For many years, we spent Valentine’s Day in Manhattan…with about 2,000 of our closest friends. Since we were attending a conference, we found ourselves grabbing dinner at the last minute. One of our favorite places was a Cuban restaurant near Times Square, and dinner there with a group of international friends got me thinking about the many ways chicken and rice is eaten around the world.
Now, to be clear, chicken and rice can be served together a million different ways, so I’m focusing here on those dishes where the chicken and rice are generally cooked together (meaning, I’m leaving out dishes like Filipino Adobo), infusing the rice with more intense flavors. It doesn’t take long to realize how many cultures love this idea! Below are my favorites.
The Cubans, of course, serve arroz con pollo (chicken with rice). This version of chicken and rice is well-seasoned, but not overly spicy. It features yellow rice, colored with annatto or achiote oil instead of the saffron used in paella, and vegetables such as peas, onions, bell peppers, pimiento, and garlic. Of course, like any good dish, every family (and every cook in the family!) has its own twist on this recipe.
Arroz con pollo, of course, is also a popular Mexican dish. The Mexican version features tomatoes and a mix of vegetables. My local restaurant includes fresh chunks of avocado in their version, and I just love it!
And, as I mentioned, paella, a traditional Spanish dish, can be as simple as chicken and rice and vegetables. I always keep saffron on hand for my paella cravings; I get mine a local Armenian grocery store at a far more reasonable price than my chain supermarket. If you’re feeling like Italian flavors — and have the time to slowly (and I mean slowly!) stir liquid into your rice — a risotto featuring chicken and creamy Parmesan cheese hits the spot.
For a quick weeknight meal, nothing beats basic chicken fried rice. Unlike many other dishes, the base of this dish is cold leftover rice (or, as I saw it referred to once “overnight rice”, which just charms me). Chicken is mixed with vegetables, soy or fish sauces (or both), and egg. I love fried rice because it can be made in under thirty minutes, generally with ingredients I already have on hand. Fried rice is another dish with many variations — changing the base seasonings can shift the flavors from Chinese to Thai to Indonesian to just about anything you are craving.
If you’re seeking out Indian flavors, a biryani made with chicken, rice, and amazing spices hits the spot. A chicken pulao is a bit faster, if you’re short on time. Japanese food fans can try omuraisu, a chicken and rice omelette. A Middle Eastern version, called fattah, features a yogurt sauce (yum!).
In the United States, jambalaya made with chicken, andouille sausage, and plenty of spice is a staple. And, of course, there is your basic chicken-and-rice casserole, using a gluten-free cream of mushroom soup (which, yes, you can make yourself if you’re so inclined; this recipe for green bean casserole has a mushroom sauce that will do the trick).
What is your favorite chicken and rice dish? Did I miss some great ones? Let me know in the comments.