Every home should have a little pinch of magic in its spice drawer. Saffron is the most luxurious and robust spice you can acquire. It distributes a beautiful aroma and rich golden-yellow hue to any dish it touches. Who doesn’t love perfumed, creamy rice and fork tender chicken? This recipe has a few steps in order to assure its excellence; however, it is well worth the wait.
Saffron Chicken and Rice takes some major pointers from the Latin American dish called “Arroz Con Pollo” which is garnished with peas and green olives. My garnish of black olives and green onions provides the color contrast and salty bite required without distracting your taste buds from the beautiful flavor of saffron.
5 chicken breasts, boned and skinned
4 large garlic cloves, grated
Juice and zest of one lemon
Juice of one orange
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¾ tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
2 cups long-grain brown rice
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of white onions, chopped
10 mini sweet bell peppers, sliced
¼ tsp. saffron threads
4 cups chicken stock, home prepared
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes, including juice
1 can black olives, pitted halved
5 tbsp. green onions, sliced
Mix garlic, lemon juice, orange juice, salt, red and black pepper and pour over chicken breasts to marinade for one hour, turning occasionally. Take chicken out of marinade being sure to pat dry with paper towels. Reserve marinade.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F.
Heat oil in a heavy 6 quart pot (with an oven safe lid) over moderately high heat. Brown chicken in batches, without crowding the pan. Transfer browned chicken to a plate, reserving oil and brown bits in pot.
Sauté onions, bell peppers, and garlic in pot over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits from chicken, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
While vegetables cook, heat saffron in a dry small skillet over low heat, shaking skillet, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add a tiny bit of water and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.
Add cumin, tomato paste and salt to vegetables and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in saffron mixture, bay leaf, tomatoes (including juice), broth, and reserved marinade and bring to a boil. Stir in rice, then add breast pieces, and arrange chicken in 1 layer. Return to a simmer.
Cover pot tightly, then transfer to oven and bake until rice is tender and most of liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow chicken and rice to sit, covered, for 20 minutes.
Scatter olives and green onions over rice and chicken to serve. Discard bay leaf.