In our household, I do 90% of the cooking and my dear husbandy does the 100% of the dishwashing. It’s the perfect arrangement for me because on most days, cooking hardly feels like a chore. That said, I still feel a twinge of guilt when I concoct something that requires multiple pots, pans, and numerous kitchen gadgets because it makes cleaning up a pain for Omar. This is especially true because we don’t have a dishwasher. His hands do all the work and let me tell you, prep bowls, whisks, forks, spoons, cutting boards, pots, strainers, I have a knack for dirtying them all. Sometimes dirtying up the dishes is just what it takes to make a great meal, but I also love a cozy one pot/skillet/pan dinner that’s easy to clean and simple to prepare.
I make some variation on a one pan chicken and rice pretty regularly for dinner. It makes for great leftovers and there are so many variations on the same theme. Ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil for an Asian flair; curry powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander for an Indian flavor; saffron, tomatoes, and olives for a taste of the Mediterranean. Most of the time, I make chicken and rice when I’m a little lazy and I have some veggies that need to be used up. Last week, we had some celery and carrots that were getting lonely in the fridge and some frozen chicken thighs in the freezer, so it was chicken and rice to the rescue!
When I’m at home, I definitely make this in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven like my beloved Le Creuset or the more affordable Lodge . These days, I’m still staying with my mom and Ken at Camp Chemo, so I dug up a large sauté pan for this recipe.
(Side bar: Ever wonder what the difference is between a skillet, frying pan, and a sauté pan? A sauté pan has straight sides, giving you more surface area to direct heat whereas a frying pan or skillet has sloping sides. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats has a great article on the differences between the two here.)
ONE PAN CHICKEN AND RICE (With a vegetarian option below)
4-5 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 baby bella or button mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup long-grain rice (brown or white will work, your choice)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of saffron
1 bay leaf
¼ cup white wine
1-2 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley for garnishing
Salt and pepper the chicken thighs generously on both sides and set aside.
In a sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat (don’t use a non-stick pan if you can help it), add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, but before it smokes, add the chicken thighs to the pan. Make sure to leave enough room in between the pieces so that they are not touching and the air can circulate. Do this in batches if your pan is not big enough. Let the chicken brown for 4 minutes on each side. Don’t touch! Don’t nudge. Let them be! Get a splatter cover if the oil is making a mess, but don’t move them for 4 whole minutes, if you can stand it, 5 minutes is fine too. Using kitchen tongs, grab each thigh ONCE and flip ONCE, then leave them alone for 4 minutes. After the chicken is browned on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.
There is probably enough grease in the same pan from the chicken, but if you used chicken breasts or if you just have very lean chicken thighs, add another tablespoon of olive oil. (Vegetarians, start here, with the sautéing of the vegetables.) Turn the heat to down to medium and add the onions. After 2 minutes, add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Don’t worry if the bottom of the pan is turning brown, we’ll take care of that in a few minutes.
Push the veggies to the side to make a small space and add the tomato paste directly onto the pan so we can toast the tomato paste for 20-30 seconds. While the tomato paste toasts, add the rice, oregano, saffron, and ½ teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground pepper. (You can add ¼ teaspoon cayenne or red pepper flakes here if you want some heat in your dish).
Mix the rice and veggies together, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat everything with the tomato paste. Once the tomato paste is mixed in, add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Scrape up all the brown bits with the wooden spoon while the wine burns off some of the alcohol and the mixture begins to thicken.
Add 1 cup of broth and the bay leaf. Bring everything to a boil, then add the frozen peas and chicken thighs back into the pan. Once the liquid is bubbling, turn the heat to low, cover, and allow everything to simmer for 30-45 minutes. (Vegetarian option: instead of chicken, add a 15oz can of drained, rinsed beans of your choice here instead of the chicken and use water or vegetable stock). Try not to lift the lid more than once during the simmer. I promise, it isn’t ready after 20 minutes, so don’t look! Take a peek at 25-30 minutes and add additional water or broth if the rice dry and still not tender. You may need more liquid if you are using brown rice.
Once the rice is tender, your chicken should also be ready. If you have doubt, gently slice the thickest piece closest to the bone. If the juices run clear, you are good to go. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.