The Recipe: Chicken with rice, all bound together with a quick sauce made with caramelized onions and warm spices, topped with a quick sauté of matchstick carrots, raisins, almonds and saffron. Sound, um, unusual? It's amazing.
The Conversation: So what do you think, would you eat with your fingers? Just once, maybe, to try it, in the company of friends?
A couple weeks back, my book club met to talk about the book A Thousand Splendid Sons by Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini. (You may know him from his first book, the amazing story called The Kite Runner.)
"Come hungry," I told everyone the day before. "I'm cooking Afghan food."
"Will we eat with our fingers?" one friend asked with an email giggle. "Why not?" I thought.
So when we sat down to what turned out to be a great meal and excellent party food, this Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole and an amazing eggplant and tomato layered casserole, Afghan Eggplant & Tomato Casserole, I suggested give eating with our hands a try.
And call me surprised but only half my friends were willing to experiment with eating with our fingers. For those of us who did? It was weird and awkward. But y'know, what an easy thing to try. Why not?!
"QUICK" CARAMELIZED ONIONS Oops, no time to make Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions? No problem! Just slice a pound of yellow onions and cook slowly on the stove, stirring often, with 1/2 tablespoon butter, 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon white wine, bourbon or dry sherry. Watch the onions carefully, they'll burn in a flash. Allow about 30 minutes of cooking time, that's why "Quick" is in quotes. The time is mostly unattended but do stay close!
GARAM MASALA What's this, you ask? It's a spice blend from India, there are many, many variations based on locale and personal taste. You can buy a commercial spice blend for garam masala but it's easy to make your own. This is the spice mix I used for this recipe. I make a triple batch to keep on hand but to make your own, just enough for this recipe, combine 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon each coriander and cardamom, 1/3 teaspoon each black pepper and cinnamon, 1/6 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg.
AFGHAN CHICKEN & RICE CASSEROLE (Kabeli Palau)
Time to table: 2 hours
Makes 15 cups (freezes beautifully)
RICE (see ALANNA's TIPS)
- 3 or 6 cups water
- 1 or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 or 16 ounces basmati rice
CARAMELIZED ONION SAUCE
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1 cup Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions or "Quick" Caramelized Onions, see left
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron, optional
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 rotisserie chicken, meat "picked" from the bones, torn into bite-size pieces (or 2 – 3 pounds cooked chicken)
- 1 12-ounce jar roasted red pepper, drained and chopped
- Caramelized Onion Sauce
- Cooked Rice
- Additional chicken stock, if necessary
TOPPING (don't skip this!)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 carrots, cut in matchsticks
- 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
- 1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds
- Pinch saffron, optional
- 1/2 cup hot water
Heat oven to 350F/180C.
RICE Bring the water (3 cups for 8 ounces of rice, 6 cups for 16) to a boil. Rinse the rice under running water in a strainer or colander two or three times. Add the salt and rice to the water, bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and let boil quite hard for 6 minutes until the rice is "almost cooked". Turn off the heat and let the rice rest, it will absorb the rest of the water, it's fine if there's a bit of unabsorbed water.
CARAMELIZED ONION SAUCE While the rice cooks, in a food processor (a mini food processor works fine), pulse the garlic cloves a few times to mince. Add the Caramelized Onions, tomato paste, garam masala, saffron and process until smooth. Add the chicken stock, process until smooth. Be aware, on its own, this sauce will taste very salty; don't worry, though, it's seasoning the entire casserole, salt is necessary!
CHICKEN In a large bowl, collect the meat. Stir in the roasted peppers, the Caramelized Onion Sauce, then the Cooked Rice. Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish.
BAKE Place the baking dish, uncovered, in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check it every 15 minutes, the edges should get a little crispy and crackly but if the casserole seems to be getting too dry, drizzle it with chicken stock to moisten. (A turkey baster simplifies this job, I filled one three or four times.)
TOPPING In a skillet, melt the butter until sizzly. Add the carrots and sauté until soft and beginning to turn color. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the water has cooked off. Set aside until ready to serve.
TO SERVE When the casserole is hot and bubbly throughout, remove from the oven. Spread the topping over top and serve hot.
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Both times I made this, I made the casserole a few hours ahead of time and refrigerated the chicken-sauce-rice combination until it was time to go in the oven. The topping can also be made ahead of time, just keep it separate.
NUTRITION INFORMATION (my best estimate for 2 pounds of chicken and 8 ounces of uncooked rice, sorry, I didn't measure the yield for this, so that's why it's a looser estimate than usual) Per Cup: 274 Calories; 6g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 60mg Cholesterol; 759mg Sodium; 28g Carb; 2g Fiber; 8g Sugar; 24g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 5.5 & WW Points Plus 7.
Afghan Chicken: Except with Beef!
When you have a freezer full of grass-fed, corn-finished beef raised by your neighbors in the country, it's just crazy to buy chicken and pork! That's why you'll find so many beef recipes here at Kitchen Parade. We loved-loved-loved this beef version of Afghan Chicken. Since there's no beefy equivalent of rotisserie chicken to conveniently buy at the grocery store, instead I made some Slow Cooker Shredded Beef. The salsa added a little heat to the cassserole, that was good too! Other than that, I followed the recipe just the same. Wonderful!
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