Monday, April 19, 2010

Date Day Dinner: Lemon-Olive Chicken and Red Rice

My husband used to cook. He remembers his yassa poulet, a Senegalese dish with chicken cooked in an onion and mustard sauce with olives. I remember the tater tots. Regardless, he used to cook. Since we moved in together, I have been the primary cook. Most days I love it. I love putting together flavors and foods, and feel so good when I can feed delicious healthy meal to my family.

But sometimes, I don't want to cook. I want someone to cook for me. I want to sit back after a long day chasing kids, paying bills with money we don't yet have and making appointments, and put my feet up while someone else cooks the evening meal. I know, listen to those violins. There are days when cooking stresses me out, because I have set my personal bar a bit too high. On those days I often make grilled cheese or quesadillas with salad (if you can call a bag o' greens "salad"). My inner voice says: I am a cooking instructor, I need to feed my family healthy food that includes at least one thing that is green and crunchy, I should not take time away from playing with my kids to cook all afternoon. Maternal guilt is the worst. Feed family good food? Or play with my kids so they are well-adjusted? Cooking wins, even if it is just whole grain bread and local, grass-fed cheese. I'd feel more guilty feeding my family crap. And to those folks who tell me cook with my kids, I'll say it politely--when we are all hungry for dinner, the kitchen is too small for the three of us. (In an ideal world, I'd plan ahead more.)

One day recently when I was feeling patient and open-hearted (some people I know wish I had more of those), I decided to sign my husband up for cooking classes; a "guy's only" rookie cooking class, at Orange Tree Imports. I thought, I'll take the kids and let him have an afternoon cooking with the guys. Well, when I thought more about it I realized that I would actually enjoy that gift more than he would (hint, hint). I mentioned it to him and he said he'd rather--get this--stay home and cook with me! Okay, I can handle that. I had already lined up sitters so it actually seemed like a low-stress and fun "date" for us.

We decided on a chicken and rice dish, since we both love African food. I perused Marcus Samuelson's Soul of New Cuisine and came across Lemon-Olive Chicken and Red Rice. Perfect!

On a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, my husband and I set to work cooking. Glass of wine in hand, music on, no kids, and presto--a beautiful baked chicken, some rice and even a batch of hummus with fresh cooked beans and a super-easy cucumber-carrot salad. And, I think he would agree, we had fun. The bonus is that cooking this week has been much easier--leftovers. I could get used to this.

Red Rice

1/4 cup peanut oil
1 small red onion, sliced
1 jalapeno chopped and seeded
2 tsp tomato paste (instead of shrimp powder)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes or 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
i tsp mild chile powder
2 cups white rice (book calls for 1 cup)
1.5 tsp salt
2 sprigs thyme
1 cup tomato juice
4 cups water (adjusted for more rice)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in sauce pan over high heat.
Add onion and cook 5 minutes.
Add jalapeno and garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes.
Reduce heat to low,stir in tomatoes and chile powder and cook 10 minutes.
Add rice and stir to coat.
Stir in thyme, salt, tomato juice and water and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to low and cover, simmer for 1 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and stir in cilantro. Let stand about 10 minutes until rice is done.

Lemon-Olive Chicken

One 4-5 pound chicken
10 green olives
5 black olives
4 garlic cloves
a few garlic ramps (I had them in my garden)
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 shallots, chopped
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp Ras al-Hanout

Ras al-Hanout
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground tumeric
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 tsp ground cardamom
1.5 tsp ground cloves

Mix spices well and store in cool dry place.

To cook chicken:

Preheat oven to 400.
Rub body and neck cavity with salt.
Pat body and under breast skin with butter.
Mix together olives, shallots, lemon zest, ginger and garlic and stuff body cavity.
Combine olive oil, lemon juice and Ras al-Hanout and rub over chicken.
Place in roasting pan, breast side up, and roast until instant-read thermometer in thigh reads about 160, about 60-70 minutes.
Add a bit of water during cooking if pan gets to dry.
Remove from oven and let rest about 10 minutes.


Dan said...

Looks delicious. And I'm always a sucker for red rice.

Lo said...

I'm a sucker for all things briney and lemoney -- so this chicken looks like it could be right up my alley. The simplicity of the meal... and the great leftovers are big bonuses!

RCakeWalk said...

This really looks wonderful, and I'd bet I could use preserved lemon! I have a batch done, and now need ways to enjoy them. Lemon chicken is just about perfect... Thanks for the recipe!

Otehlia said...

I think preserved lemon would be delicious! I made the chicken again tonight and it is so good. I added a bit of broth and some chopped root veggies, so the chicken wouldn't burn, and I'd have a complete meal.