Chicken and Rice for Beginners

Before this blog, before my diary. Before the phrase “cut and paste” conjured up anything more than scissors and glue, there was my spiral black kitchen book. The book is filled with recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers that I felt were manageable for someone like me — a twenty-something recent college grad whose spice rack contained three things: salt, pepper, and garlic salt.  Those of you who’ve read Dinner: A Love Story won’t be surprised to hear that most of the sepia-toned, peeling-at-the-corners clippings come from the New York Times Dining pages. The reporters who wrote for that section in the 90s were my rock stars (Marian Burros, Amanda Hesser, Rozanne Gold, Mark Bittman, Ruth Reichl) and I’d look forward to Wednesday, the day “Dining” was published, the way most of my newly workforce-embedded friends looked forward to Happy Hour on Fridays.

One of the recipes glued (literally glued) in there is a Bittman classic from his “Minimalist” column. My scissors practically walked themselves to the newspaper as soon as I read the title: “Chicken with Rice, the Easy Way.” (I have always been a sucker for simplicity.) And last weekend, when I came upon it, I couldn’t believe I’d never pointed you in its direction until now. It strikes me as the perfect dinner for new cooks, new parents, and new toddlers experimenting with new foods. The best thing about a dinner like this, is that once you master the framework, it becomes endlessly customizable — one of those recipes that you forgot ever had a recipe. You can stir in cooked sausage crumbles or asparagus, green peas, sugar snap peas, green beans, mushrooms, or freshly grated Parm during the last few minutes of cooking. You can add ginger and a little red curry paste to the onions, mix in coconut milk with the broth, then finish with lime instead of lemon. Some cilantro instead of parsley. This week, fifteen years after cutting and pasting the recipe into my files, some version of it is on my line-up, for sure.

Chicken and Rice
From Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist” column, New York Times. I’m guessing you have everything you need for it in the pantry and fridge right this very second. Pictured above: My little black book of recipes covered with business cards from restaurants.

2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, about 8 ounces, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper
2 chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups white rice (such as long-grain, jasmine or basmati — brown rice takes longer to tenderize and you don’t want to overcook your chicken)
handful herbs, chopped
juice from 1/2 a lemon

Bring broth and one cup of water to a boil. While you are waiting for it to boil, add olive oil to a large skillet (that has a lid) set over medium-high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper. Cook until onions soften, about 4 minutes.

Add rice to the pan and stir until each grain is covered in oil. Nestle chicken in rice, add salt and pepper, then pour in the broth (or water). Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.

Cook 2o minutes, until all water is absorbed and chicken is cooked through. Garnish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

Inside the book: Recipes I made (and still make) all the time (left) next to recipes that were complete failures, and that I only ever made once (right).


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One pot wonders! Okay this is really two, but I’ll let it slip since I can wash the broth pot while the meal is finishing! This will probably be happening in my house tonight! Thanks Jenny…and Mark 🙂

Laura Z.

What went wrong with Josie´s sweet potato spread? Is that from Josie’s on the UWS? If so, I love that! Why doesn’t it work? Can you share that recipe?


Jenny, since this starts out almost like a risotto, I’m guessing I could sub arborio rice for regular long-grain?


I have almost the exact same notebook, with clippings from the same places. I’d love to compare it sometime – we must have so much overlap! 🙂

My Inspired Table

I love that you kept the notebook. I did almost the same thing, except I used rubber cement (I’m showing my age) to glue the recipes (from Bon Appetit and Gourmet) to 3 x 5 index cards and I kept them in a recipe box. As the years went by the glue became yellow and some of the recipe fell off. Thanks for the memories and a great recipe.


Yes! I make chicken and rice often. A meal that is easy and satisfying. I agree, you can throw almost anything in with it to jazz up the flavor.


Fulton Five! One of our favorite restaurants!

Great post, will be making it this week. Have all the ingredients on hand, which of course is the beauty of this kind of dish.


M: Us, too. Funny…with the food scene exploding in Charleston we haven’t gone to FF in a while, but it’s still open right? When we’re in town, we always peek down Fulton Street to make sure…


@ Jenny – yes – it’s still open and still amazing!

Tried this recipe last night, and it will definitely be a keeper in the rotation. We did chicken thighs, since that’s what I had on hand.

Also, as soon as I put the onions in the pan, my husband announced he was going for a jog. So in an effort to make the dish take longer to cook (when does that ever happen?!), I carmelized the onions first, then followed the rest of the recipe. It was FABULOUS.


