My mom had a great tradition for our birthdays when we were growing up, in that on your birthday, you got to pick out what she made for dinner. I always used to look forward to this and spend basically a year thinking about what I wanted! My mom is a GREAT cook, and so it was hard to go wrong. I think that one of my stand-bys was her pasta primavera, though you could never go wrong with her mac and cheese either!
I have enjoyed sharing this tradition with my husband and his family. Last night we had my in-laws over for a very, very belated birthday dinner for my father-in-law. My father-in-law's birthday is in early June, and I was running around like a crazy bride then, in no shape to making birthday dinners. But I didn't forget! My in-laws have done some traveling in India the past couple of years, and so my father-in-law, upon hearing that I had a new Indian cookbook, requested Indian food. I was only too happy to oblige!
Here is my adaptation of Monica Bhide's Sunday Night Skillet Chicken and Rice. I changed it a little to make it a little less spicy for my mother-in-law, and also to fit it into our budget. The recipe calls for basmati rice, which I did not have around, so I just used plain old white rice. Also, Bhide calls for skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs. If you are using these, you can just brown them after the turmeric and chile pepper is added, brown them for 10 minutes, and then add the rice. I used skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts because they were cheaper at the store this weekend. (And talk about frugal...I now have the chicken bones in my freezer to make stock!) I also substituted cumin for coriander because I ran out of coriander!
That said...this dish was delicious! Everyone loved it. The combination of spices is incredible. I think the cinnamon is really what rounds it out...I love the sweet and spicy combination of flavors.
Monica Bhide's Sunday Night Skillet Chicken and Rice
adapted from Modern Spice by Monica Bhide
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/2 large red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 medium to large tomatoes, diced (you can also use a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes if you make this off season)
1/2 tsp red chile pepper flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 pinch coriander (that was what I had left!)
1 Tbsp cumin
2 medium to large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup white rice
2 cups water
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking pan with aluminum foil.
2. Place the chicken breasts on the baking pan, skin side up. Rub the chicken breasts with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Salt and pepper them generously.
3. Roast the chicken breasts for 30-40 minutes, until cooked through. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool.
4. In a large, deep lidded skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium. Add the cinnamon stick and the bay leaves. Once the spices begin to sizzle, add the minced red onion, along with the garlic and ginger. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and gains some color.
5. Add the tomatoes, and cook for 10-12 minutes, until you can see the oil begin to separate from the mixture. You can use a potato masher to crush the tomatoes as they cook. If the mixture begins to stick, you can add up to 1/4 cup of water.
6. Add the chile pepper flakes, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and salt to taste. Cook for another minute or two to heat the spices, stirring continuously.
7. Add the rice and stir through.
8. Add the water and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the skillet, and cook for another 15 minutes.
9. Meanwhile, you can remove the skin of the chicken and shred it off the bones. Frankly, I find this works best with my hands!
10. Add the chicken to the rice mixture and stir it through. Cover the pan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
11. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.