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Almost-Persian Chicken

2010 February 23

This recipe got a mention a while ago and it’s high time I posted it, though it’s not without its caveats. Most of the cautions, however, are only with the name. See, I’ve never really known what to call this dish, even though I have been making it for years. One of my oldest and dearest friends is Persian and while she does not cook (at all!) her father is amazing in the kitchen so she knows good food when she tastes it. I’ve made this for her a couple of times over the years and she always says something to the effect of “this is kind of like something Persian,” or “this reminds me of when my dad makes chicken.” But never “Yay, Persian food!” So I hesitate to actually call it Persian Chicken.

Many of the elements are there, or at least taste like they are, but since I’ve never taken a class or even watched my friend’s dad cook, I can’t say if it’s a matter of technique or a couple of ingredients that give this chicken its Persian tinge. To say something is Persian is also to speak of an ancient culture I think of as being quite distinct from the rest of the Middle East — particularly when it comes to matters of food — so I can’t really call it Middle Eastern Chicken. If I saw that on a menu, I’d be thinking shwarma, not savory-sweet-on-the-bone-baked-goodness. Plus, when I cook “Middle Eastern” it usually has some tie-in to my Lebanese blood, and this is not one of those recipes. Or even close. Or even any of those ingredients.

Once you have the ingredients, it’s a one-pot meal, super easy to slap together and stick in the oven. But it will come out like you were slaving away for hours (don’t worry, I won’t tell). It’s not really baked chicken but I suppose still something short of a braise, with the liquid being there more for the rice than the chicken The fixings are all available at your average chain grocery store, but might involve looking on shelves you don’t frequent.

Persian-ish Chicken
Serves 2

3 bone-in, skin on chicken pieces (I use a breast and a thigh/leg combo; you can remove the skin if you’re really keen to, but it will result in drier chicken)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp mango chutney (I like Sun Brands Major Grey’s when I can get it)
1/4 cup currants
1/2 cup basmati rice
1 cup chicken stock or broth
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325.
Heat butter and olive oil together in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until softened and kill the heat.

Stir in turmeric, lemon juice, chutney, currants,  and salt and pepper, mixing very thoroughly. You don’t want a dinner riddled with pockets of dry turmeric encapsulated by chutney, gross!

Add chicken pieces and turn to coat.*

Arrange chicken so it makes a little well in the middle of the pot and put the rice in the well. Pour the broth over the rice (don’t worry if the rice escapes the little chicken fort you made for it, just make sure the grains are basically submerged one way or another, or you’ll be left with crunchy rice).

Cover and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve with a green salad — we like it with a certain kale and blood orange salad this time of year.

*The turmeric mixture is likely to stain your fingernails yellow and leave your hands smelling like your dinner even after a thorough washing. This is normal. If you don’t like it, use tongs or gloves. But it’s not the end of the world.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    February 24, 2010

    This sounds wonderful! I’ll have to try it when hubby is out of town, since he won’t eat anything with tumeric… I wonder if a little extra lemon juice would remove the tumeric stains? It removed dark blueberry stains from my hands last week…

  2. February 24, 2010

    i iz da Persian friend, boomshakalak!
    and proud of its!

    btw, substitute saffron for tumeric and it just might stand to be more Persian
    just sayin’

  3. Gayle permalink*
    February 24, 2010

    @Linda — My new goal is to come up with something for next week that your husband will actually eat! Unlike some ingredients, bright! yellow! turmeric is not something you are going to sneak by anyone…

    @Lily — There’s my Persian Princess! I think the reason the chicken stock looks so orange in the photos is because it has some saffron strands in there. But damn, those yummy crocus parts are expensive. Your people are so fancy!

  4. Linda permalink
    February 26, 2010

    Bless you, and GOOD LUCK!!! Actually, I think he will like your Shepherd’s Pie recipe and I’m going to try it on him very soon… Tonight I’m fixing the sausage and polenta recipe that I found (through your site) on the NY Times “The Minimalist” site. I’ve never made polenta before, but they had a video that made it look so easy…

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