“This tastes like chicken soup without the soup,” declared my daughter as she tucked into a weeknight dinner of chicken and rice. It was cool and cloudy outside, an unusual event in Northern California, where any rain in September warrants breaking news on the television. As many of you know, I am a New England girl at heart. Even when I was living in Europe for nearly 2 decades, I managed to end up in countries and regions where fog, rain, and cold weather featured prominently in the weather report, and I didn’t mind at all. I married a Dane whose country prides itself on its dismal weather 9 months of the year. Autumn weather brings out the best in my mood. The finicky, blustery, invigorating climate sends me outdoors for cool fresh air and the spray of rain and then back inside for cozy clothes, warm fires and comfort food. Inclement weather, to me, is like the proverbial other shoe to drop. It balances out the sunshine and warmth of summer, and shows off the other side of Mother Nature.
So, now that I find myself living in California, otherwise known as the land of eternally blue skies and incessantly bright sunshine, I must seize my fall moments when I can. This brings me to Chicken with Rice and Vegetables. Due to the wild and unexpected display of crazy weather and freakish nature last week in Marin County (a.k.a. sprinkles and clouds) I embraced that other shoe, so to speak. After taking a brisk run outside in the forest, I lit a fire in our fireplace, donned fluffy houseshoes and a fleece pullover, and proceeded to make a cozy one pot dish for a family dinner. The result was what I would consider a compliment in the comfort food category by my daughter and an apt description of this homey skillet chicken and rice dish. The other result was the hot flashes I experienced due to overdressing in fleece and fluff for the 10 F. temperature drop in the air outside.
Chicken with Rice and Vegetables
Mild and comforting, this is food that will please children and adults alike.The results will be more dry like a paella, not a stew.
4 large chicken breasts, with skin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, cut in 1/4″ slices
2 celery ribs, cut in 1/2″ slices
1 poblano pepper, or green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut in 1/2″ pieces
2 vine ripe tomatoes, halved, stem and seeds removed, cut in chunks
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 turkish bay leaf
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup shelled peas or frozen peas
Thyme sprigs for garnish
Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken skin-side down. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook 2 more minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside on plate.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add onion and sauté until tender over medium heat, 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté one minute. Add carrots, celery, pepper. Sauté until colors brighten and vegetables begin to soften slightly, 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add rice and cook, stirring, one minute. Add stock. Return chicken to pot and arrange in one layer over rice and vegetables. Cover, reduce to simmer, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 12-15 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet. Place on plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Add peas to rice, cover and continue to cook until rice is tender, approximately 5-8 more minutes. Add additional salt and pepper, to taste. Fluff rice and vegetables with a fork and return chicken to skillet. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and serve.