Weeknight Cooking: Chicken, Rice & Spices Bake

Lately, I’ve been on a search for recipes to Indian dishes. I love the sweet flavors of Indian cuisine. Combine that with an easy to make dish you can throw together on a weeknight, and I’m sold.

About a year ago, I found this recipe on RecipeZaar and stuck it in my stack of recipes that I wanted to try. Of course it was tossed into my stack of “recipes to try out” and was promptly forgotten about. After a kitchen reorganization, I found it and decided to put it through the usual regs.

Here is what I found: This dish takes approximately 15 minutes to prepare, and another 40 minutes of baking time. The name is quite deceiving. After altering this dish to my preferences, I came up with a chicken that had great flavor and a very sweet rice. The chicken was prepared with a bit of salt to the spices mixture, giving it some depth, and the rice had no salt at all, creating that delicious sweet/savory contrast. The ingredients to this recipe have been changed on RecipeZaar since I printed it, so this is my take on it.

Chicken, Rice & Spices Bake

Serving Size: 2
2 cups water
2 – 3 bullion cubes
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/3 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional) or chili powder (optional)
salt
2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained or regular medium grain rice or long grain rice

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.

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Bring water to boiling and add chicken bullion cubes. Lower heat and simmer until dissolved.

While that’s dissolving, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat (not high). You want the oil to be hot enough that when you put your chicken in there, the chicken will sizzle.

Wash and pat your chicken dry, then lay it down on a plate or cutting board. Sprinkle one side of the chicken with half of the cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, curry powder, cayenne/chili powder and a little bit of salt. For the record, I did not measure anything when I seasoned the chicken. All I did was lightly sprinkle them over the chicken. It looks like this:

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Don’t go gangbusters, just lightly sprinkle so that you can barely see it on the chicken surface. Don’t over-think this or try to evenly coat your spices. In the end everything is going to get mixed around for a couple of minutes in a frying pan and olive oil, so you just want enough to give it flavor. It’s better that you season the chicken too lightly than too much. Also, I only seasoned one side. Contrary to what you’re seeing in the photo, you should put your chicken into the pan seasoned side down (I placed the chicken spices up just so I could take a picture).

Once it starts to sizzle, you’re ready. Toss your chicken in there (seasoned side down) and let them get brown. It should only take a couple of minutes to each side because you don’t want to cook your chicken all the way through, you just want to jump start it. After your spiced side is done browning, flip it over and cook for another couple of minutes.

After your chicken is browned, take it out of the pan and put them on a plate.

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Reduce the burner to medium and saute the onions in the pan. You’ll keep them in there for about a minute and then add the garlic and remaining spices.

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This time you will measure the spices. I like things pretty well seasoned, so I used probably 3/4 tsp. – 1 tsp. of seasonings. Of the curry powder, I added a little more (I love curry). Cook for another 2 minutes and turn off the burner completely.

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Add the uncooked rice. I used basmati; it’s delicious and has more flavor than the standard white. Stir the rice gently until the rice is evenly coated with the spices. Cooking newbies may have a tendency to get impatient and fling the rice in the stirring frenzy – be patient. Gently fold until everything is evenly coated.

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Spread the rice in the baking dish and place the chicken on the top of the dish. Gently pour the chicken stock and cover tightly with foil.

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The foil is the key. If you do not completely seal the baking dish with foil, your water will evaporate and the rice will not cook properly. Take two fingers and pinch the foil tightly to the rim of the dish.

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Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Serve with a side vegetable. Corn works well, especially for those of us food-mixers who like to combine our rice or potatoes with a veggie. The surprising factor of this dish is the rice: Despite the bullion, it is a very sweet dish.

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*Note: The rice is doubled in the photo you see above.

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