Persian Chicken, Made Easy

Last year, a Persian restaurant opened in my neighborhood. Persian places are rare, even in New York City, so I eagerly checked it out. My first meal was so good that over the past year, I have been eating my way gradually through the menu.

This menu includes dishes you will recognize from Turkish and other eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern kitchens. There are lots of grilled kebabs, for example. There’s hummus and baba ghanoush, the smoky and creamy eggplant puree, plus a chilled yogurt soup that I might try making myself this summer.

Fine Persian cooks are also known for making cloud-light basmati rice, which they call pilaw. Copying the way this restaurant serves it, I sometimes mix a generous amount of dillweed (not the seed) or dried cherries into my cooked rice.

Some of the best Persian dishes combine meat or poultry cooked with fruit. Fesenjan, my favorite, is a stew that includes ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses. This tart-sweet ingredient, made by boiling down the juice until it is thick as molasses, is sold at Near Eastern and Greek food stores. Some supermarkets also have it in their ethnic or specialty food section. But you can easily boil the juice down yourself for a lighter version.

Using chicken breast with ribs in my deconstructed take of Fesenjan keeps the meat moist. In the roasting pan, juices combine with the glaze to make a generous amount of beautiful sauce.

Beneath the chicken, the bed of brown rice with dried cherries and walnuts that I make is more moist than a Persian pilaf. To be sure that the rice does not stick to the pot, check it after 30 minutes, adding a quarter-cup warm water if it seems needed.
Make just the chicken for a week-night dinner, if you like. Thinly sliced and served over the rice, it makes a dish pretty enough to share with company.

Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken Breast with Cherry Brown Rice Pilaf - Makes 4 servings.

2 cups or 1 bottle (16-oz.) pomegranate juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
Cooking spray
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 Tbsp. canola oil
3/4 cup long-grain brown rice
1 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 ¼ cup cold water, divided
1/4 cup chopped dried sweet cherries
1/4 cup chopped scallion, green part only
3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 skinless chicken breasts (12-oz. each) with ribs
For glaze, boil pomegranate juice and garlic powder in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup and slightly syrupy, about 30 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

For rice, in medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots until limp, 4 minutes. Stir in rice. Add chicken broth and 1 cup cold water. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Mix in cherries, scallions, walnuts and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, place chicken breasts in baking dish, rib side down. Coat chicken with glaze, using 2 tablespoons, plus salt and pepper. Pour in 1/4 cup cold water. Bake chicken until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees. or it no longer looks pink at the center of the thickest point, about 45 minutes, brushing it with additional glaze every 10 minutes and pouring on any remaining glaze after the last brushing. Set baked chicken aside for 10 minutes.

To serve, remove chicken from bones and cut it diagonally into thin slices. Divide rice among four dinner plates and top each serving with one-fourth of chicken. Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of the pan juices over the chicken and serve.

Per serving: 470 calories, 15 g total fat ( 2 g saturated fat), 54 g carbohydrate, 33 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 230 mg sodium.

The Author:

“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association which operates as the umbrella organization for the network .The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).

Article Source: Aicr.org

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