Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Silken Chicken with Spinach and Wild Rice

This is a great recipe if you want to make something that looks impressive but with little effort.  The chicken itself only cooks for about 15 minutes if it's fresh or completely defrosted beforehand.  Baby spinach doesn't take very long to wilt, and wild rice needs 50 minutes to an hour to cook, but you can just ignore it on your back burner.  This recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.  The book's title is accurate unless you want to cook lamb, in which case a pressure cooker is required for the "quick" portion.  I don't have one, so I've only tried the poultry and vegetarian recipes, but they've all been great.  This is one of my favorites because it doesn't take long to cook and it has a complex flavor that tastes like I slaved away in the kitchen. 

The best thing about this chicken is the sauce.  The chicken is punctured several times with a sharp knife and has slits cut across the top, into which salt and lemon juice are rubbed before the sauce is poured on.  It's thick and creamy, so it clings to the chicken while it bakes.  It's slightly spicy, and sprinkling the extra cayenne, garam masala, cumin seeds, and mint gives it extra depth.  I serve it with rice and spinach, like the picture in the book. 

As usual, this is a recipe for 2 with a full recipe of sauce (enough for 4)

Silken Chicken with Wild Rice and Wilted Baby Spinach
From Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking
Serves 2

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts.  If using frozen, make sure they are completely defrosted!
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice + extra for squeezing later
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp garam masala + extra for sprinkling over cooked chicken
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper + extra for sprinkling over cooked chicken
1 clove garlic, minced or squashed with a garlic press
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp ground toasted cumin seeds* + extra for sprinkling over cooked chicken
pinch dried mint

Wild rice from a box

A ton of baby spinach.  Seriously, go to the bulk area of your produce section and grab several large handfuls of baby spinach.  Then, when you think you have too much, get some more.  When you really think you've overdone it, grab a few more handfuls. It reduces when you cook it.  The first time I made this I thought I'd bought way too much spinach and then after I wilted it, each plate barely got a large spoonful.  

* to toast cumin seeds, place a small skillet over medium high heat.  When the skillet is hot, add the seeds and cook, shaking the pan occasionally.  When seeds smell toasty, transfer them to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to grind them. 

1) Prepare wild rice according to the box.  This takes a while, so get it started before you do anything else. 
2) Preheat oven to its hottest setting.  For me, this is 550F. 
3) Prepare the chicken.  Prick each breast all over with a sharp knife.  Then cut three diagonal slits across the top.  Rub salt and lemon juice on the chicken, making sure to get some in the diagonal slits.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes.  I let it sit while I prep the garlic and ginger and mix up the sauce. 
4) Place chicken in a shallow dish.  Combine the cream, garam masala, cayenne, ground cumin seeds, garlic, and ginger in a bowl and mix well. Pour it over the chicken and rub it in.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes. 
5) Place the chicken into a nonstick baking pan.  The sauce should cling to the chicken.  I spoon some extra out of the dish and pour it over the chicken.
6) Bake the chicken for 15-18 minutes.
7) When the chicken has about 5 minutes left to cook, heat a splash of vegetable oil in a large skillet.  Rinse the baby spinach.  Depending on the size of your skillet, add spinach and cook, stirring, until it wilts.  My largest skillet can't accommodate all the spinach at once, so I add it one or two handfuls at a time. 
8) Assemble the dish.  Spoon the rice onto a plate and spread evenly with the back of a spoon.  Top with wilted spinach.  Place a chicken breast on top of the spinach.  Add a few squeezes of lemon juice if you want.  I like to get a little on the spinach and rice. Sprinkle the chicken with remaining garam masala, cayenne, cumin seeds, and a little dried mint. 

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