Chicken Pilaf

chicken_pilafMakes 6 servings
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

Suggested Accompaniments
Fresh Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Fresh Lime Juice

1 lb boneless chicken thighs
Kosher salt
3 cups white basmati rice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups coconut milk
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2 cup finely chopped white onion
2 tablespoons minced gingerroot
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seed
1 teaspoons turmeric
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup cilantro chiffonade

Season the chicken with salt and let stand in the refrigerator for 20 – 30 minutes.

Put the rice in a large bowl and fill the bowl with cold water from the tap. Swish the grains around gently with your hand then pour off the water. Wash the rice about 7 more times in this way, or until the washing water loses its murkiness and remains clear.

Cover the rice in the bowl with lukewarm water from the tap and let soak for 20 minutes. Drain the rice in a sieve.

Heat the stock and coconut milk in a small pot over moderately high heat until boiling. Heat the oil in a 8-quart stew pot over moderate heat until warmed through and add the cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Cook for about 1 minute, or until the spices are fragrant. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened (don’t let it color), about 3 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, coriander, turmeric and the bay leaves and drained rice, stirring to coat the rice with the oil. Add the seasoned chicken and cook on high heat for 3 minutes Add the hot stock mixture and bring back up to a boil. Season with salt.

Cover and cook over moderate heat until all the water is absorbed and the chicken cooked about 15 minutes.

Add the cilantro and fold in. cover and rest for 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Cook’s Notes
This is the kind of recipe where you want to have all your mise en place set up ahead of time, meaning your ingredients measured out and ready to go, because once you start cooking everything comes together fairly quickly. Remember to season this dish as you go, don’t wait until the end.

Another interesting point about this dish, is that the whole spices get added to the oil first at the top of the recipe to extract their flavor. They’re denser and take longer to cook. The dried, powdery spices come later because they would burn quickly if toasted in the oil. Remember to remove the whole cinnamon and cloves before serving.

Rice Tips:
Rinse the basmati rice really well in cold water. You want to agitate it, so you rinse off the starch. This could take 15 to 16 times. Rinse and repeat until the water is clear.

When you’re cooking rice – make sure your liquid is hot first before you add it, so it will cook more evenly.

Floyd stirs his rice very gently, and likes to use a rubber spatula vs. a metal spoon so that the grains don’t break and stay whole.

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6 Responses to Chicken Pilaf

  1. Bev says:

    I made this dish tonight and WOW! It was very, very delicious. My husband and I absolutely loved this. It involved a lot of cutting, chopping and washing (the rice), but it was all worth it! After all the the prep work the dish itself went together quite easily. All those spices blended together amazingly well. We love good Indian food, and I would say that this is close to a chicken biryani. I made it exactly as directed. I also made the tomato-cucumber salad with Greek yogurt for a simple raita and I had a couple of pieces of Trader Joe’s garlic naan in the freezer — even though the extra starch was unnecessary it still tasted great.I think this would be great with the addition of some other vegetables, but really it was perfect, just as it was. Thanks for a great recipe!

  2. Naomi says:

    I made this tonight for a house full of people who are a bit apprehensive about indian food, and everyone loved it! It has a very delicate, accessible flavor. I’ve never made anything indian before and was nervous about using “christmas cookie spices” in a savory dinner, but it tasted absolutely amazing. I’ll definitely be making this again!

    • Sara Moulton says:

      Hooray, I am so glad you stepped out and tried something new (and I understand the hesitation about sweet spices). I love Indian food, especially when it is carefully seasoned.

  3. Rosa says:

    I will make this recipe tomorrow! This is the first time I watch your program. I am so happy I did! My husband worked in India many years ago and I know how to cook Italian and Brazilian. Never tried Indian. Can’t wait! Thanks. Rosa

  4. Olga Mitchell says:

    Dear Sara

    I love Indian food. I can’t wait to try this Indian dish. It sounds delicious. I just have a question about the chicken. Should the chicken be cut up in chunks or Is the serving about one whole chicken thigh per person.

    I love your programs. You have such great tips for cooking. I record All of your programs. Sadly I have to erase them after I’ve watched them to make room for others. Are any of these available on YouTube? It would be helpful to have a listing of the programs with the names of the dishes that you prepared so that I can find them after I’ve erased them from my recorded programs.


    • moulton says:

      The chicken doesn’t need to be cut up. If they are small thighs, the portion is 2. If they are large, the portion is 1 per person.
      As for my shows, they are all on You Tube except the current season (which will go up after it has aired completely). Here is the link
      I don’t know how to list the recipes on each show on You Tube but you can find them easily on my website by clicking on the little search button on the right at the top.

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