Biryani Chicken

September: National Rice Month

Our Indian and Pakistani friends at university introduced us to biryani, a hearty rice dish made with fragrant basmati rice, spices, vegetables and sometimes meat and eggs. We ate biryani as guests at their student association gatherings and during special occasions (Diwali and Eid). It was also a favorite dish of the Mughals that biryani is often described as a “feast fit for royalty”.

A few years following graduation from university, as newlyweds setting up our own kitchen, we bought our very first cookbook that focused on classic Indian recipes, including biryani. For more than two decades, we have cooked this dish whenever we wanted a main Mughlai-style meal with rich flavors. The ingredients are ironically affordable for such a royal dish, and we get a lot of delicious leftovers, making it worth our while to prepare it to last us for a few days during a busy workweek—and for National Rice Month!

Recipe

(Adapted from “Classic Indian: Easy, Delicious and Authentic Recipes”)

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons biryani masala paste
  • 2/3 cup yogurt, plain
  • 3 ½ pounds chicken, boneless and skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bag (3.5 ounces) crispy onions (salad toppers)
  • 1-2 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, fresh grated
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ounces cilantro, fresh chopped (plus additional for optional garnish)
  • 6-8 mint leaves, fresh chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • pinch of saffron
  • 2 ½ cups basmati rice, washed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • boiling water (enough to cover the rice)
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1-2 cups frozen steak fries, defrosted and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2+ tablespoons ghee or butter, divided use
  • ½ cup cashew nuts
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • salt to taste

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the biryani paste with yogurt. Mix in the chicken.

Add the crispy onions, chopped chilies, ginger and garlic to the mix.

Stir in the cilantro and mint leaves. Cover, refrigerate and marinate for at least two hours. In a measuring cup, infuse the saffron with the milk until it changes color slightly. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the washed rice with cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Pour boiling water to cover the rice. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain and discard the cinnamon and cardamom. In a large skillet, heat a little vegetable oil. Fry up the chicken and marinade mixture until the meat is no longer pink.

Stir in the potatoes and mix with the marinade. In a deep casserole dish, layer the chicken-potato mixture on the bottom. Add the basmati rice on top.

Poke a few holes in the rice. Pour in the saffron-milk mixture. Dot with a few knobs of ghee/butter. Cover the dish tightly with foil. Place in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F and bake for an hour, checking to see if the rice is softened and done at 45 minutes. Continue baking until cooked.

While the biryani is baking, heat a little ghee/butter in a skillet. Saute the cashews and raisins to toast the nuts and plump up the fruit. Set aside. Remove the biryani from the oven when done. Carefully remove the foil. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Stir in the cashews and raisins and gently mix until the rice is fully blended with all the ingredients. Serve hot.

Notes

  • The original recipe is made in a heavy pot over a stovetop (such as a Dutch oven, which we did not have at this time). We used a glass casserole dish and baked it in the oven, after several years’ experience of burning the bottom of our pot!
  • Search our blog for other rice recipes.

Chicken Marbella

September:National Chicken Month

Life is always busy and, we admit, that it seems like we rely on take-out foods too much. But after discovering how easy it is to prepare Chicken Marbella, we can plan ahead for a quick and flavorful weeknight dinner.

This recipe is an iconic and original one for the Silver Palate restaurant (established in 1977 and closed in 1993) in Manhattan, New York. Long before the popular eatery opened, chefs Julee Russo and Sheila Lukins wanted to cook comfort foods for their guests and Chicken Marbella was created with ingredients, including chicken and pitted Spanish green olives, they already had in their own kitchen. It was a simple but delicious dish for their dinner party that they put it on their menu and named it after one of their favorite places, Club Marbella (pronounced mar-BAY-yah), in Spain. Chicken Marbella continues to be the most popular recipe in their Silver Palate Cookbook, published in 1982.

This famous chicken dish is one of the popular and favorite dishes at our home, too, because of its simple preparation and symphony of flavors. Try it and make Marbella Chicken during National Chicken Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from The Silver Palate)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup pitted prunes
  • ¼ cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • ¼ cup capers plus juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-6 chicken thighs (or other favorite pieces)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1-22 tablespoons fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or cilantro, chopped plus extra for garnish

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, prunes and olives.

Stir in the capers with juice. Add bay leaves, minced garlic and oregano.

Salt and pepper to taste. In the bowl or zipper top plastic bag, marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least three hours or overnight.

Transfer to a foil lined baking sheet, arranging the chicken in a single layer with the marinade and prunes, olives and capers around it. Pour white wine around the pan. Sprinkle the tops of the chicken skin with brown sugar. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (adjust the timing for chicken pieces other than thighs). Baste the chicken in the juices 2-3 times while baking.

Remove from the oven and put the chicken, prunes, olives and capers on a separate platter or serving dish. Baste with some of the pan juices. Optional steps: Place remaining pan juices into a small skillet. Boil until reduced to half. Strain the sauce over the chicken. Serve hot over rice, couscous or curly egg noodles. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Notes

  • We halved the original recipe to feed just to two of us.
  • Chicken Marbella may be served cold/at room temperature.
  • This is a popular recipe during the Jewish Passover Seder.
  • Search our blog for more chicken recipes for National Chicken Month.

