Weekly Winner:  Perusing Persia through seriously yellow chicken

I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe from Persia.  Heck, I’m not even sure I’ve ever eaten Persian food before finding this recipe last week.

Persian Chicken with Turmeric and Lime caught my eye for several reasons.  First of all that color!  I mean that is sunshiny-yellow chicken with some seriously verdant green toppings.  It’s beautiful, right?? Then looking at the list of ingredients it had lots of the things I’ve grown to love:  white rice, warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric, yogurt, and nuts.  And not just any nuts but pistachios which easily make the list of my top three all-time favorite nuts.  

This dish was exotic and familiar at the same time.  There’s nothing more cozy to me than a bowl of chicken and rice and that’s exactly what this dish is, but it’s also so much more.  The spice mix in the rice alone elevate the lowly basmati rice to something incredible and the hit of the turmeric on the chicken really make this dish unique.  Its spicy without being at all hot.

This perfect “getaway in a bowl” comes from Epicurious and while the list of ingredients might seem daunting, it is really quite easy and quick to prepare.  One word of warning however:  if you’re like me and use your hands to rub herbs, marinades and seasonings on meat, you will (as I did) have yellow fingernails for about 3 days after making this! That turmeric is serious stuff!

Persian Chicken with Turmeric and Lime

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

• 1 medium onion, halved, thinly sliced

• 2 teaspoons ground turmeric

• 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus 1 garlic clove, smashed

• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus 8 wedges for serving (3–4 limes total)

• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• 2 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, divided

• 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

• 1 cup basmati rice

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 1 cup plain yogurt (optional)

• 1 English hothouse or large standard cucumber, peeled if desired, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2″ pieces (about 2 cups)

• 1 cup (packed) herb leaves, such as mint, cilantro, and/or dill (I used mint, parsley, and basil)

• 1/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

• Sumac (for serving; optional)

Procedure:

Mix chicken, onion, turmeric, chopped garlic, lime juice, 1 Tbsp. oil, 2 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. salt, and 3/4 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium in a heavy medium saucepan. Add rice and smashed garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Stir in cardamom, cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. salt, and remaining 1/4 tsp. cumin and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add 1 3/4 cups water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer, covered, until water is evaporated and rice is cooked, 18–20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let sit, covered, until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil over medium-high in a large skillet until very hot but not smoking. Add chicken mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 6–8 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in yogurt, if using, then adjust seasoning to taste. Cover to keep warm.

Gently toss cucumber, herbs, and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl.

Fluff rice with a fork and divide among bowls. Spoon chicken over. Top with cucumber salad, pistachios, and sumac, if using. Generously squeeze lime wedges over