Braised Chicken and Rice with Orange, Saffron, Almond, And Pistachio Syrup
Adapted liberally from Epicurious & from “Supper for a Song”
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and minced
coarse salt and black pepper
4 large chicken thighs and/or drumsticks, chopped in half, or 8 smaller ones
some salt and pepper
about 4 cups water
1 large organic orange
1 tablespoon unrefined granulated sugar
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/2 cup shelled, chopped pistachio nuts
large pinch of saffron threads (use your own imagination, I’m not sure what a “large pinch” in this case is)
2 to 3 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
7 or 8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed, seeds extracted
a handful of blanched, skinned baby fava beans (optional)
a handful of blanched peas (optional)
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, or a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and throw in the onions. Cook over medium heat until they soften and turn golden. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Brown the chicken well on all sides, then pour in 2 1/2 cups water and bring everything to a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and cook about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.
While your chicken is happily simmering away, peel the zest from the orange with a potato peeler and cut it into matchstick strips (this is slightly annoying as the strips are slippery and are hard to stack). Blanch them in a small pan of boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and set aside.
In 1/2 cup (scant) water, in a small, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar, then bring to a boil and cook to reduce and thicken for 5-10 minutes until the liquid is syrupy. To this, you add the orange zest, slivered almonds, and pistachios and boil for 5 more minutes, skimming off any froth that will form during the process. Strain the syrup and pour it back in the pan, but set aside the orange zest and nuts. Add the saffron and pomegranate molasses to the syrup and boil again for 3 minutes. Then add the cardamom seeds.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Remove the chicken from its braising liquid and set it aside. Add the syrup to the liquid. Make this up to roughly 3 cups with more water. Bring to a boil and add the rice. Season to taste, and add 2/3 of the orange zest and nuts, reserving the rest. Bring back to a boil, then cover and simmer until the rice is cooked – about 20 minutes. The liquid should have all been absorbed by now.
Bury the chicken and onions in the rice and add the fava beans and peas. Put the lid back, and cook in the oven for 20 more minutes.
Serve straight from the pan or, if you prefer, on a large, warmed platter. Sprinkle the last third of the orange zest and nuts over the top before serving.