(except, I’m calling it chicken and rice because I increased the chicken. :))
Oh, first day of spring. Weren’t you just lovely? Sigh. Like pretty much everyone, I am so over this winter. On this particular first day of spring, my littlest kid turned one (how the hell did THAT happen?) after battling a few days of a high fever. Not to be outdone, Zachary apparently might see snow on his birthday in April if the forecasts are to be believed. Duuuuude. Come on already.
The one redeeming factor of this looooong winter is getting to eat a lot of comfort foods. And this dish is about as simple and easy as you can get with regards to comfort foods. Chicken and rice are cooked together alongside a carrot-onion-celery pestata for a dish that is truly homey and rich. Using short-grained arborio rice and finishing it off with just a touch of butter and cheese make this creamy and, by all accounts, a big winner for everyone in our family (as long as you don’t count the whole cleaning-rice-up-after-a-baby-eats-it problem).
Although this is perfect winter food, I have no doubts that a little lemon zest and juice could brighten this dish right up and make it more spring-y. Of course, I’ll look for any way to eat a dish like this year-round, and would have no qualms eating it in the dead of summer, either.
Traditional Chicken and Rice
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich
1.25 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-2″ chunks
2 celery ribs, cut into 1-2″ pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
2.5 hot cups chicken broth
1 cup short-grain rice
1 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
Trim the chicken thighs of any excess fat and then cut into 1″ pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until minced like a fine-textured pestata.
Pour the olive oil into a Dutch oven or sauce pan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the pestata, season with a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until it has dried and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the chicken, bay leaf. Cook the chicken, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized all over, about 4 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the wine. Scrape off any browned bits from the bottom of the pan an cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated.
Pour in the hot broth and then the rice. Stir, and then bring to a boil. Cover the pan and then reduce the heat to low so that it is bubbling gently. Cook for about 14 minutes, until rice and chicken are cooked through and consistency is creamy.
Off the heat, stir in the butter, then the parsley and cheese. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese.
Lidia Bastianich’s Traditional Rice and Chicken