yogurt drink. I'll add links to those recipes once I post them. I have tended to make just the chicken and rice part often. I find myself using country-style bone-in pieces of chicken instead of a whole chicken to make serving easier.

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 whole chicken, washed and split down the breast bone
  • 3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 1/4 onion, medium dice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp Madras curry powder
  • generous sprinkle turmeric
  • 1 dried Persian lime, also called  loomi* 
  • 1 4-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp lemon pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 1-2 cups water

For the rice:

  • 2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Short Vermicelli egg noodles (omit for gluten-free version)
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/2 tsp of the bar timon spice mixture**
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup reserved seasoned chicken broth
  • 3 cups water

*loomis, also known as noomi basra and limoo amani, are small persian limes that have been soaked in salt water and then baked in the sun. They are hard, light in weight (like a whiffle ball) and range from tan to black in color. You use one whole in this recipe. It also comes ground into flakes. It imparts a tangy, lime flavor. Tasted alone, dried lime is similar to the sourness of a Sourpatch Kid candy but without the sugar coating. In Portland, ME, you can get these at Al Sindabad Market, 710 Forest Avenue. 

For the bar timon pice mixture:

  • 2 1/4 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 full handfuls green cardamom pods
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp black pepper

For the Raisin and onion topping:

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 onion, medium dice
  • 3 shakes cinnamon
  • 1 shake turmeric
  • 2 shakes salt

Equipment

  • chef knife
  • cutting board
  • 2 soup pots with lids
  • large frying pan
  • strainer and pan for underneath it or a cooling rack nextled in a pan that can catch liquid
  • small frying pan
  • large platter or cookie sheet 
  • large serving platter for rice and chicken
  • tongs
  • cereal bowl

Instructions

1. Get the chicken started. Split whole chicken down the breast bone to open up the cavity. Rinse splayed chicken with cold water. Put the whole bird in a large soup pot with lid on medium high (she used a special pot she called a gidduh, but my soup pot worked fine). Add to the pot, 1/4 cup oil, and onto the chicken: 1/4 chopped yellow onion, 1 tsp madras curry powder, generous sprinkle of turmeric, 1 toasted lime, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 Tbsp lemon pepper, 2 Tbsp Kosher salt, and 6 green cardamom pods. Let chicken cook with oil in spices with lid on for ten minutes, then add water until it’s 1 inch below the top of the chicken. Cook covered until chicken is cooked through (about 40 minutes).

2. Do some prep work while chicken is cooking, make the spice mixture for the rice, called bar timon. Blend in spice grinder: 1/4 cup cardamom pods, 2 1/4 tsp cloves, 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp cumin, and 1/2 Tbsp black pepper. Cover rice with water and strain three times so the water stops turning cloudy. Let it drip dry in the strainer for 20 minutes. In a small dish, cover the golden raisins with water to plump.

3. Get the rice started. Once the chicken has cooked through in the broth, remove the chicken from the broth and put it on rack nestled in a shallow pan to drip dry. Put 2 Tbsp vegetable oil back in the bottom of the emptied pot on medium high. Once hot, add vermicelli noodles if using and toast until they turn reddish brown. Add the rice, 1/2 tsp of the bar timon spice mixture (store what’s left for when you make this again), 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 tsp salt, stir and let the rice soak in the oils for a couple minutes, stirring. Then add 1 cup of the reserved seasoned chicken broth and enough water (about 3 cups) so that the rice is covered by 1/2 inch of liquid. Cook on high. Once the water has disappeared from the rice (ten minutes), then put the lid on tightly (she put a plastic bag over the opening to seal in moisture but I don't like cooking with plastic so I left this off). Turn to low heat for another ten minutes.

4. Shallow-fry the chicken. When the rest of the meal is almost finished, shallow-fry the chicken which has drained and drip-dried. She used a wok with oil 1/4 inch deep on medium-high heat. I've used a large iron skillet with oil 1/4 inch deep. Wear long sleeves because any drips from the chicken will pop and splatter in the hot oil. Make sure the oil is hot but not smoking before you put the chicken in. When the chicken turns golden on one side, flip it so that both sides become nicely colored. The combination of soft, boiled chicken with fried exterior pieces is divine.

5. Final touches. Make the onion and raisin topping. Drain water out of raisins. In a the smallest sauté pan you have, saute 1/4 onion (medium dice) in a little oil. Once soft, add raisins, three shakes of cinnamon, one shake turmeric, and two shakes salt. When all this soft and hot and the turmeric has colored the oil yellow, turn the heat off. Make a plateau of rice on a serving platter. Put the whole fried chicken (or chicken pieces, if they’ve fallen apart) on the top in the center of rice. Sprinkle raisins and onions in a ring around the chicken.

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