Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turkish Chicken with Tomato Rice Pilaf

This is a dish that I make a lot.  It's simple, easy, and tastes amazing!  The original recipe is from the first Middle Eastern/ North African cookbooks I bought, Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, by Claudia Roden.  Every recipe I've tried from this book has been delicious.  I've adapted this dish since the first time I made it, when I followed the recipe to the letter.  This picture is of the dish as I make it now.

Originally, the recipe did not call for the chicken to be spiced with sumac, zatar, and paprika.  Even though zatar contains sumac, I really like the tartness and so I add extra.  The spicing could work just fine without a separate layer of sumac, though.  The rice pilaf is interesting because instead of cooking the rice with water, peeled, liquefied tomatoes are used.  So a blender or food processor is necessary to make this dish.  Peeling tomatoes can be a pain in the butt.  I have an electric kettle, so I just cut an X in the bottom of each tomatoes, boil some water in the kettle, and then pour it over the tomatoes.  Alternatively, water can be boiled on the stove and the tomatoes can be dropped in for 30 seconds or so.  The pilaf as presented in Arabesque is quite tasty, but I love lemons, and so I added lemon juice to the pilaf to blend well with the lemon juice on the chicken. 

Normally, I intend to make salad with most meals, but last night I worked out and was feeling lazy.  The red peppers are something I make when I want a vegetable, but don't feel like cooking a side dish or making salad.  I'm sure that the idea of them is not completely original, but I didn't consult a cookbook to make these.  They're "pickled" in white wine vinegar and seasoned with Aleppo pepper, a Turkish spice (which strikes me odd since Aleppo is in Syria) that looks like regular crushed red pepper but is more mild and flavorful.  It packs a little heat, but won't overpower a dish like crushed red pepper.

Turkish Chicken with Tomato Rice Pilaf
adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Roden
Chicken serves 2 and Rice serves 4 or myself and my rice-loving husband.  

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized chunks (about 1.5 inch pieces)
Paprika, sumac, and zatar to taste
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, quartered for garnish
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

For the rice pilaf:
1 lb tomatoes, peeled (for me this was 4 medium sized tomatoes on the vine)
1.5 cups of rice
1 chicken bullion cube or packet
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon

1) To peel tomatoes quickly and easily, cut an X in the bottom of each tomato and place them in a bowl.  Boil some water and then pour it over the tomatoes.  Leave the tomatoes in the water for about 1 minute or until the area with the X cut into it begins to peel.  Remove the tomatoes from the bowl with tongs and tear the peel off.
2) Cut the tomato in quarters, make sure that the stem area is removed.  Put them in a food processor and liquefy.  Pour the liquid into a measuring cup.  Ideally, it will be 2 and 2/3 cups of liquefied tomato.  If there isn't enough tomato, use water to bring the amount up to 2 and 2/3. 
3) In a small pot, add tomato liquid, chicken bullion, sugar, salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil and then stir in the rice.  Reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the rice for 15 minutes, or until done.
4) While the rice is cooking, season the chicken with paprika, sumac, and zatar. 
5) Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan and then cook chicken until done, about 8 minutes.
6) When rice is cooked, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter. When the butter is melted, add the lemon juice to taste.  I find that the juice from a whole lemon makes the rice a little watery if it was a huge lemon, so be careful when adding it!
7) Serve the chicken on top of the rice, and sprinkle it with parsley.

Pickled Red Pepper
Concocted by Scienter
Serves 1, but easily scales depending on how many people like vinegar and roasted red peppers

One large roasted red pepper (from a jar is ok, that's what I used!)
White wine vinegar
Aleppo pepper flakes

1) Cut the red pepper into skinny strips.  
2) Place the strips in a bowl and cover with white wine vinegar.
3) Stir in Aleppo pepper to taste
4) Let the peppers sit while you cook the rest of your meal (~30+ mins)
5) Drain well and serve 


Michelle said...

Oooh, I'm going to have to try out cooking rice in tomato sauce. That sounds like something that could work well in the cookbook. Thanks! (And dang it, you've gone and made me hungry again! What a beautiful meal!)

Scienter said...

You should definitely try it! Sumac and zatar probably aren't food pantry friendly for your cookbook, but paprika might be!

Taste of Beirut said...

This is the kind of meal i could eat twice or more a week and not tire of it; I love the flavors, love sumac (grew up on it! ) and love turkish food which has influenced the Lebanese kitchen quite a bit.

Scienter said...

We make this dish several times a month! My husband is a rice monster so he never says no to it. I didn't know what sumac was until I tried zatar for the first time a few years ago. I didn't understand that it's not the same stuff as poison sumac! I love your blog, by the way!


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