In honor of my mother's recent visit, I made a proper dinner. Not a tried-and-true standby, not the latest thing I do at class, not even something from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook that I haven't made yet but I'm sure will be great because everything in her cookbooks is great. No way man. My mom deserves the best. So I decided to recognize the occasion of her arrival for what it was: the best reason ever to finally try my hand at something brilliant from Jerusalem, a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi that I've had for over a year but haven't really tackled with the gusto and precision it warrants. You can tell from the long, sexy ingredient lists that everything in the cookbook will turn out complex and fragrant, you can tell from the pictures that everything will be gorgeous, and you can tell from the warm, detailed recipes themselves that these guys are foolproof. How to choose then? Well, you see, I've got these children underfoot most hours of the day, so I needed to try something that was simple, with decent amounts of inactive time, once I'd gotten everything assembled and prepped. I also wanted something that wasn't too spicy, and probably it would have to be chicken, so as to please the whole (picky yet chicken-loving) family. Lastly, I wanted something that, without requiring too much of that active time I was avoiding, would teach me a thing or two. So I chose Chicken with Cardamom Rice, and it did not disappoint, on any front. It tastes fancy and complicated but it isn't. And I learned how to make luscious chicken thighs that were perfectly crisp on the outside and perfectly moist on the inside, as well as how to make rice like my Colombian grandmother used to: with a dry tea towel.
The tea towel absorbs the last bit of moisture from the rice, making it everything you hoped for but had trouble getting without a tea towel.
My mom loved it. You will too. Make this tomorrow.
Since I'm not altering a thing about this recipe (why would I? it is EXQUISITE exactly as written!) and I'm not contacting Mr. Ottolenghi for permission to reprint his brilliant recipe (which would be the decidedly polite thing to do), I'm not posting it here. Conveniently for you (it's your lucky day, folks), the New York Times posted it a while back when it was featured in their Recipe Lab. So... here you go... (with a few notes from me below)...
E-N's Notes: (1) I omitted the sugar and used currants rather than barberries. Currants are delicious and, you know, readily available at an American grocery store. (2) I caramelized my onions for closer to 40 minutes than the stated 10-15 minutes, at a lower temp, because I wanted them as sweet and juicy as possible. I'm so glad I did this - they were a perfect sweet complement to the spices and currants. (3) This makes a lot of rice for 2 1/4 lbs chicken thighs. I'd go with as many thighs as you can fit into your pan - maybe up to 3 lbs (6+ thighs). (4) The combination of dill, cilantro, and parsley is nice and if you want to buy three fresh herbs even when you happen to make this in the dead of winter, go for it (I certainly did, for the love of Mom of course), but I'm fairly certain it would be just as good with straight up cilantro (or dill or parsley). (5) Finally, and really, most importantly, the children super loved this as much as the grown-ups! Hooray!