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).