Spontaneous soups are often the best. What to have for lunch? Something cozy, delicious and quick. Yellow lentils, a package of Mahatma yellow rice with seasonings and a couple of golden beets in the fridge drawer and some chicken broth…30 minutes later and we were enjoying lovely, warm and steamy bowls of “Golden Soup”. So very “easy-as-this”.
In my early cooking days one of the most exotic items available in local groceries was Mahatma seasoned rice. There were no local import groceries, nor International aisles in supermarkets. There was little to be had from other cultures in the way of food….I thought a package of yellow seasoned rice was “it”. To this day a few packages reside alongside lots of other aromatic and culturally-dense rice in my pantry. No rice shaming please. Thank you.
Saltines and a heavy-handed splash of Cholula…lunch is ready. Be well. Do the right thing. Wear your mask. It can be as “easy-as-that”.
One 5 oz. package yellow rice with seasonings (like Mahatma brand)
2 small, or one large yellow beet, peeled and thinly sliced, then chopped
4 cups water
2 cups chicken broth (or veg)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or Italian seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To Serve: Saltines and hot sauce, like Cholula
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium high heat until slightly softened. Turn heat to medium.
Add in lentils, rice packet, beets and stir well. Pour in water, broth and herbs, a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil.
Turn heat to low and cook for 30 minutes or until beets are just softened. Add more broth or water if soup gets too thick. Taste, adjust seasonings if need be. Serve with crisp saltines and a splash of hot sauce if you like.
This is the first on my list of recipes to cook from this book, “Braised Garlic Chicken with Yellow Rice”. I had this dish in Miami over 40 years ago & in Cuba almost as long ago. If you can “dream in food” this dish has been one of mine. The chicken oh-so garlicky & moist and the rice cooked in broth & bijol (or annatto powder) for added flavor. Dios Mio!
When it was illegal to travel to Cuba from the United States years ago, therefore making the very idea much more enticing, my friend Terry and I traveled from Mexico to Havana a few times with a temporary visa that I still have. This was what was stamped instead of your real passport. No record of ever being in Cuba showed up in our permanent passports when re-entering the USA. There were few hotels in Havana at the time. On the main plaza The Ingleterra was a lovely old place with lots of ornate plaster and men in dark glasses sitting around in the lobby to watch who came and went. We were the only Americans there…Mexicans, Greeks, French, many internationals..and us.
On our trips half the time we were intoxicated by our surroundings and the other half from the mojitos. We had manicures, haircuts and salsa lessons given to us by the hairdresser, ate in La Floridita along with international men in suits doing deals, had chicken with yellow rice and plantains & more mojitos at La Bodeguita de Medio, strolled the Malecon, it was magical….we were young, we & Cuba were a novelty and we were changed forever.
The recipe for braised garlic chicken & yellow rice in this cookbook is exactly like my “food dreams” of this dish. Next I will try the roasted pork, the flan, the lamb….all simple to make recipes with familiar ingredients used in a very Cuban way. If you buy one cookbook this year or need a great gift for a cook or traveler this one is it.
2 cups bottles sour orange juice, or 1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice mixed with 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 12 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ingredients for Yellow Rice:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups long grain white rice
3 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon bijol, or a pinch or saffron, soaked in a little warm water
1 cup frozen peas (optional)
Using a food processor, process 20 garlic cloves dropping them in one clove at a time. When all garlic is chopped, add the juice, oregano, cumin seeds, salt & pepper. Pulse to blend.
Place cut up chicken in a glass bowl & pour garlic marinade over chicken turning pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours before cooking. Toss chicken every now and then in the marinade.
When ready to cook preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the marinade. Reserve marinade. Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season with salt.
Heat vegetable oil in a large cast iron or other oven-safe baking pot with a lid. Working in batches, sear chicken skin-side down in hot oil until skin is crispy and browned. As chicken pieces are browned set aside.
When all the chicken pieces are seared return them to the pot and pour the reserved marinade over all. Cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil. Braise chicken for about 1 hour. Chicken pieces should be fork-tender with meat falling-off-the-bone.
Remove braised chicken pieces to a platter, covering to keep warm. Pour remaining braising liquid from the cooking pot to a small saucepan & bring it to a boil. Slightly reduce liquid. Taste & adjust seasoning with salt & pepper. Cover and set aside.
To make the yellow rice heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion & a pinch of salt. Saute until the onion softens, about 7-9 minutes. Add the garlic & cook for 2 minutes.
Add the rice to the pot & saute for a few minutes until rice begins to smell slightly toasty. Pour in chicken stock & bijol or saffron. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat & cover tightly with a lid.
Cook over low heat until the stock has been absorbed. Taste & adjust seasoning if needed. (If using peas add them to the rice now.) Let rice sit covered until ready to serve.
When ready to serve Chicken: Turn on broiler and place chicken pieces on a baking pan, skin side up. Broil for a few minutes to re-crisp the skin. Serve chicken with yellow rice, spooning some of the reduced braising liquid on top.
Adapted from the cookbook: “Cuba! Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen” published by: Ten Speed Press, Authors: Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn, Jody Eddy