I’m calling this Persian because it’s something my mother would often make for us growing up. I’m not sure how traditional this is or if other households eat a similar dish but many meat and poultry dishes in Persian cuisine that are cooked to accompany rich rice (polow) dishes are cooked very simply, as this is, as the polow is the main star of the show. This is such a simple dish but so comforting and familiar. It’s what I crave when I’m sick or when I just want something that’s very tasty but gentle on the stomach. In fact it’s normally the first dish we eat when we’ve returned home from a trip. In some ways it reminds me of Hainanese chicken rice but in my opinion it’s much much better. The chicken is covered with water, some garlic and salt and left to bubble away until only a half cup or so of liquid remains – this can take anywhere up to 3-4 hours. Unlike chicken soup where the chicken has given all it’s goodness to the broth and needs to be discarded, here the broth is allowed to soak back into the chicken, making it the most tender and flavourful chicken – you can literally eat it with a spoon; and that half a cup of liquid that’s left is pure gold and perfect for pouring over the accompanying basmati rice. I actually don’t think this needs any accompaniments but a salad of finely diced tomatoes and cucumbers with a vinegar or lemon dressing goes very well with it.
Ingredients – Serves 3-4
4 free range or organic chicken maryland pieces (i.e. entire leg of thigh and drumstick)
12 cloves of garlic peeled and halved lengthways
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Trim the chicken pieces of all extraneous fat, take your time doing this step as you want to take off as much fat as possible but leave on the skin. Wash the chicken pieces and place them in a medium size saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Once boiling let it cook for a few minutes to let all the skum rise to the surface. Drain the water from the pot. Clean the pot and rinse the chicken pieces in cold water. This ensures that you end up with a very “clean” broth. Put the chicken back into the cleaned pot and add enough fresh cold water to just cover the chicken pieces, then add the garlic, salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
Bring to the boil again then lower the heat to a gentle steady simmer. Place the lid on the pot at a slight angle to let the steam escape and evaporate slowly. Cook the chicken for as long as it takes for the water to evaporate, leaving just 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup in the pan. The timing for this will vary depending on how low you have your heat – mine took about 4 hours. Keep your eye on it towards the end of the cooking time as the last of the liquid can evaporate very quickly. If you find that your pan has run dry add a little bit of boiling water to bottom of the pan and turn off the heat and put the lid on. Carefully transfer the chicken pieces to a platter (the chicken will be very soft and the bones are likely to pull right out) and top with the garlic pieces and juice. The chicken is best served with plain basmati rice which I made using a Persian Rice Cooker. This ingenious product cooks the rice into perfect long, separate grains and develops the beautiful crunchy rice base (tadig) which is so loved by Persians.