Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Apple Cherry Chicken with Mom's Potato-Bottomed Rice

Breaking Tradition
Tis the season for pumpkin-EVERYthing and you know how much I love pumpkin.. Hopefully by now, you've tasted my maple pumpkin pie or painted a batch of sparkly ones to decorate your holiday table.
Then, there's another very cute, very delicious pumpkin recipe coming up. So, stay tuned in for that.

But, for those of you who aren't so pumpkin-crazed, Fall can be a bit daunting.
Plump, round orangey things everywhere you look...Real ones, fake ones, wooden, straw or twig ones.
Even your faithful ol' latte gets a pumpkin-spiced makeover.
It's easy to go on pumpkin-overload. 

Well, this one's just for you. 

A classic from the Persian kitchen that tastes even better the next day,
this unusual stew works magic with seasonal apples, coating fluffy basmati rice in every irresistible spoonful.
Cherries are not in the traditional recipe, but add just the right juicy POP! of sweet-tart flavour.

Persian moms will shake their heads at my suggestion to finish with Aleppo pepper, but I'm confident they'll forgive me once they see how it lends a raisin-sweet kick to the stew. 
Originating from its namesake city, Aleppo is a unique pepper with a rich, red colour and sweetness akin to Ancho chilies, but with more bite. Look for it at grocery stores in your Armenian or Arabic neighbourhoods. If you can't find it, just add a small dash of the usual crushed red pepper.

The Secret of Saffron
When I was pregnant with Daisy and we were deciding on a name for her, I secretly wanted to call her Saffron.  

Reputed to be the most expensive spice in the world, its sweet, distinct flavour is the signature of many Eastern dishes, both savoury and sweet.

Lucky for us, good quality saffron is widely available. Check your local Trader Joe's for the little glass vial of the Spanish variety.

The secret to unlocking the delicious flavour packed in those delicate crimson threads is a simple technique courtesy of Mom. Grind the threads with a bit of sugar, then steep them in a bit of hot water as you do tea. This infuses both the taste and colour of the fragrant oils into the dish. 

Cooking on a weeknight can be stressful. If you're like me, you want your family to enjoy something nutritious, but getting homemade ready in time for dinner can be a challenge.
Don't panic if you're short on time. 

This Apple-Cherry Chicken comes together in about 20 minutes, because while the chicken in cooking, you're making the rice. Then while the rice is cooking, you're finishing off the stew.
Get the stew done the night before and all you have to do is make the rice, heat up the stew and serve.
It freezes nicely, too.

This saucy li'l number is just what you need to feed the troops presto-pronto!

Mom's Potato-Bottomed Rice
Anything Mom makes is delicious, but her rice is especially famous. She par-cooks the Basmatic rice in salted water, then draining off the extra liquid to allow the rice to steam to a finish. The best part is hidden at the bottom of the pot....Crunchy, buttery, salty chunks of potatoes. Cut into small cubes, the potatoes do not take long to cook, because the rice above creates an insulation, trapping the heat around them.

Apple Cherry Chicken with Potato-Bottomed Rice
Notes: Cooking the rice is probably the most time-consuming step here. Using a frying pan instead of a deep pot gets the rice ready quickly and makes room for more potatoes, which really are the best part. 
With a few omissions, this one is a snap to make Paleo.

Serves 6

What to Get

2 lbs chicken thighs
1/2 large onion
6 cups water
Salt & Pepper

3 cups long-grain (Basmati) rice
1 large russet potato
4 Tb olive oil
1 Tb butter

1/2 tsp saffron
pinch sugar
2 Tb hot water

3 Tb olive oil
1 large onion

2 cloves garlic
3 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cinnamon stick or 1 Tb ground cinnamon
1 Tb pomegranate molasses
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Tb tomato paste
1 cup hot water

2 tsp dried Aleppo pepper or cracked red pepper (optional)

What do Do

Put the kettle on and heat up some water.

Fill a big pot with water, salt & pepper and half of an onion.
Trim the excess fat from the chicken and add to the pot.
Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, skimming the "froth" from the top of the
water. Remove chicken, cut into bite-sized chunks, set aside.
Reserve stock to cook rice.

Rinse rice until water becomes clear. Add rice to pot of chicken stock and cover with lid.
Cook on gentle heat until all the stock has been absorbed, maybe 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a mortar + pestle to grind a 1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads with a bit of sugar.
Then pour a couple of tablespoons of hot water. Allow the saffron to steep like tea for a few minutes.

