I seriously have not found a chicken and rice dish that I didn’t love. This simple combo will forever remind me of my mom, who made the best chicken and rice dish, that I would regularly order!
My mom’s version was a classic, simple French dish of roast chicken pieces, with garlic and herbs, with the resulting juices becoming the liquid that the rices would cook in. It had such a homey, buttery, chicken-y flavour, that I couldn’t imagine anything better. But through the years, as my tastebuds became more adventurous, the flavours of this simple cozy dish have gotten more and more exotic, as I try out as many global versions that I can get into my belly. Not that I still don’t hold a soft spot for my mom’s chicken and rice. Up to the very end, it was still I dish I would request when we visited. 🙂
Indian, Persian, Asian, Mexican, Spanish, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, and so many more, cuisines have some sort of version of chicken and rice. And each one brings the best unique combinations of spices, herbs, vegetables to the table.
In fact, as per a previous post, if I could only have one dish for the rest of my life, it is this Middle Eastern Braised Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Cardamom Rice and be very happy. It has everything: spices, aromatics, wonderfully flavoured chicken, and the best sweetness from the caramelized onions. The rice soaks up all the flavours, and becomes the star of the dish. I always make extra, just so that I can eat this rice for the next few days. It is one of my all-time favourite recipes from ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
And then I picked up ‘Simple’. By Yotam Ottolenghi. Another winning cookbook, by one of the most creative chefs out there. I quickly started using my sticky notes to make flags all through the book. (All the ‘bookmarks’ stick up to show me what initially intrigued me. Once I have made a recipe, I move the mark to the side, so I know what I’ve actually tried from each book on my cookbook shelves). When I turned to the page with ‘Chicken Marbella’ I was floored. I know that Yotam is adventurous in combining fruit, veggies, aromatics, herbs and spices, but this one made my mouth water just reading the ingredients.
As opposed to the first carnations of this recipe, Yotam has the chicken pieces marinated in garlic cloves, fresh (not dried) oregano leaves, olives, capers, medjool dates (not prunes), red wine vinegar and olive oil. And they can be marinated up to 2 days in the fridge. The long marinating time ensures that these will be so tender and juicy. Even if you can only do 24 hours, go for it.
When you are ready to roast off the chicken and accoutrements, just lay them out in a parchment lined baking pan that can hold more liquid. Then white wine and molasses (date molasses if you can find it) will get whisked together and poured over. This is one of my favourite parts of the recipe. Roast at 400F for about 50-60 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Basting regularly will make the skins take on the most glorious burnished hue. And the resulting juices and bits and bobs become a lovely ‘sauce’ to serve with the chicken. Sprinkle some more fresh oregano leaves on the finished chicken and serve! Oh my. Jim was astonished at how tender and juicy the meat was. The final flavour was a perfectly balanced Middle Eastern combination of sweet meets savoury. Yotam, you have knocked it out of the park with this dish!! It is giving your Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Cardamom Rice a run for its money!
I served this chicken with another incredible dish from ‘Simple’. Tomato and Garlic Confit Rice. A pilaf that is made in two steps. First grape tomatoes, garlic, shallots, herbs, and whole spices are confit’ed (baked at a relatively low temperature) in olive oil for an hour. Then rice is sprinkled on top, boiling water is added, the pan is covered tightly with foil and baked until the rice is cooked through and perfectly fluffy. Another dish that Jim couldn’t stop raving about. I mused out loud that I might just add a little heat (chilli flakes) next time. Jim quickly responded with “Don’t change a thing!!” Okay, Jim! Message received. I had another couple over to help us taste test. They wholeheartedly concurred with Jim! They raved about the meal from beginning to end, and asked if I would be adding the recipes to the blog. Oh yes indeedy! Both dishes will be regulars over here from now on. I mean, we could eat the rice as a meal all by itself!!! I’ll get that recipe up on the blog this week as well.
When I first started the process with this recipe, I was using extra large chicken legs. I had 4 large legs marinating in the fridge. But then when it came time to roast them, I decided to hold one back. One leg would feed Jim and myself, that’s how large they were. So I took that leg, cut it in half, to create a thigh and drumstick, and put them into a freezer bag, along with some of the olives, capers, garlic, dates etc. And now they are ready to roast off the next time I feel like this meal. Probably next week!!
Here’s a couple of tips: I learned the first one the hard way. Not that it was hard, it was just an extra step. I had been marinating the meat in the very pan I was going to use for roasting. Because I didn’t want to roast it all off without first lining the pan with some parchment, I had to remove everything, place it in a bowl, and then rinse out the pan, dry it, and line it. I could have avoided all of this by doing the marinating in an extra large freezer bag. I could still leave the bag in the pan in the fridge, but I wouldn’t have to worry about doing any mucking about trying to clean the pan.
The other tip: If you want to get an amazing head start with this dish for another meal down the road, place all the ingredients (poultry through marinade ingredients) into freezer bags and store right away in the freezer. When you know you want to have this for dinner, pull the bag out 24-36 hours in advance and let it all thaw in the fridge. As it thaws it will start marinating right away.
So while there may be a bit of prep for this meal, it is totally doable, and totally worth it. Easy enough for a weekday family meal, or fancy and flavourful enough for weekend company. Leftovers heat up perfectly, and your tastebuds and belly will be eternally grateful.
Roast Chicken with Garlic, Olives, Dates and Oregano
Aka Chicken Marbella, tender and juicy chicken legs are marinated in a festive and flavourful combination of garlic, olives, capers, dates and herbs. A wine and molasses braising liquid turns the skin the most amazing mahogany and creates a wonderful sauce for the veggies and aromatics
- 8 chicken legs or thighs, skin on (about 3 lbs or 1/4 kg) Score the skin a few times
- 5 garlic cloves crushed
- 3/4 cup 15 grams fresh oregano leaves, plus extra for serving
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup 100 grams pitted green olives
- 6 tbsp 60 grams capers, plus 2 tbsp of the brine
- 4 1/2 oz 120 grams Medjool dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise
- 2 bay leaves
- kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 1/2 cup 120 ml dry white wine
- 1 tbsp molasses
Place the chicken in a large non-reactive bowl and add the garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, olives, capers, dates, and bay leaves, along with 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of cracked pepper.
Gently mix everything together, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinate for 1-2 days. Stir the ingredients occasionally to make sure everything is marinating evenly.
Alternatively, you can do all of the above in an extra large freezer bag. This will keep all the ingredients in more even contact with the liquids etc. And keeps the bowl or pan clean.
Preheat the oven to 400F
Line a baking pan that can hold the chicken, marinade ingredients, as well as another 1/2 cup of liquid, with parchment paper, going up all the sides.
Transfer everything in the bowl or bag to the pan, spreading everything out evenly.
Whisk the wine and molasses in a small bowl. Pour this evenly over the chicken pieces.
Place the baking pan in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 50 minutes. Baste several times until the meat is cooked through. Depending on the size of your chicken pieces, it may take longer. Thats alright, it won't dry out!!
Transfer everything to a platter, and sprinkle with remaining oregano leaves.
If you are in a prepping kind of mood, why not take the ingredients (except the wine and molasses) and place them all in freezer bags. Place the bags in the freezer. When feeling like this meal, pull a bag out, and let it thaw in the fridge for 36-48 hours. You will have amazingly marinated meat, all ready to go! Then just place into the baking pan, add the wine and molasses, and Bake!