|They line up down the block the Halal Guys Chicken and Rice|
Chicken and Rice in one form or another may be one the world’s most ubiquitous foods. You can find it in many guises. Claypot Chicken Rice is popular from Southern China to Singapore and Malaysia. The latter two countries join Thailand in loving Hainanese Chicken Rice from Hainan Province in China. On to India where Chicken Biryani rules the roost. In Central Brazil, Galinhada is topped with hard-cooked eggs. All over Latin America, Arroz con Pollo is a beloved staple. And closer to home, The Halal Guys, which started as a food cart in midtown Manhattan, has franchises that are opening coast to coast and in Canada. Maybe it has something to do with its nickname, “Chicken and Rice”. We do know it has the longest food cart line is the city. Aside from its universality, what’s the appeal of the dish?
For one thing, it’s very budget-friendly and an absolutely brilliant way of feeding a lot of people for not a lot of money. The author of this particular recipe is David Tanis. The New York Times food writer has some great bonafides. His cookbook “A Platter of Figs” (Artisan 2008), is on Ina Garten’s Best Cookbook Ever list. Tanis was at home fancying an Indian style biryani when he discovered he didn’t have the right stuff on hand. What he did have –mushrooms, garlic, thyme and parsley—struck him as more French than Indian so he took the dish in that direction. He ended up with savory, baked rice casserole that I think is well worth putting together this or any other weekend. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes all told. Tanis calls for 2 lbs. of skinless boneless chicken thighs. If anything, err on the side of more chicken. Secondly, season this aggressively with salt and pepper. I was amused to read Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of New York’s “Prune” share her recipe for Chicken and Rice for the restaurant’s staff meal. She said the most commonly used condiment at hers is Sriracha. Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Baked Rice with Chicken and Mushrooms from David Tanis in the New York Times
2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large sprig thyme, plus 1 teaspoon freshly chopped leaves
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine
2 cups basmati rice, soaked for 20 minutes, rinsed and drained
8 ounces king trumpet mushrooms, or a mixture of mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick ( I used Creminis)
4 cups hot chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup frozen peas, cooked for 2 minutes in salted water (optional)
2 small garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little salt
3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1. Put chicken pieces on a baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pour olive oil into a 4-quart enamelware Dutch oven or similar heavy pot and set over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes, then season with salt. Add chicken, thyme sprig and bay leaf, and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
Add wine and simmer briskly until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and a large handful of mushrooms and stir to combine. (Reserve most of the mushrooms for garnish.) Add broth and bring to a simmer. Check broth for seasoning and adjust.
Cover pot and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Transfer pot to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Finally, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes off heat.
4. While rice is baking, sauté remaining mushrooms: Melt butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook, rapidly stirring, until they have softened and browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Add peas and heat through. Turn off heat, then add reserved chopped thyme, the garlic and the parsley. Toss to coat well.
6. Fluff rice, then top with sautéed mushrooms and serve.