Chop onion and fry in a pan on medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper.
Mince and add garlic.Keep an eye on the garlic as it can burn quickly.
Peel and chop apples, add to pan.
Add cherries and chicken.

Once the onions turn golden and fragrant, add turmeric, cinnamon,
pomegranate molasses, brown sugar, tomato paste and saffron.

Lower the heat, add a cup of hot water from the kettle. Mix gently, cover and simmer.

Transfer par-cooked rice to a big bowl.

Peel and chop potatoes into bite-sized cubed.
Toss in olive oil, salt & pepper.

Drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan.
Arrange potato bits in a single layer.

Use a fork to gently fluff rice over the potatoes,
drop pats of butter over the top, cover with lid,
set on low heat and allow the rice to finish cooking, another 20 minutes.

Remove frying pan lid, place a large heatproof platter over the pan. VERY CAREFULLY, using oven mitts to protect your hands, flip the rice onto the platter.

In the interest of safety, this dangerous acrobatic step can be skipped altogether. There's no shame in serving the rice right from the frying pan in a rustic fashion. Rustic translates to cozy. Who doesn't like that?

Transfer stew to a heatproof pasta bowl and serve with a sprinkling of dried Aleppo pepper.

Just like Mom 
Temperatures are dropping and the days are growing shorter. Leaves are changing colour and floating gently to the ground. Dinner should be warm and comforting, something homey that reminds you of Mom's cooking.

Shake things up with some fresh flavours with this Apple Cherry Chicken.
A true Persian classic, it's a quick healthy dish perfect for a Fall weeknight.

After a busy day at the office pestered by the sound of phones ringing nonstop, you deserve to
treat yourself to this delicious dish.
And, that touch of saffron is sure to make you feel like royalty right at home.


  1. Replies
    1. Grazia! Thanks for stopping by so I could find you.

  2. I don't like fall and winter, the short days make me sad. I live for the sun!
    I do love Persian cuisine though!

    1. Well, I really can't blame you, doll. You get real weather on the East. We get "pseudo-seasons" here.
      Hope you try this dish. It's so easy and just so lovely.

  3. This is a gorgeous recipe and I love the color from the saffron. The potato bottom rice is so unique. Can't wait to give this a try.

    1. Thanks, Amy. Glad you stopped by so I could "meet" you.

  4. Apple and cherry? With chicken? new to me but the colours look quite incredible :D
    Delicious job!


    1. Chippy! You'll love this one. Hope you make it for Mom & Dad. xo

  5. Colette, the Potato-Bottomed Rice is a completely new dish for me - never heard of it but is sounds very interesting and just perefect alongside this unusual Apple-Cherry-Chicken - what a wonderful treat after a long day. I love the combination of ingredients in your recipe - it all sounds amazing, dear Colette!
    Hope you are doing well! Have a great Wednesday!

    1. Hi, sweetheart!
      The rice is very typically Persian. There are variations on the crunchy bottom called "tadik:"
      Bread (lavash or pita), potatoes, or the rice itself is left to develop into an irresistible crrrrunch!
      Hope your Wed is lovely! xoxo

  6. gorgeous food...absolutely lip smacking yummy...can't wait to have this for lunch :-)

    1. Thanks, Kumar. Let me know how you like it!

  7. Wow, Colette...this dish looks so beautiful! I bet it tastes really wonderful too. I might have to work on a vegetarian version for my husband and me! :)

    1. Hi, Carly. I think this would be gorgeous with some quinoa, actually.

  8. Mmmmmm! this dish is right up my alley! SO delicious and gorgeously pretty with the saffron - LOVE this!
    (I also think Saffron is a great name but then so is Daisy!)

    1. Awww, thanks, Mary. Hope you try it. Please let me know how it turns out.
      Have a wonderful w/end. xo

  9. Oh,those spices with the fruits and chicken - it must smell amazing in your home, we will be having this Monday night! Will keep you posted. xo

  10. This is definitely my kind of food. Love rice and this chicken is so unique and I am sure it tastes ridiculously yummy. All the flavors are just wonderful, the saffron, wow.

  11. I love all your inspiring pumpkin posts!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kate. So glad you're enjoying them. :)

  12. You had me at pomegranate molasses. But saffron would also do the trick. Your dish sounds delicious with all the warm spices. Happy Holidays!

    1. Happy Holidays to you, too! Hope you make it!

  13. I need to indulge in buying saffron more--I really do.

  14. Yum yum! Very interesting & flavorful recipes, apple cherry chicken sounds like a unique combination.


Say hello!