One of the reasons chicken and rice is such a world-class dish is because it can take on so many flavors, making it a signature of so many cuisines.
This particular recipe did not originate in the southwest corner of Louisiana or come from French-Spanish descendants of New Orleans. Rather, it builds on a blend of dried spices and herbs that so often appear in Cajun cooking: paprika, cayenne, oregano, granulated garlic, onion. But it pours on the milk, too, which gives the rice a risotto kind of creaminess and mellows the dish in general. The seasoned pieces of chicken are browned in the pot first, just long enough to pick up color, and then they are returned to infuse the rice-vegetable mixture with their own goodness.
Humble comfort food can fit the bill, even when folks are attempting to fry eggs on the sidewalk. So eat this chicken and rice while it is warm, straight from the pot, and know that its flavor will hold up as cold leftovers, as well. If you make ahead, you will need to stir in more broth or water for reheating leftovers on the stove top, as this risotto-like mixture thickens quite a bit once chilled.
One-Pot Cajun Chicken and Rice
Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
1 medium yellow onion
2 medium celery ribs
1 medium green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
11/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
21/4 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning blend (see note)
11/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
21/2 cups regular or low-fat milk (2 percent)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water, or more as needed
Cut the onion, celery and green bell pepper into chunks (discarding the pepper's seed core), then transfer to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Mince the garlic. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces, discarding any visible fat.
Heat the oil until shimmering in a large heavy saute pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. (Now would be a good time to create the Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, if you don't already have one on hand.)
Meanwhile, toss the chicken with 1 teaspoon of the seasoning blend. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan in a single layer; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, undisturbed, or until lightly browned on the bottom. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. (The chicken will not be cooked through.)
Transfer the onion, celery and green bell pepper mixture to the pan; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the rice, minced garlic, salt, black pepper and the remaining 11/4 teaspoons of the seasoning blend, stirring to incorporate. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then pour in the milk and broth or water, stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
Once the mixture is bubbling at the edges, return the chicken and any of its accumulated juices to the pan. Let the mixture return to its bubbling state. Give it a stir, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Check the pan occasionally to make sure it's not bubbling too vigorously, and give it a stir to make sure it isn't sticking on the bottom.
While that's cooking, trim and thinly slice the scallions. Once the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender, remove from the heat. The liquid may look a bit like curdled milk on the surface; this is OK. Let the chicken and rice sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then uncover and give the mixture a good stir. It should have the consistency of a nice risotto. If it seems too thick, add up to 1/4 cup more of the broth or water, as needed. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Scatter the scallions on top just before serving.
Note: To make the seasoning blend, whisk together 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper with 1/4 teaspoon each of sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, onion flakes and granulated garlic (aka garlic powder).
– Adapted from TheKitchn.com
– Bonnie S. Benwick, Washington Post