Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chicken and Saffron Rice

Summer is finally here! This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can look forward to the following offerings from Sweetwater Farm and Fair Valley Farm:

squash blossoms, baby squash,
zucchini, and a few tomatoes (try ladybugs on a log)
nappa cabbage (makes some Pad Thai)
lemon drop hot peppers and Italian parsley (try in a mixed grain salad)
fava beans and sugar snap peas
cucumbers and carrots (make some fresh spring rolls)
spring onions, garlic scapes, and fresh spring garlic (delicious roasted with pesto)
kohlrabi, beets, and broccoli (try roasted in a salad
kale, chard, collards, braising greens mix, lettuce, and salad mix
dried beans and grains from Camus Country Mill
jams, salsa, and pickles from Sweet Creek Foods
pastured chickens (try this chicken and saffron rice)

One of my all time favorite dishes is paella, fragrant saffron rice packed with seafood, sausage, and poultry, which I'll only make for special occasions. But this chicken and rice recipe from Mark Bittman inspired me to make a simple weeknight version with ingredients from the Fairmount Farmers Market. Now that we've been purchasing Fair Valley Farm chickens for a while, I've gotten better at breaking down a whole chicken, which opens up all sorts of weeknight recipes (especially if you do your butchering the night before). I simply embellished Bittman's recipe with a couple of slices of bacon for a hint of smokey pork and used rehydrated sun dried tomatoes in the broth. Sweetwater Farm's fresh spring onions were the start of the rice dish, and their plump sugar snap peas finished it off. 

Chicken and Saffron Rice
adapted from Mark Bittman

1 whole chicken (about 3 lbs) cut up into pieces
2 slices of bacon
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups rice such as arborio or jasmine
1/2 cup white wine or white vermouth
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)
1 pinch saffron threads
1 cup sugar snap peas (or use 1 cup frozen peas) 
salt and pepper to taste
lemon wedges for serving

1. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator to start to warm to room temperature. Cut up the onion into a fine dice and mince the garlic. Prepare a simple stock by chopping the sun dried tomatoes into small pieces and covering them with 3 cups of boiling water.

2. Place a large skillet that has a well-fitting lid over medium heat and lay the bacon slices in it. Cook the bacon on each side, and then transfer to a plate. Cut the strips into 1/4 inch pieces (I like to use kitchen shears for this) and reserve. 

3. Return the pan to a medium-high heat and if necessary add a little olive oil to the rendered bacon fat so that the bottom of the pan is generously covered. Add the chicken, skin side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, undisturbed but adjusting the heat so the chicken sizzles but doesn't burn, until the pieces release easily from the pan, 5 to 10 minutes. Then turn and rotate them every few minutes to brown them evenly. As the chicken pieces brown, after another 5 to 10 minutes, remove them from the pan. 

4. Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium and pour or spoon off most of the fat so that only 1 Tbsp remains. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute until fragrant. Now add the rice and cook, stirring, until it is glossy and coated with oil. Add the 1/2 cup of wine or vermouth and scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any chicken bits. Crumble in the saffron threads, pour over the sun dried tomato mixture, and season with salt and pepper. 

5. Return the bacon bits and chicken pieces to the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so it bubbles gently but steadily. Cover the skillet and cook, undisturbed, for 15 to 20 minutes, then check the rice and chicken. The goal is to have the liquid absorbed, the rice tender, and the chicken cooked through. If the rice is dry but nothing is ready, add another ¼ cup water and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. The meat is done when a quick‐read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155–165°F. When the meat is done, scatter the snap peas over the rice, replace the lid, cook for two more minutes, and then turn off the heat and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the rice and adjust the seasoning. Serve warm with lemon wedges.

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