Chicken and rice is pretty basic, yet this reporter recently discovered a way to make chicken and rice a little extraordinary. Add some spices and herbs along with some fresh vegetables and wow! No more dull routine for plain chicken.
Chicken pieces are very economical, many supermarkets have sales on chicken pieces, some packaged in a variety others package them as just drumsticks, etc. Select the pieces and brand you prefer.
Even though some time and a bit of effort required, chicken pieces are easy to cook. And, instead of frying place chicken in an iron skillet and put in the oven at 425 to 450 degrees. But here is part of the culinary magic. Drizzle some olive oil in the skillet generously. While the chicken is in oven, boil the rice. Remember one part rice to two parts (or cups of water). For best results time the rice according to the rice brand's instructions.
Make sure the chicken pieces you are about to cook are washed thoroughly. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on each piece of chicken. Then sprinkle your choice of spices on each piece. Add as much or as little as you prefer. Use spices that compliment one another.
For example, this reporter likes to use a curry blend or make one up, using the selections from a local supermarket. Red Pepper or Paprika, some turmeric, or maybe just simple plain pepper and salt with a twist of lemon.
Use whatever spices that please your palate. Once sprinkled with spices, place in over for 20 minutes. Take out of oven, turn chicken pieces over sprinkle some spice on each chicken piece. Before placing back in oven, add fresh cloves of garlic. Let bake for another 20 minutes.
Take rice and place in a casserole dish or au-gratin pan. Be sure to drizzle some olive oil in dish or pan before placing done rice in pan. Remove skillet from oven. Then place chicken pieces in pan. Four to six pieces work best. Make sure there is plenty of room in pan or dish to accommodate the chicken pieces and the vegetables you have cut and prepared to add to the dish. Once chicken pieces are arranged in pan or dish, add your choice of fresh vegetables. If you like, ad just a bit of butter. Butter gives flavor and richness. Yet if not a fan of butter, then stay with just olive oil.
If time permits and if you want to make the flavor a bit more special, add some almond slivers or crushed walnuts. Also, if working with plain white rice, and you like extra fiber, try sprinkling in some wheat germ or flax seed meal in with the rice. One to two table spoons is fine. Just a bit adds a little extra flavor and texture. This makes it seem a little like couscous or one of those "healthy" rice dishes.
For vegetables, this reporter recommends, zucchini, onions, shallots, etc. Yet you as chef add whatever vegetables you like best. Cut them in small but generous sizes so to fit in the pan or dish. Then pour the chicken drippings with garlic over the chicken pieces, vegetables and rice.
Add olives if you wish. Olives of every variety can be found in most supermarkets. Some even have "olive bars" near the salad and self-serve sections. Kalamata olives are the most flavorful. Yet green olives work just as well too. Add mushrooms if you like. And, like the olives there are varieties of mushrooms to select from at most supermarkets.
Now for a bit more culinary magic, this reporter recommend adding fresh cilantro, basil and even some oregano or rosemary. Fresh sauteed and caramelized herbs with garlic, especially cilantro has a delicious and aromatic flavor that will delight the senses.
Place back in oven for another 20 to 25 minutes. Check to see if chicken is cooked to your satisfaction. Lower the oven temperature a bit if you don't want chicken or rice and vegetables to get dry. Add a bit of water or white wine to the dish to ensure moister is maintained while baking.
Once done, simply remove from oven and bring to dinner table to serve. Rice and vegetables with the fresh herbs and spices will be a winner for those who show up for dinner.
Leftovers are delicious next day as rice absorbs all the flavors and of course, cold chicken out of the fridge the next day is always yummy for a quick lunch or snack.