Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicken and Rice X2

The "silence is golden" announcement always stands out to me when I go to the movies. I cringe at the representation of all of the annoying ways we can distract one another from the film. As technology advances, there is an increasing number of ways people can interrupt the movie. From ringtones to glowing touchscreens, crying babies to squealing preteens, the possibilities are endless.

It makes me wonder why there are fewer and fewer drive-in theaters in the world. How could people not prefer enjoying films in the privacy of their own cars; where they can control the volume of the film and the people around them? Not only that, but drive-ins almost always offer double features. Double features are always a bonus.

Today's post is also a double feature. For week 33 of the cooking challenge, challengers were asked to "turn something boring into something great." With two packs of chicken thighs stowed away, I decided to turn chicken and rice into two very different dinners.

First up:  
Arroz con Pollo
Chicken and Rice in EspaƱol

3 to 4 lbs chicken parts (boneless/skinless thighs), seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 oz. smoked ham, diced
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon loosely packed saffron threads
1 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup pimento-stuffed green (queen) olives, cut in half

Pour the two tablespoons of vegetable oil into a large heavy pan and set the heat to medium-high. When the oil is heated and shimmery, add the chicken pieces in a single layer and brown well on both sides, (about 5 minutes per side). I cooked mine in two batches, set aside pieces when browned.

Scale down the heat to medium-low and add the chopped onions, diced bell pepper, and diced ham.

Stir every now and then, and cook until the onions become tender, (about 8 minutes). Add the cups of white rice and combine well. Stir rice around, and cook for about a minute before adding the minced garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir around and cook for another minute. 

When the seasoning is well dispersed, add the 3 cups of chicken stock, dried oregano and saffron threads. Set heat up to high and bring mixture to a boil. Stir mixture, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to unstick any browned bits. Nestle chicken pieces into the rice and pour in all of the juices. Cover pan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

Stir in the peas and olive halves. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the rice is tender. If cooking with a very large pot, make sure to distribute the heat well among the bottom of your pan in order to cook the rice evenly. Let rice sit, with the lid on, for at least 15 uninterrupted minutes before serving. Enjoy alone, or with a side salad.

Chicken and Rice #2:
Chicken Cacciatore
with Zucchini Rice Gratin

3 to 4 lbs chicken parts, (boneless/skinless thighs), seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice 
3/4 cup chicken stock
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

Heat olive oil over medium-high in a large, heavy skillet. When the oil is shimmery and fragrant, add the seasoned chicken pieces, (in small batches), arranged in a single layer. Brown chicken on all sides, (about 5 minutes per side), and set aside on a plate when done.

Lower to medium heat and add the chopped onions, bay leaf, dried rosemary and sage. Stir frequently and cook until the onions are golden brown, (about 5 minutes). Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute. Place chicken pieces back in skillet and add the white wine.

Cook mixture over medium-high heat, turning the chicken and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. When the wine is almost all evaporated, add the diced tomatoes, and chicken stock. Turn heat down to low, simmer gently for 25 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook, covered, for 10 more minutes. Add additional seasoning to taste.

Serve with Zucchini Rice Gratin by Smitten Kitchen.

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