A dinner idea from Top Chef Richard Blais. "My wife, Jazmin, is of Honduran descent. When you walk into her mother's house, everything is Latin-inspired, especially the cooking. This dish is a Latin staple, and because Jazmin likes it so much, it's become a staple for us. You can throw in half a bag of frozen peas toward the end to up the nutritional content. We serve it with a bottle of hot sauce on the table and a bowl of yogurt."
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 lb.), rinsed and patted dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
3 jarred piquillo peppers, seeded and chopped, or 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Roma (plum) tomatoes, halved, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp ground Espelette pepper, cayenne pepper, or hot paprika
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup basmati rice
1 small packet (1-1/4 tsp) Sazón seasoning*
1/2 tsp saffron threads
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Hot sauce, such as Crystal, to taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt for serving
Lime zest (optional)
* I embrace certain store-bought "prepared foods," such as Sazón. Sazón mixes are packets of dried seasoned salt sold in supermarkets (Goya is the most familiar brand) and are used in Latin American cooking. The general ingredients are equal parts ground coriander, cumin, paprika, garlic powder and salt — a great flavour punch. You can make it at home, but I typically use the prepared version.
Step 1: Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until rippling. Sear the chicken thighs, turning once, until golden brown, 8-10 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Step 2: Drain half the oil from the pan and return the pan to the heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, piquillos, garlic, tomatoes, Espelette and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to brown, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it begins to caramelize, 3-4 minutes.
Step 3: Add the rice, Sazón and saffron and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock, season with salt, pepper and hot sauce, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and nestle the chicken thighs skin side up in the rice. (Try not to submerge the skin, so it stays crisp as the rice cooks.) Cook, partially covered, until the rice has absorbed the liquid and the chicken is cooked through, 25-30 minutes. If the chicken skin is not crisp, place the pan under a hot broiler until the chicken is crispy and golden brown on top.
Step 4: To serve, remove the bay leaves, sprinkle the cilantro and parsley over the rice and gently stir to incorporate. Serve directly from the pan, with the yogurt sprinkled with lime zest and the bottle of hot sauce on the side.
See more recipes from Richard Blais.
Reprinted with permission from Richard Blais' Try This at Home (2013 Clarkson Potter).