Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Afghani Chicken with Pistachios and Caramelized Onions

When I used to live in Baltimore, there was a terrific Afghani restaurant called the Helmand. (I believe there is also a branch in San Francisco). I often went there for special occasions and it was wonderful-- unique dishes that reminded me of Turkish and Indian food yet which were very much their own thing. Dumplings stuffed with meat and leeks and drizzled in yogurt sauce, delicate dishes involving spiced pumpkin puree. The Helmand was owned by the Karzai family-- the very same family of the President of Afghanistan.

A few months ago, my friend Delia made this recipe for her book club when they were reading Khaled Hosseini's bestselling novel The Kite Runner. The recipe originally appeared in Cooking Light. At the time she recommended the dish, I filed the recipe away, and last night I finally made it.

It was amazing. Delicate, subtly spiced rice, tender chicken, and the perfect blend of salty and sweet. The rice is not very sweet, despite the orange peel and the sugar. The caramelized onions and saffron make this dish outstanding, and I love the different textures, particularly the crunch of pistachios on top. It's not hard to make, so I'll definitely be making it again.

Afghani Chicken with Pistachios and Caramelized Onions

6 pieces of chicken, bone-in, your call which type (I used legs)
2 cups vertically sliced onions
1/4 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tblsp. sugar
2 tsp. grated orange peel
2 1/4 cups no sodium added chicken broth
1 1/2 cups uncooked basmati or other long grain rice
2 Tblsp. raisins
6 Tblsp. chopped pistachios

Salt and pepper chicken pieces. In a large Dutch oven, melt 1 Tblsp. butter. Brown chicken on all sides over medium-high heat (about 5-7 minutes). Remove chicken from pan.

Melt another tablespoon of butter in same Dutch oven, saute sliced onions over medium heat until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Add saffron and garlic, cook one minute, stirring constantly. Add orange peel and sugar, stir again for another minute. Add broth, rice, raisins, and salt to taste (1/4 tsp or more). Place chicken pieces back in rice and cover with lid. Cook 25 minutes, turning once, check to make sure the chicken doesn't dry up. You may need to add a bit more broth or water. Taste to see if rice is tender and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle with pistachios and serve. Serves 6. I divided this in half and managed to polish it off with only 2 people.

1 comment:

Mia Goddess said...

You're killing me, Rachel. Okay, I am totally making this. (My book club is reading The Kite Runner right now too, so when we meet I'll make it...)

I love Afghani food. Here in California, right up the road in Fremont, is the largest Afghan population in the US. It's often referred to as "Little Kabul". In South Hayward there was a large population also, but it seems to have diminished since the 90s and they lost the favored status they had earned with their fight against Russia. Anyway, I got hooked on the food because of the restaurants near the school where I taught, and because of the families that would insist on bringing me food and/or inviting me for dinner.

One of my favorite foods is the lamb with the rice that has carrots and raisins in it. With that flat bread. And almonds with confectioners sugar drizzled on them.

mmmmmmm. Food!