Once again, I cook something that looks and tastes good but forget to note the process. Behold:
This started out with the intention of being some kind of pilaf, maybe even a pollo con arroz, or a dirty rice. In the end, ingredients dictated the final direction, and rice and saute were kept separate and not folded into each other. Lovely thing, saffron. Sometimes it looks so beautiful when imbued into rice, you end up not wanting to obscure its color.
The thing is, as I was cooking, I was so caught up in figuring out the direction of the dish that I totally neglected to photograph the display of ingredients and all those lovely steps of stuff going into the saute pan and such. Then again: Not like I have one of those “studio” kitchens or that I own a DSLR camera that’s both waterproof and hot oil proof. No, all I’m working with is my iTouch. Not terribly sophisticated or able to zoom in from outside the thermal penumbra of a hot skillet. No, lots of forethought has to happen when working with those parameters. Worse than that is the interruption of the creative process that must happen when documenting the cooking. Ahh, very problematic for me.
So what is this dish called? I have no idea. Is it difficult to make? Not really–especially if you own a rice cooker! Does it take long to make? No longer than it takes to cook the rice. How does it taste? Good enough that, given how little time it takes to make, the ratio of taste/(time + effort) = complete gratification.
2 Tbls Olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
2 “rice cooker” measuring cups basmati rice
2 chorizo sausage links
2 Tbls Olive oil
3 or 4 chicken thighs, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 Tbls cumin powder
1 Tbls paprika/pimento powder
1 Tbls chipotle powder
1 large handful medium-sized crimini mushrooms, sliced to bite-size
1 large carrot sliced into 1/16″ thin, approximately 3/4″ squares (more or less, this not rocket science, )
1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup french green beans chopped to bite-sized pieces
1 cup chopped cilantro for garnish
The beauty of this dish is how easy it is to make. Your first and best tool is the rice cooker. I own a Zojirushi 5-cup fuzzy-logic rice cooker. Damn nice device! As some might know, you can even program them to finish cooking at a specific time. But that’s less important than just having a functional rice cooker. Why? Because coping with rice can be a major hurtle when it comes to managing the time and space around a kitchen stove-top.
Beginning with the rice, simply start with dicing up a yellow onion (reserve half for later). Heat your olive oil in a saute pan, until it begins to shimmer. Add the diced half onion and cook until soft. Add a crumbled pinch of saffron and stir until all the onions are evenly colored. Remove pan from heat.
Measure out the basmati rice into rice cooker liner pan and rinse until water is mostly clear (Be sure to use the measuring cup that came with the cooker to measure the rice. These units of measure correspond to the water level marks on the inside of the cooker’s liner pan). The rinsing is to minimize stickiness of the final rice. When filling water to the level marks, do not cover the line with water. Just bring the water to barely touching the mark. This will further insure loose grains. Add the saffron onions in with the rice and mix throughly. Turn on rice cooker.
Begin the saute by steaming the chorizo links in a covered large saute pan, over medium heat, with 1 cup water (I have found that Seattle’s own Uli’s Famous Sausage makes a wonderful chorizo sausage for this recipe. This is a fresh sausage and not dry-cured. Their lamb and merguez sausages are also amazing). They will be done well enough when the water has evaporated.
While this is being done, slice up the carrots (a very sharp santoku knife or a mandolin planer would be very useful tools for this job) to size and the crimini mushrooms to bite-sized pieces. For this kind of cooking, where you are envisioning a pilaf of sorts, smaller and thinner pieces of vegetables that cook quickly and easily and are bite-sized are desirable.
Yes, yes, pictures would be helpful about now. 20/20 hindsight says I’m sorry.
For newbies to cutting carrots down to nibble-size, the easiest approach is to cut that root down to pieces two or three times the final length. Starting with one chunk, cut off a thin slice, so the round log has a flat side to keep itself from rolling about. Then you start trimming off 1/16″ slices. Keeping your fingertips curved behind those first knuckles and using those same knuckles as a knife blade guide will allow you greater speed and control over your cutting. If the slices are too wide for a comfortable bite, it’s easy to cut them length-wise. After all of the carrot is sliced up, it is now easy to cut the pieces to final length. Thumbnail-sized pieces should be the final result.
Damn, I wish I had pictures! Still, the concept is easy. The hard part is that you need a very–and I mean VERY–sharp knife. Those thin Japanese santoku knives are the cat’s meow, as they can be made extremely sharp and their thin blades don’t get stuck like their European brethren. Otherwise, a good mandolin slicer will do as good of a job.
By now, the chorizo should be cooked through. Remove them from the skillet, add a splash of olive oil, quickly cut the chicken thighs into thirds and add to pan. Raise temperature to high. Slice up the sausages to 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces and return to pan. Brown the chicken and sausage together. About 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Lower temperature to medium. Add onions and garlic, saute until soft. Return chicken and chorizo to pan with the mushrooms. Add cumin, paprika, and chipotle powder and stir until everything is coated (I think it was chipotle that I used. It smelled like paprika/pimento but a lot stronger. I mean, it could have been chipotle. The point is, the “same-but-stronger” ratcheted the dish up to where it needed to be in flavor). Saute for 4 minutes more. Add the carrots and stir. Add the cans of diced tomatoes and garbanzo beans. Stir and let reduce for about 10 minutes. At this point, the saute should be fairly dry, though still moist. Add the chicken stock and let simmer over medium-low heat. Add the green beans. This needs to reduce uncovered until the saute is firm and not runny-wet. Hopefully, by the time the green beans are al dente tender, the saute will be ready.
Once the saute is finished, the rice should also be done. When you open the cooker, the rice should be evenly colored by the saffron, though the onion might have separated to form a layer across the top. Now is a good time to mix everything back together again. Incidentally, the moment the rice cooker is done, it’s always a good idea to take a rice paddle spatula and toss the cooked rice, to loosen and separate the grains. This helps to prevent unsightly sticking prior to plating.
At this point, you have the choice of folding in the rice with the saute, to create a de-facto pilaf. Yes, normally a pilaf has the rice cooked with the other ingredients. However, this method of creating a pilaf spares the cook the added concentration of having to mind the rice cooking with the rest of the ingredients. Should you decide to not make a pilaf, you retain the option of simply topping the rice with the chorizo and chicken when your lovely partner is ready to sit down. Don’t forget to garnish with the coarsely chopped cilantro. All so good!