Lately, I've been having less and less time to cook dinner during the week. The fact that I no longer work freelance from home may have something to do with it. I may have to start planning my meals on a weekly basis if I want to eat properly and avoid the whole take-out Chinese or pizza thing. This week was not one of those plan-ahead weeks. I got lazy about researching recipes and writing a shopping list and instead spent my weekend figuring out the perfect lighting scheme for the apartment, with the help of Ikea.
But I need to eat and I want to blog about it, so there was one day this week where my husband and I ate out at Porsena, Chef Sara Jenkins' pasta-centric restaurant. She is the one that took a pork sandwich and made it into a work of art at Porchetta. I didn't take photos of the meal, going there directly from work and having no camera on hand. Yesterday morning, however, I remembered to take something out of the freezer for dinner. My options were limited. Pork tenderloin or chicken. The pork tenderloin my husband makes is more of a long and leisurely-type meal, so not the quick weeknight meal I was looking to make. For the pork recipe, click here.
I took out a pack of bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks and decided against a complicated recipe with tons of ingredients. Simplicity would be the route I would take. I remembered a dish I often ate as a kid. Chicken and rice. There is a version of chicken and rice in every culture and the one that I recall is chicken and rice prepared with hints of aromatic saffron. Saffron has long been the world's most expensive spice. About 50,000-75,000 saffron crocus flowers yield about one pound of the spice which is the stigma of the flower. It can go for as much as $5,000 a pound.
Preparing rice in my culture is not taken lightly. Basmati rice is rinsed till all starchiness is washed away and then steamed till perfection. I have a rice cooker which always make perfect rice. I will outline a method that does not require a rice cooker. I roasted the chicken in the oven with the most simplest ingredients that you certainly already have in your kitchen, minus the saffron maybe.
Chicken and Rice with Saffron
4 bone-in chicken thighs
Juice from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Pinch of quality saffron
2 cups Basmati rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Put saffron in a small cup, like an espresso cup, and fill with boiling water. Let steep.
Pour the rice in a bowl and rinse by filling the bowl with water and emptying it out. Do this until the water becomes clear, about 6-7 times. Refill with water and leave on the counter.
Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper and arrange pieces in a lightly oiled roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice. Once the saffron has steeped enough and the water has turned a beautiful bright orange, spoon a little saffron water over each piece of chicken. You will have leftover saffron water. Reserve it for the rice.
Put the chicken in the oven and let roast for about 45 minutes. You may want to check the chicken after 30 minutes since cooking times may vary depending on your oven.
While the chicken is cooking, you can get started on the rice. In a large non-stick pot boil two cups of water. Make sure to salt the water.
Once the water is boiling, drain all the water from the rice that was resting on the counter. Add the rice to the boiling water. Drop in the butter and stir.
Let the rice boil over medium-high heat until most of the water is absorbed. Wrap the lid of the pot with a large dish towel and place the lid on the pot tightly. Bring down the heat to low and let the rice steam for about 20 minutes. You may want to check the rice during the steaming and fluff it up with a fork. You can even place the cup of saffron water in the pot to let it continue steeping. Taste the rice after 20 minutes. It should be cooked through. The rice will not be sticky, but light and fluffy. There will inevitably be some rice that sticks to the pan. That's okay. Eat it, it's nice and crunchy.