Sometimes you come across a recipe which you know is going to be a keeper. You might tweak it a bit and make it your own, but it’s made it onto your list of favourites to make again and again and again. I have a few core recipes like that: easy, reliable, minimal washing up, nutritious, tasty (agreed by the whole family) … and Rick Stein’s Poule au Riz (chicken in rice) from his latest book on France “Secret France” has made it into the keeper category.
That’s what I love about the Cookbook Challenge. It tempts me away from the familiar into the realm of the unknown, where I actually have to follow a recipe step-by-step. It makes me learn new techniques, combinations, flavours, and usually rewards me with a delicious meal at the end.
Poule au Riz is, according to Rick, a staple of every French household, and also a favourite of the late, great Keith Floyd (who apparently appreciated the opportunity to bung everything in a dish, stick it in the oven, and nip off down the pub for a couple of hours).
It’s a simple combination of browned whole chicken, sautéed vegetables and stock, with some rice chucked in at the end. Straight away it’s easy (browning a whole chicken is a bit boring, and I’d probably skip this step next time as we don’t eat the skin of a boiled chicken anyway); minimal washing up (one pot, hello?); and nutritious (veggies galore).
Is it reliable? Well I have only made this once but I can’t really see any area where you could possibly go wrong … even Andrew could make it!
And is it tasty? 100%. What you end up with is tender chicken (and every little piece falls off the bone so you don’t waste a morsel), vegetables which have almost disintegrated to the point of non-existence (although Ioan did manage to find – and make me pick out – every single slice of celery from his portion), and rice which has cooked in the chicken stock and juices and almost turned into a risotto as it has slurped them up.
I must confess that I didn’t follow Rick’s recipe to the letter. I didn’t want to open a bottle of white wine for this recipe so instead used additional chicken stock, and my chicken stock was made my Mr Oxo Cube instead of via a real chicken. And the original recipe calls for shallots, which I find enormously irritating to peel, so I used a couple of medium sized onions instead. Finally I used brown rice. Although Rick didn’t specify whether to use white or brown, it’s what I always have in the house. I suspect it’s the reasons why my rice took longer to cook than the suggested 15-20 minutes (more like half an hour for me).
The Poule au Riz will easily serve six greedy people, so if you are a smaller household than six, like us, you get delicious leftovers for the following day, and the day after that too (I know rice is apparently a food poisoning risk, but I have eaten both cold and reheated leftover rice and never experienced a problem – cool it quickly, store it appropriately, ie the fridge, and re-heat thoroughly, and you should be fine … although remember that I am not a food hygiene expert, and do none of those things myself).
I am explaining below how I made Rick’s Poule au Riz, but I do recommend buying his book (and watching the accompanying TV series which should still be available on IPlayer), as it’s full of wonderful recipes, including a rotisserie style chicken on the very next page, which I was extremely tempted to make instead (although I am pleased I did not).
Poule au Riz – serves 6
1 tbsp olive oil, one whole chicken (approx 2kg), 1tsp butter, 2 medium onions, 3 carrots, 1 celery heart, 5 cloves of garlic, 800ml chicken stock (made with 2 oxo cubes), 5 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaf, 350g brown long grain rice.
Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees and splash some oil into a large ovenproof dish which can be used on direct heat, and has a fitted lid.
Peel and chop the onions and carrots, finely slice the celery, and peel but don’t chop the garlic cloves.
Brown your chicken all over, then remove from the pan and melt a knob of butter in it. Once melted add the chopped carrots, celery, onions, and the whole garlic cloves, and sauté on a medium heat until softened.
Add the browned chicken back into the pan, pour on the stock, and add the herbs.
Bake in the oven for one hour.
Take the pan out of the oven and turn it up to 180 degrees, and add the rice into the liquid around the chicken. Return to the oven for a further 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
Remove the chicken from the pan and strip the meat from it. Remove the thyme stalks and bay leaf from the rice and return the chicken pieces to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately. Remove the almost invisible pieces of celery for the fussy small child in your life.
Fancy some other chicken recipes?