Chicken Fricassee

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

The third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743-July 4, 1826), is credited as being America’s first epicurean. Through his travels and work in international relations, he developed a penchant for fine and foreign foods. From Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean and South America, he imported vegetables like okra, lima beans, eggplants, garlic, peanuts, peppers, tomatoes and olive oil. From Europe, France in particular, he made popular French cuisine and asked his chefs to prepare it often.

Chicken fricassee is an adaptation of a classic French stew, which includes making a roux. This dish was one of the favorites of the “Founding Foodie” (some sources also note that chicken fricassee was loved by the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln). So make this comfort food, which is perfect for Presidents’ Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from CD Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds chicken pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • oil for frying
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white cooking wine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup half and half cream

Directions

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika. In a large pot, heat the oil and fry the chicken until browned. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pot, add the flour and cook in the chicken fat-oil until light brown, adding the water a little at a time to make a smooth sauce. Stir in the wine. Put the chicken back in the pot, cover, and simmer on low heat for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, chop the onions, slice the mushrooms, chop the sage and parsley. When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a plate. Strain the gravy in a bowl and set aside. In the same pot, melt the butter over low heat.

Sauté the onions with the mushrooms. Stir in the chopped sage and parsley.

Return the chicken and gravy to the pot. Stir in the cream to thicken. Serve hot over pasta or rice.

Notes

  • Chicken fricassee is popular in the South. Jefferson was a Southerner from Virginia. Islander has met some Cajuns from Louisiana at the local culinary book club in Texas and they introduced her to this recipe.
  • Search our blog for other presidential and patriotic recipes.

Engagement Chicken

March 20: National Proposal Day

Is the way to a prince’s heart through his stomach? Many have speculated that American actress Meghan Markle’s roast chicken dinner impressed Prince Harry of Wales so much that he proposed to her!

Other women have claimed that when they cooked a heartwarming lemony-herbed roast chicken for their boyfriends, they finally proposed, too. The “magical” recipe, which originated from Glamour magazine in the early 2000s, earned a reputation for its power it has over guys to “pop the question” and thus has been dubbed “engagement chicken”!

Believe the sexist tale or not, engagement chicken is still a tasty comfort food that is relatively simple to make for loved ones. Whether for a prince, significant other, family or friends, roast chicken is perfect to cook any day but especially on National Proposal Day.

Recipe I

This is the version we adapted by Chef Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, which Meghan Markle alluded to in her BBC interview, stating that she and Prince Harry cooked it together for dinner the night he proposed to her.

Ingredients

  • 1 (5-6 pound) whole roasting chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • bunch of fresh thyme
  • 2 lemons (one cut in half, another cut in wedges)
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thick
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour

Directions

Remove the giblets from the chicken and rinse inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper inside of the chicken. Stuff it with half a bunch of thyme. Place two halves of a lemon and garlic inside of the chicken.

Put on a roasting pan. Rub the skin of the chicken with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Tie the chicken legs with cooking twine. Secure the wing tips to the chicken with toothpicks. Place in a large roasting pan. Put onion and lemon wedges around it.

Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for 1½ hours until juices run clear. Baste occasionally. Remove from the oven and cover with foil while making the gravy.

Remove twine and toothpicks. Discard the garlic, thyme stems, fat and lemon halves and wedges (and seeds) from the roasting pan, reserving the onions and two tablespoons of juices. Place the onions and juices into a saucepan with the chicken stock. Boil on high heat for about five minutes until reduced. Then stir in the flour and boil for a few more minutes until slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain the gravy into a boat. Serve hot with carved chicken pieces.

Recipe II

This is the version we adapted that originated from Glamour magazine and became an urban legend.

Ingredients

  • 1 (4-5pound) whole roasting chicken
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
  • 2-3 additional lemons
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • sprigs of fresh herbs to garnish (rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the giblets from the chicken and rinse inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Rub the lemon juice inside and outside. Season the inside with half the salt and pepper. Prick the lemons with the tines of a fork and insert inside the cavity of the chicken. Tie the legs with cooking twine.

Secure the wing tips to the chicken with toothpicks. Season the outside with the remaining salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan lined with foil breast side down. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the chicken over breast side up and insert a meat thermometer in the thigh. Bake for another 1½ hours or more in 15-minute increments and until the thermometer reaches 180 degrees F.

Remove from the oven and baste with the pan juices. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes and transfer to a platter. Garnish with herbs. Serve hot with sides of roast vegetables.

Notes

  • The pan drippings from the engagement chicken used to baste and flavor this tender and tasty dish is called the “marry me juice”, according to Glamour magazine.
  • We garnish the engagement chicken with sprigs of herbs, roast vegetables (like carrots and potatoes) and/or extra lemon wedges. It makes for a pretty presentation especially for special occasions.
  • We like to serve engagement chicken to the couples we are sponsoring at our church through a marriage preparation ministry program. The dish is well liked by many, even by those who are picky eaters. Our couples enjoy hearing about the recipe’s reputation as well, and is a fun icebreaker and conversation starter for our meetings.

