Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dinner for One: Chicken and Rice

What do you do when you're a single university student with a limited budget and a craving for the taste of almost-home?  You make a single serving of chicken and rice, of course!

I should say before I get very far into this that I'm not basing this on any particular traditional recipe.  I'm not trying to be super authentic to Latin cuisine.  I just like chicken and rice and it's something different from the thoroughly European fare I usually have for dinner.  I should also say that while in general this recipe is something I've come up with on my own, I'm stealing the rice steps from British culinary goddess Delia Smith; I also had my mom look over the recipe and give pointers on how to make it go smoothly.  So this recipe is by me, my mom, and Her Excellency Delia Smith.

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup plain (aka all-purpose) flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white basmati rice (other kinds of rice are fine)
  • 5 fl oz chicken stock, heated
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like a lot of heat)
  • salt
  • vegetable oil
  • butter
How to Do Stuff!
  1. Before anything else, do your prep!  Combine the flour, oregano, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a large Tupperware container, and set it aside.  Slice the chicken breast into equally-sized chunks and toss in the flour, then set the container aside again.
  2. Pour a little bit of oil into the bottom of a frying pan or a saucepan.  Whatever the vessel is, the bottom should be flat and wide enough that your rice will form a shallow layer on the bottom.  Let the oil warm up on the stove, without making it super hot!  You're not trying to fry your rice, you just want enough to help prevent sticking.
  3. Add the rice to your cooking vessel, and stir it around just until the grains are coated in oil.  Delia Smith says the grains should be glistening.
  4. Pour the hot stock over the rice, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and stir just enough to evenly distribute everything.  Then, to quote Alton Brown, "walk away, just walk away!" Well, cover your vessel with a lid and turn the heat down to low first, but then walk away.  Don't stir the rice more than absolutely necessary.*
  5. Oh, one more thing: if your stove is electric like mine, you may want to have a different burner going on low, because I've noticed that it takes a full minute for the heat to drop and I don't think rice is meant to be cooked on medium heat.  Just move the lidded pot to the other burner.
  6. When the rice is done cooking**, remove it from the heat, take off the lid, and place a clean tea towel over the vessel for five to ten minutes.
  7. Pour some vegetable oil in a pan and let it get hot.  When the oil is hot, put the chicken into the pan and space the chunks out, then let them cook.  It should only take a couple of minutes per side for them to cook completely through.
  8. When the chicken is done, remove from the pan.  I let mine drain by putting a sieve over a little bowl and then putting the chicken in the sieve.  Fluff the rice and gently stir in a little bit of butter, then plate up the whole dish.  EAT.

I obviously had a lot more rice than chicken (this is definitely arroz con pollo, not pollo con arroz), so when I had eaten up the chicken I took out some tortilla chips and scooped the rice onto them to eat.  It's delicious.  You should try it.

*If you stir the rice too much, you risk bursting the grains and releasing starch, which could seriously mess up your rice.  See my little rant on starch sins here.
**The best ways to check are to either bite into a grain or tilt the vessel and see if any liquid collects at the edge; if there's liquid or the grain has some crunch to it, you're not done yet.  Pay more attention to the grains, though.  If there's still liquid but the grain has the right texture, just pull the rice off the heat.  It'll absorb the remaining liquid.

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