When I want comfort food, I turn to carbs. There's just something about a big bowl of creamy pasta or fried rice that makes every night so cozy. So when I desperately wanted to dig into a big pot of rice the other night, I chose to make this spicy chicken pilaf. This recipe is basically rice pilaf gone fancy. It has Mediterranean influences with a pinch of saffron to flavor the rice and labne and fresh herbs to finish it. It's very satisfying, to say the least.
Spicy Chicken Pilaf
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb chicken thighs or breasts cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup sliced shallots
- 2 serrano chilies sliced
- 6 garlic minced
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tbsp cumin ground
- 1 tsp coriander ground
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- pinch of saffron
- 1 cup long grain rice
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp butter
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- ¼ cup labne
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- chili oil optional
- lime wedges for serving
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken in the pan until browned on both sides. Remove and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium. In the same pan, saute the sliced shallots, serrano, garlic, and ginger until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, and tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste is caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of saffron and the rice, stirring to combine.
- Add the wine to the pan and bring it to a boil. Continue to simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add back the chicken along with the chicken stock, cinnamon stick, salt, and pepper and bring it to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is tender.
- Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp butter in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the sliced almonds and toast the almonds until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Remove the cinnamon stick from the rice and fluff the rice with a fork. Season once more with salt and pepper. Place dollops of labne on the rice and top it with the buttered almonds, cilantro, and mint. Drizzle with chili oil if desired and serve with lime wedges on the side.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
If you're looking for a delicious pot of rice, look no further. You've come to the right place. This spicy chicken pilaf will, hopefully, be exactly what you're been seeking.
The ingredient list for this recipe seems long but we're working with rice so we want to incorporate as much flavor as possible. This means adding spices and aromatics along with the chicken to yield umami in every bite.
To make this spicy chicken pilaf, first, season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. If you have the time, let it sit for 10 minutes before you sear it to allow the salt to seep through.
Sear the chicken until golden brown, then remove it from the pan and set it aside. You want to only sear the outside and not fully cook the chicken since it's going back in the pan later.
Now add the shallots, serrano, garlic, and ginger to the pan and saute them until softened. If you want a milder rice pilaf, use only one serrano or omit it completely.
Add the spices along with the tomato paste and cook until the paste is caramelized, stirring often. Don't worry if it sticks to the pan a bit since we're going to add the liquids next.
Next, add the rice, saffron, and white wine and bring it a simmer. Since the saffron is going to simmer in liquid, you don't have to worry about blooming it first.
Continue to simmer until almost all of the wine has evaporated. Then, add the chicken back to the pot along with the chicken stock, cinnamon stick, salt, and pepper. If you want to skip the wine, just add ½ cup more chicken stock.
Bring the liquids to a boil, cover the pot, and continue to simmer until the rice is fully cooked, about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast sliced almonds in butter until golden brown and chop the herbs.
At this point, the rice is good but let's make it great. All you need are some extra garnishes and it's ready to serve. Top the dish with the buttered almonds, dollops of labne, fresh herbs, and a drizzle of chili oil. I like to also squeeze fresh lime juice for a touch of acidity.
This spicy chicken pilaf might seem daunting at first glance, but it's actually pretty straightforward. Think of it as making fancy rice! The perfect weeknight dinner in my book.
For more rice inspiration, check out this omurice with kimchi fried rice.