I’m in the first week of a 30-day home cooking challenge called #30atHome, and so far, I’ve been having a blast.
I always make posole around the New Year, and this year’s was pretty good. Overnight oats, homemade bread and my neighbor’s sausage and black-eyed peas have kept me and my kids fed this week, but last night’s dinner was the first knock-out dish of the month.
Deb Perelman’s new book, “Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites” (Knopf, $35), was at the top of a stack I brought home from work at the end of the year. I spent New Year’s Day making a rough guesstimate of what I wanted to make, not just of this week, but next week, too. This kind of meal planning never really works for me, but I’m trying to stick with it, and I think these little sticky notes are helping because I can move them around if plans change.
I marked several recipes in the Smitten Kitchen blogger’s newest cookbook, including Chicken and Rice, Street Cart Style. I absolutely love the Middle Eastern flavors in any gyro or falafel, but I’d never successfully replicated the spices on the meat.
Perelman’s recipe calls for ground coriander, which I didn’t have, so it inspired me to grind the whole coriander seeds tucked away in the back of my spice cabinet. As I was pulverizing the seeds in a mortar and pestle, I was thinking about all the spices that we forget in the corners of our kitchen shelves. The herbs, peppers, salts and spices we use most frequently are going to be front and center, where we’ll see them and keep using them over and over.
A new recipe and a cooking challenge like this provide an excuse to break out of those culinary routines, which is why I decided it would be worth the effort to go ahead and grind those whole coriander seeds by hand, a task I’d usually never do on a weeknight. I added all the spices, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil to a plastic bag and marinaded the chicken thighs for about an hour before cooking. I followed her marinade recipe closely, but used a few shortcuts in the rest of the dish, such as a bag of Dole coleslaw salad and a less-cumin-y rice cooked with a (new-to-me) Trader Joe’s turmeric ghee.
Instead of making a yogurt sauce, I thinned out a store-bought tzatziki with a little White Mountain Bulgarian yogurt. Two slices of Trader Joe’s naan later, and we had the very best homemade dinner I’ve prepared in a while.
Street Cart-Style Chicken and Rice
For the marinade:
Juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika (sweet, hot or smoked)
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon oregano
2 pounds (about 6) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the rice:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup basmati or another long-grain white rice rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Side salad, tomatoes and/or sliced cucumbers
Combine lemon juice, garlic, salt and spices for the marinade in a large plastic zip-top bag. Squeeze the plastic to combine and then add the chicken thighs. Squish the bag so the spice-and-olive oil mixture coats the meat. Refrigerate and marinade for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
When ready to cook, heat a heavy-bottom skillet over medium high heat. Add a thin layer of oil and cook three thighs at a time, letting the chicken brown for about 5 minutes before flipping. Cook on the other side for another 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the first batch of chicken from the pan and repeat with remaining chicken. Wipe out the pan. Slice all the chicken into long strips and add back to the pan to finish cooking.
Meantime, heat the olive oil for the rice in a medium saucepan. Add the spices and rice, stirring to coat. (I used a teaspoon of Trader Joe’s turmeric ghee and 1/4 teaspoon cumin.) Cooking for about three minutes and then add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook on low for 15 minutes.
Serve chicken and rice with naan and a salad, topped with any yogurt sauce of your liking, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
— Adapted from a recipe by Deb Perelmen in “Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites” (Knopf, $35)