That’s fantastic! I love your book. I have a similar thing, though an electronic version- when I was 22 I started emailing myself recipes and they’re still in a folder in my email account. The earliest in from 2001 Some are now recipes I know by heart and others are one I have yet to try. I have purged the failures. And many came from the NYT- one of my favorites was 101 Simple Meals ready in 10 minutes or Less (for city dwellers in the summer without access to a grill). I have since moved out of the city and have a grill, but always revisit these recipes when it gets warm.


@Meg — I also save recipes in my email account. When I try them, I either move them to another folder (Favorite Recipes) or delete them. I also print a copy of the favorites so I have a hard copy as well as the one saved in my email account.


I was wanting a chicken casserole right NOW and flipped to your blog. You’re a lifesaver!

Thanks for a great blog – I’m not a mom yet, but my parents managed to have dinner with us every night growing up and I can tell you, it’s a method that works!! Parents out there – all this hard work will pay off someday. I promise! Some of my treasured memories of my family are sitting at the dinner table talking about our days. (Also a game of napkin basketball into cups waiting for my sister to finish her veggies) When we’re all together eating dinner now, it still makes for a great night of laughter and fun.


I made this today and can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll have a midnight snack. I made my own curry paste with serranos, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, fish sauce, coriander and some oil and mixed it in with the onions. I also used half vegetable broth/half coconut milk. Delish and my other half just declared it as being one of my dishes now (he read the Jenny/Andy dish part of the book).


Hi Jenny!
This seems like a recipe that would really be a big hit around here. But I can’t figure out when does the asparagus go in?


This was fabulous. We all loved this tonight!! And though I would like to think of myself as more than a beginner cook, I cannot cook rice. Ever. Bizarre. And my boneless skinless chicken breasts typically= rubber. But this was so so good. Husband and kids loved it. We did cilantro and lime and can’t wait to add new things!!


Perfect meal. I added a clove of garlic to the chopped onion, and topped my portion with cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and sour cream. Simple, and so good.


I always tell people that the first time they make a recipe they should make it as written. I almost never do this except when baking.

I combined a recipe I have for Confetti Rice with this. In addition to the onion, I added some garlic, diced carrots and red bell pepper to the rice before cooking. Sometimes I add broccoli or asparagus, but most often I stir in some frozen peas in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. I also browned the chicken breast a little before adding it to the rice. I didn’t think it needed to be browned, I just like the flavor browning adds.

It was fantastic! The best part is that I have enough leftover rice to make fried rice. There’s not quite enough chicken leftover, so I’m going to add some shrimp.


I made this last night and for the first time ever the words “this is good” come out of my 2-year-old’s mouth at the dinner table (okay, at least when blue-box macaroni was not present)! Thank you!

Jackie F

Great find for a night I am heading out to work and time is very limited. I doubled recipe for our family. Smells delish. Love the simplicity, while still having a nice meal . Thanks!


I made this today for my family’s lunch. My ten year old and eight year old boys loved it. It was a hit with our family. Thanks so much for sharing this quick and easy recipe!


My family and I LOVE LOVE LOVE this meal. It’s especially popular when I make it with ‘mushy carrots’ (5 yo terminology). Meaning I throw some cut up carrots in the last 10 mins or so.
My one problem I have is making the rice not mushy or making sure all grains are cooked through. I’m using my huge Le Creuset on a stupid electric stove (#^@*#^) so I know it holds heat and that could result in rice problems, I am cooking it over low.
Any tips for non gloppy or non crunchy rice? Thanks!


I don’t know how I’ve not seen this recipe/blog post before now? I made this dish last night (with coconut milk, added ginger and red curry paste) and it was a huge hit! My son loved the chicken and tolerated the onions in the rice. We all agreed it was delicious. #winning! This is definitely going in the rotation, with its endless possibilities. thanks!


I’ve made this several times now, but I can never seem to get the rice to cook enough. This is a common problem for me and the reason I have switched to boil in the bag rice for other things. Could I use minute rice instead?


Made this for the first time this weekend while my MIL was in town (this is how much I trust your recipe selecting skills!) and it was wonderful. Will definitely be in heavy rotation for our family dinners.


Made it tonight! So good. Thanks to previous comments, I added 2 cloves of garlic, chopped, with the onions, and added some chopped carrots after 11 min (I’d do after 8 min next time), and peas with 3 min to go. I chopped some fresh thyme, but couldn’t really taste it? Thanks!