Baked Coriander Chicken with Fruity Wild Rice.
I have been asked so many times how I come up with my recipes and 9 times out of 10, my answer is laziness. Not because I want to create an allure of ‘Oh, I just throw things together’ because that’s not always the case, there’s always a sense of formula to my dishes – but they’re always created as a way of getting me out of doing something strenuous.
This dish is a testament to that laziness. I was really craving a sweet chicken risotto but I also had several things to attend to that did not involve standing by the stove and stirring liquids into stubborn grain. The dog was acting foolish, I had some internet banking nonsense to sort and I also had to put linens on my bed – a risotto was out of the question.
But unfortunately, my DNA is that of a piglet and when my palette demands something, there is no compromise. That’s why I decided I would meet the thing in the damn middle and find a way to get a risotto style dish that came at half – or even three quarters – of the strategy. I was hit by another fork in the road. I had no risotto rice, or similarly textured grain. I was fuming. But there it was, in its black-spiked splendour, a tiny pack of wild rice that I had forgotten about in my pantry.
Wild rice is not exactly a rice, but more a combination of grain and grass and has a fantastic nutty taste that really benefits from a light toasting before you introduce a liquid. This nuttiness – as always – goes so well with fruit and that collaboration of sweet fruit and nutty rice is always a winner. I was going to go down a ‘winner, winner, chicken dinner’ joke route then but I figured its obvious nature would offend both of us.
This recipe also includes three different forms of my favourite herb, spice, ingredient, whatever you want to call it and that’s coriander. Short of shoving it in a cake batter, I always try to find a way to throw coriander into something. But again, that fruity-nut flavour combination gave me some real gastronomic liberty to add that spike of coriander to it, to really lift the dish. The dry herb to add a hint of eastern spice, the herb to add a ashy smoky to it and the fresh sprinkling right at the end for a nice cool touch.
So essentially if some quick pottering on a stove top and then shoving something in a oven is new territory to you, I really do suggest starting with this to put you at ease. This also acts a fantastic family feast as you are able to up the quantities of both chicken and rice to match the numbers you are cooking for, or you can be like me and just have the meal for two of you.
Preheat the oven to 180C. In a pestle and mortar, grind together the first two of three kinds of coriander we are throwing in this dish. Make sure you grind the coriander seeds and the dry coriander herb down to a fine powder as we are using this to season the chicken and rice before we add stock so want the particles as fine as possible to insure maximum flavour penetration. I love that word.
In a wide roasting pan that comes with a lid and is oven safe, heat a little oil before adding some roughly chopped white onion. Sprinkle in some salt and grate in a garlic clove. Add a roughly chopped chili, removing the seeds if you feel you don’t want this to be too spicy. This is generally my version of a mirepoix – which is a French culinary term for the flavour base ingredients. It’s usually onion, carrot and celery in French cooking. But I’m not French – so this is my own mirepoix. My Mikepoix, if you will. But anyway…
To your mirepoix, add a quick pinch of turmeric and turn everything with a spoon to create a sticky yellow mix. Now add a cup of wild rice and stir it into the mirepoix so that it takes on some of the glossy yellow dye before sprinkling in half of the coriander mixture. The reason we’re only doing half is because if you add some to the rice while it’s dry, it will stick to the exterior, and we’re add the rest in with the liquid later so that the remainder of the flavour gets absorbed into the rice. Flavour from all angles!
Once the rice has taken on the flavour base and has become a little translucent, push everything to the side of the pan before add your chicken cuts to the centre of the pan. I chose on the bone because I love it but feel free to use boneless chicken thighs if you don’t want to be faffing with bones. All we’re doing here is browning the meat. Once the chicken has developed a burnished surface, flip them over to ensure a browning on all sides.
Finally, pour in two cups of hot chicken stock (it may sizzle so do it quickly so that the water covers the whole pan as quickly as possible) before dropping in a handful of dried mixed fruit and the rest of the pestle and mortar coriander dust. Give everything a stir. It may look weird because there’s half raw chicken floating about in half cooked rice in a pool of chicken broth. Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.
Shove a lid on the top of this and transfer – carefully – to the oven. This is where you can now go and give your attention seeking dog some love, attend to online baking and put your bed sheets on because all you need to do is allow that dish to cook up in the oven for around 45 to 55 minutes. When you take it from the oven – be careful not to burn yourself, but when you take that lid off, the rice will be swollen and nutty, the dried fruit soft and sweet and the chicken half fried and half braised into a tender, milky bite. Sprinkle over some fresh coriander leaves for a final coriander touch and you’re done.
It was such a happy accident. Not only did I manage to get the risotto-style rice dish that I was initially craving but it also enabled me to do nothing more than some stove top pottering and a shove in the oven. Laziness is such a sin in every walk of life – but when it comes to cooking, it can be the catalyst to so many delicious dishes.
That’s the justification I have for culinary laziness and I’m sticking to it.