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Chicken and Parsnip Pulao

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Serves 6 to 8

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 122

This Central Asian-style pulao is like a meaty pilaf, served as a celebratory main course from Uzbekistan to western China. A culinary cousin to paella and the perloos of the American South, it’s traditionally made with lots of oil for a rich, luscious dish; here, fat rendered from the chicken skin yields similar results with more flavor, and gives you crisp cracklings for garnish, too. The yogurt sauce accompaniment lends a tangy counterpoint.

For the pulao
  • 13 oz. (2 cups) Bhutanese red rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 lb. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 8)
  • 2 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into medium dice (about 1 cup)
For the yogurt sauce
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped radish
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint or cilantro
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh dill or tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 lemons, cut into wedges
Make the pulao

Put the rice in a bowl and fill with cold water. Swish the rice with your fingers to release excess starch, then pour off the water. Repeat 2 or 3 more times until the water is less cloudy. Add enough cold water to cover the rice by about 1 inch, stir in 2 tsp. salt, and set aside to soak.

Meanwhile, remove and reserve the skin and most of the fat from the chicken. Pat the chicken dry. Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven (or other wide, heavy-duty pot) over medium heat until shimmering hot. Add the chicken skin and fat and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skin renders its fat and becomes crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.

Raise the heat to high and stir in 1 tsp. salt. Add half of the chicken thighs and cook, flipping once, until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes total; transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Lower the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pot along with the tomatoes, parsnips, and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato begins to break down and the parsnips and carrots begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in 3 cups water and 1-1/2 tsp. salt, raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 5 minutes to flavor the liquid.

Drain the rice and sprinkle it over the liquid. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover tightly, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Lower the heat to low and cook, covered, until the rice is just tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. If the rice is very wet at this point, uncover and cook over medium heat to evaporate some of the liquid, 5 minutes, and then let sit off the heat, covered, for 5 minutes. Otherwise, let the rice sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Make the yogurt sauce

While the rice is cooking, drain the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl until it’s slightly thicker and holds its shape, 10 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the radish, herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep at cool room temperature.

Serve the pulao

Transfer the pulao to a large serving platter. Using tongs, gently pull the chicken pieces from the rice and mound them on top. Crumble the chicken skin over the top and serve with the yogurt sauce and lemon wedges on the side.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 500; Fat (g): fat g 20; Fat Calories (kcal): 180; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 5; Protein (g): protein g 28; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 50; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 790; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 140; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

We were disappointed with this dish. It was lacking in flavor so we added a couple of chicken bouillon cubes which helped a bit but by the time the rice was cooked, the parsnips and carrots were overdone. Definitely wouldn't make this again.

The flavor of the chicken dish was delicious, although there was no need for the yogurt sauce. There was also no need for frying the skins, which just adds a lot of fat to the dish. I made the dish exactly as suggested, but next time I will brown skinless thighs in a little bit of oil and then follow the remainder of the recipe, omitting the sauce. I could only find long grain red rice and it came out perfectly.

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