There’s something magical, and almost transformative when you take a moment to think about the origins of all the spices in your spice rack. Did you know, that in London in the 16th century, dockworkers were paid their bonuses in cloves? Or that in the Middle Ages, cinnamon was once so expensive because its lengthy journey from Arabia to Europe, it was actually considered a status symbol? We’ve been using the same little powders for centuries to add flavor to our lives… Amazing to think that each spice comes with its own illustrious stories and exotic journey from afar, adding something more than just taste to our dishes.
Take a recent lazy Sunday afternoon watching football. Dinner time is around the corner and you’re asked the proverbial “what should we do with that chicken?” (He says “we” but he means “you”). An otherwise mundane “chicken again…” night is saved with a simple dish like this beautiful Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice.
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi / Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem cookbook, it’s the perfect dish to have up your sleeve with plenty of wow factor! (This dish has almost a cult like popularity amongst foodies in the digital world!) The warm spices are not too pungent to polarize anyone, and its the perfect go-do dinner dish with just enough of an exotic touch for a fancy dinner party.
Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice
(From Jerusalem, Adapted by Dine Girl)
3 tblsp sugar + 3tblsp water + 3 tblsp dried barberries
(or, use handful of currants or raisins or any small dried fruit)
4 tblsp olive oil
2 medium onions sliced thin
1 whole chicken, quartered, or combination of bone-in/ skin on thighs/breasts/drumsticks (to total 8 pieces)
10 cardamom pods (or 2 tspn dried cardamom)
5 or so whole cloves
2 long cinnamon sticks broken into two
1 2/3 cups basmati rice
2 1/4 cups boiling water (or combination of stock + water)
1/2 cup dry white wine
handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, fresh dill,cilantro, all chopped
small container (1/3 cup) greek yogurt mixed with 1 tblsp olive oil
kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
preheat oven to 325
1). If using barberries – place the sugar and water into a small saucepan until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add the barberries. Set aside to soak. If using currants or other dried fruit, just keep small or chop small, no need to soak.
2). In a med size sauté pan over med heat, add 2 tblsp olive oil and add the sliced onion, cook for 10~15 minutes to caramelize. Season lightly after 5 minutes with pinch of salt + pepper. Stir regularly to avoid charring. Once onion is golden brown, transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.
3). Place the cut up chicken in a large mixing bowl and season with salt + pepper. Add the olive oil (2 tblspn), cardamon pods, cloves, cinnamon sticks and mix everything well with your hands.
4). In a large, deep, oven proof sauté pan or dutch oven over medium high heat, sear the chicken in batches (5 minutes each batch) to get a nice golden crust on each piece. As they are ready, remove and place on a clean baking dish. Don’t worry if any of the spices stick to the chicken or pan.
5). After all the chicken is seared and removed, if there is a lot of oil left, mop up with a paper towel leaving only 2 tblspn. Over medium heat, add the rice, and toast for 1 minute until translucent. Add the wine here to deglaze the pan.
6). Once the wine is absorbed, add the caramelized onion, 1 tsp kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and mix well. Add the currants and chicken back into the pan, pushing the chicken into the rice.
7). Pour the boiling water (or water+stock combo) over the rice and chicken, making sure that the rice is covered with liquid. It’s ok if the chicken is only half submerged – you actually want it this way.
8). Cover the dish and place into the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. At the 45 minute mark, test the rice for doneness.
9). To finish, uncover and place back into the oven for another 10 minutes for the top to become crispy.
10). Garnish with the fresh chopped herbs
11). Serve with the yogurt herb sauce (mix the greek yogurt+olive oil+pinch each of parsley/dill/cilantro, season with salt & pepper)
Enjoy! The perfect dish to go from oven to table and is actually more flavorful the next day.