 

One-Pan Baked Paprika Chicken

with Vegetables and Herbs

September: National Chicken Month

Winner winner, chicken dinner! Life is hectic so if we can make a meal quickly, the more time for us to rest and relax after a long day. This recipe for herbed paprika-seasoned chicken is baked in one pan along with sides of vegetables for a complete dinner. We especially like the colorful combinations in this hearty dish. For National Chicken Month, try this one-pan baked paprika chicken with vegetables and herbs.

Recipe

(Adapted from Simply Recipes)

Ingredients

  • 4-6 pieces chicken thighs, trimmed of extra fat
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 ½ pounds baby potatoes, cut in half
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (we used the whole pint)
  • thyme sprigs
  • parsley leaves (optional garnish)

Directions

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix together the mustard, lemon juice, paprika and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to make a marinade. Add the chicken and coat well. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the onions, potatoes and garlic cloves. Place these vegetables in a 9×13 inch baking pan or casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables and pour the marinade over everything.

Top with a few thyme sprigs. Bake uncovered in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the cherry tomatoes over everything. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven. Spoon the juices over the chicken and vegetables. Discard dried thyme sprigs. Garnish with additional fresh thyme sprigs and parsley flakes. Serve hot.

Notes

  • Try the traditional Hungarian recipe for paprika chicken.
  • Search our blog for more chicken recipes for National Chicken Month/National Poultry Month.

 

Moroccan Roast Chicken 

with Saffron and Rose Water

Morrocan Chicken

September:
National Chicken Month

At one of Islander’s culinary club monthly meetings, members were challenged to bring a dish made with edible flowers or floral essence. Some of the potluck items included lavender scones, lavender lemon bars, blueberry pie with rose petals and a salad with sunflower seeds. In addition to bringing Maui lavender-mint iced tea, Islander shared a Moroccan chicken dish made with saffron and rose water. Other ingredients in this recipe include honey, cinnamon, hazelnuts, lemon and ginger, making the medley of flavors an exotic yet delicious combination. No wonder it was the members’ favorite flower-themed food! Make Moroccan roast chicken and savor the floral flavors during National Chicken Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from Epicurious)

  • 1 large chicken, cut up into thighs, breasts, etc. (we used 12 chicken legs)
  • generous pinch of saffron
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (we used freshly grated ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • ¾ cup hazelnuts, unskinned and toasted
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (not extract or essence)
  • 2 stalks green onion, chopped (optional garnish)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the saffron, chopped onion, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper.

Moroccan Chicken

Add the chicken pieces and coat well. Arrange them in a large baking dish. Cover. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator, uncover and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink inside.

Moroccan Chicken

Meanwhile, toast the hazelnuts by stirring them in a skillet over medium-low heat, being careful not to burn them. Let cool then coarsely chop them. Place the nuts in a small bowl. Mix with honey and rose water to make a thick glaze.

Moroccan Chicken

Remove the chicken from the oven and spread the glaze over each piece. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken. Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with chopped green onion. Serve hot with rice or couscous.

Moroccan Chicken

Notes

  • Thanks to Lisa L. for giving us a little jar of saffron as a souvenir from her visits to Spain and Morocco. Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice because it takes between 70,000-250,000 flowers to make just one. The stigmas of the flower must be individually and painstakingly handpicked when in full bloom during the autumn season before drying them.
  • Rose water is not the same as rose extract/essence. The latter is derived from floral oils and is sometimes steeped in alcohol that makes the flavor taste more concentrated. Rose water is lighter and is made by distilling rose petals in water.
  • Search our blog for more chicken recipes.

Chicken Oreganata

Chicken Oreganata

June 10: Herbs and Spices Day

Breaded chicken breasts are sometimes boring. So we like to spice (and herb) them up with oregano, mint, salt and pepper and turn them into a simple yet savory, tender and aromatic dish. The addition of tomatoes makes this meal moist and more flavorful. Cbicken Oreganata is our choice for observing Herbs and Spices Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from Healthy Home Cooking by the Editors of Prevention Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 3-4 chicken breasts, flattened
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup dry breadcrumbs, unseasoned
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3-4 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • olive oil

Directions

Line a baking dish with foil and mist with cooking spray. Set aside. In a lipped pan, combine the lemon juice with minced garlic. Toss the chicken in this mixture and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.

Chicken Oreganata

In a small bowl, mix together the oregano, mint, salt and pepper.

Chicken Oreganata

Combine half of this herb and spice mixture with the breadcrumbs and cheese. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned breadcrumbs and place in the prepared baking dish. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and scatter them around the chicken.

Chicken Oreganata

Sprinkle the remaining herb and spice mixture over the chicken and tomatoes. Drizzle some olive oil over them. Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the tomatoes are soft and juicy. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and arrange the tomatoes around it. Pour any pan juices over the chicken. Serve hot with rice.

Chicken Oreganata

Notes

  • Thanks to Highlander’s Mum for gifting us with the cookbook from which we used the recipe for Chicken Oreganata.
  • Search our blog for other chicken recipes.