Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chicken with Chestnuts, Rice Pilaf (from a box *hides*) and Orange Olive Salad

I love chestnuts!  I love them even more when they come already roasted in a jar and I don't have to do any work to eat them.  They're a rare find at the grocery store so I always stock up when I see them.  Chestnuts are a great food to eat when it's $&*@$ freezing outside.  This is pretty simple dish, there aren't a lot of ingredients, but the onions cook for a while, then the chicken cooks for a while, then the sauce cooks for a while.  So, this isn't really a work night meal unless you don't mind returning to the kitchen at various intervals to prod the contents of the pan.  Since the main dish requires a bit of attention, I decided to make rice pilaf from a box as a side dish.  The salad, which I didn't get a good picture of, is fabulous if, like me, you love sour things.  It's heavily adapted from a recipe from a Moroccan recipe in the New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.  The chicken is slightly adapted from the Moroccan section of Arabesque, by the same author.

 The orange and olive salad is best if you let the oranges sit in the lemon juice and paprika mixture while you make the rest of your dinner.  I added extra lemon juice and a TON of extra paprika to this salad.  I also decreased the sesame oil significantly, since I think it can be pretty overpowering.  The original recipe called for argan oil, which I don't have.  Other options were hazelnut oil (I don't have this either), walnut oil (husband is allergic) or sesame.  So, my guess is that since it was listed last, it's the least preferable option.  The original recipe served 4 to 6 and called for "a handful" of black olives.  I used more than that. I eyeballed it, but it was probably about 1/3 cup.  

Orange and Olive Salad
Adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Serves 2 people as a small salad or one of me, since I really love it!

1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
1 and 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
About 1/3 cup pitted black olives.  I used ni├žoise. 
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Paprika to taste.  I started with 1 tsp and then added more as I mixed the dressing. 
pinch of ground chili pepper (optional, I've used the more mild ancho chili powder, regular chili powder, and omitted it entirely.  My preference is the ancho chili powder).

1) Mix the lemon juice, garlic, sesame oil, cumin, and paprika in a bowl.
2) Peel the orange and cut it into segments.  Then cut them into bite sized pieces.
3) Toss the orange pieces and olives in the dressing until well coated.
4) Let them sit in the dressing while you make the rest of your dinner.
5) Dish the salad out with a slotted spoon if you don't want a super lemony salad.  If you love lemon, don't bother with the slotted spoon.
6) Sprinkle with chili powder, if using, and serve. 

 I should mention that the original recipe for Chicken with Chestnuts called for an entire chicken.  I used two chicken breasts to avoid wasting that much meat.  Plus, it decreased the cooking time. 
Chicken with Chestnuts
Adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Roden
Serves 2.

2 chicken breasts, cut into largeish pieces (2 inches or so)
1 Tbsp butter
1Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
A large pinch of saffron threads
1 jar of chestnuts
1 Tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan.  When the butter is melted, add the onions and stir until they're coated with the oil and butter.  Cover the pan and let them soften over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  
2) When onions begin to color, stir in the ginger, cinnamon, and saffron. 
3) Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place it in the pan.
4) Brown the chicken lightly.  
5) Add 1/2 cup water to the pan (or less, if you're concerned that the sauce will be too watery.  I've made this using the full 1/2 cup water and also using about 3/8 cup.  I depends on how big the chicken breasts and onion are.  I prefer to use less water and then add extra later than to have watery sauce).
6) Cover the pan and let the chicken cook in the water for 15-20 minutes, turning once.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate.
7) Let the onions reduce to a brown sauce, about 15 minutes.  Then stir in the honey.
8) Add the chestnuts to the pan and simmer them in the sauce for 5-10 minutes.  Add a little water if you think the sauce is drying out. 
9) Add the chicken back to the pan and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Serve with rice pilaf.


Michelle said...

Bwahaha. . . with your love of Chestnuts, you should get involved with TACF. I'm so nuts about restoring the American Chestnut, I have a necklace made that is an American chestnut leaf in silver. (Which reminds me, I need to put a photo of it in my blog. . .)

I can't fault you for using a boxed side dish now and then! Chris and I can't shake our boxed mac-and-cheese addiction. :D

I have a pilaf story for you. . . So, for the longest while, I had heard my Russian friend speak with great nostalgia about a rice dish called "ploff". Russian men treat the cooking of ploff much like US men treat the cooking of grilled meats. The process for cooking ploff involves adding layers of rice and other things to oil in a very hot Dutch oven over several hours.

Recently, when our company moved, we found that a Russian grocery store was in range for weekday lunches. with a hot food bar. Heaven! And they usually have ploff on the menu. except it's spelled "pilaf". Oh! :D

I'm learning so much by watching what you cook. I never in my life would have thought to combine oranges with olives. Cool!

Scienter said...

The only Russian food I've ever tried is borscht. Do you have a recipe for "ploff"? :P

Try the salad, it's really good!


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