One of the reasons chicken and rice is such a world-class dish is because it can take on so many flavors, making it a signature of so many cuisines.
This particular one builds on a blend of dried spices and herbs that so often appear in Cajun cooking: paprika, cayenne, oregano, granulated garlic, onion. But it pours on the milk, too, which gives the rice a risotto kind of creaminess and mellows the dish in general.
One-Pot Cajun Chicken and Rice
4 to 6 servings
1 medium yellow onion
2 medium celery ribs
1 medium green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2¼ teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning blend (see Note)
1½ cups uncooked long-grain white rice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2½ cups regular or low-fat milk (2 percent)
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
Cut the onion, celery and green bell pepper into chunks (discarding the pepper’s seed core), then transfer to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Mince the garlic. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces, discarding any visible fat.
Heat the oil until shimmering in a large heavy saute pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. (Now would be a good time to create the Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, if you don’t already have one on hand.)
Meanwhile, toss the chicken with 1 teaspoon of the seasoning blend. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan in a single layer; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, undisturbed, or until lightly browned on the bottom. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. (The chicken will not be cooked through.)
Transfer the onion, celery and green bell pepper mixture to the pan; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the rice, minced garlic, salt, black pepper and the remaining 1¼ teaspoons of the seasoning blend, stirring to incorporate. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then pour in the milk and broth or water, stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
Once the mixture is bubbling at the edges, return the chicken and any of its accumulated juices to the pan. Let the mixture return to its bubbling state. Give it a stir, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Check the pan occasionally to make sure it’s not bubbling too vigorously, and give it a stir to make sure it isn’t sticking on the bottom.
While that’s cooking, trim and thinly slice the scallions. Once the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender, remove from the heat. The liquid may look a bit like curdled milk on the surface; this is OK. Let the chicken and rice sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then uncover and give the mixture a stir. It should have the consistency of a nice risotto. If it seems too thick, add up to ¼ cup more of the broth or water, as needed.
Scatter the scallions on top just before serving.
Note: To make the seasoning blend, whisk together ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper with ¼ teaspoon each of sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, onion flakes and garlic powder.
Nutrition information (based on 6 servings, using low-fat milk): calories: 420; total fat: 10 g; saturated fat: 3 g; sholesterol: 90 mg; sodium: 600 mg; carbohydrates: 46 g; dietary fiber: 1 g; sugars: 7 g; protein: 33 g.
Adapted from TheKitchn.com.