Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Saffron, pistachios, and orange peel--Oh, My!

This recipe was inspired by a trip I recently took to New York City. While I was there, an old friend of mine who now lives in Brooklyn introduced me to a small Afghani restaurant in the East Village. After just one meal, I was a believer!

My favorite dish that we tried was called Shireen Palow, which is a chicken and rice dish (think of it as an Afghani Paella) flavored with saffron, orange peel and apricots. A little sweet, a little spicy and a lot delicious--to me, this dish is comfort food defined. It seemed like it would be pretty simple to make myself, so when I got back to Big D, I scoured the net for recipes to help me try to duplicate this dish at home.

I have made versions of this dish five times since my trip (trying to perfect it to share with our DallasEats faithful), and I have to say, I don’t think either my husband or I are even the least bit sick of it yet. I am calling the final version of this dish “Orange Chicken and Rice with Exotic Spices” because I took some liberties with the traditional recipe, and thus it is more “inspired by Shireen Palow” than actual Shireen Palow. But whatever you call it, it’s freakin’ good.

*Please note--there is not nearly as much saffron in this recipe as there is in the pictured spoon. I'm not Rockefeller, people.

Orange Chicken and Rice with Exotic Spices


  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger (this looks like a lot, but it will help flavor the entire dish.

  • 1 teaspoon allspice

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided

  • 1 yellow onion, sliced into thin rings

  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind (or the rind from one medium-sized orange)

  • ½ Cup orange juice (or the juice of one medium-sized orange)

  • 1 quart chicken broth

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice

  • 8-10 dried apricots, sliced

  • 6 tablespoons chopped pistachios

Rub chicken down with 1/2 teaspoon salt, the pepper, ginger, and allspice. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken, and cook 5 minutes, browning on both sides. Don’t worry about cooking the chicken all the way through—it will be going back in the pot with the rice and will have plenty of time to get cooked through. Remove chicken from pan; cover with foil to keep warm.

In the same Dutch oven, melt the other tablespoon over butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. There will be lots of spice and brown bits from the chicken left in the bottom of the pan, so as you’re cooking the onions, try to scrape the bottom of the pan a little to loosen them. They will add a lot of flavor to the dish.

Once the onions are done, add saffron, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. The saffron will add its distinctive aroma and color to the dish, and the garlic and red pepper flakes will add a little kick.

Stir in sugar and rind; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, orange juice, broth, rice, and apricots; bring to a boil. Add the chicken that you set aside and cover, reducing heat to low/medium. Simmer 25-30 minutes or until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Take the pot off the heat and add the pistachios. Let the pot stand off the heat for a few minutes before you serve.

I dare you to try not to go back for seconds...


Jennifer said...

The receipe looks pretty complicated for non-cook me, but, I'll come over to taste it at your house. hint hint.... :)

Anonymous said...

We have been saving a small vial of saffron, just waiting for the perfect recipe. Just days before this post, the vial fell to the kitchen floor and shattered into a million pieces. :( Where can I get some more? Central Market sometimes has it, but seems most of the time does not.

Anonymous said...

For Anonymous -

Penzie's at Preston and LBJ is the 'go to' place for all things spicey and herbal.