20 years ago, if you asked me what I was most proud of, I probably would have said, “I’m great at multi-tasking.” I could handle a full teaching load, cook lunches and dinners for myself and my roomies, get to work on time, home on time, talk on the phone while grading papers, and probably even clean the kitchen at the same time. By choice. I loved it. I loved the feeling of juggling too much at the same time and being so good at the juggling, I didn’t even notice how exhausting it was.
In the present, the thing I hate MOST in the world, IS multi-tasking, but that is essentially what motherhood is ALL THE TIME. I’m never just doing one thing, and most of the time I’m juggling too much and feeling too exhausted and feeling like it’s not all going to get done. I know I’m horrible at multi-tasking, as something gets burnt, a child gets hurt, an appointment gets missed, and an assignment gets forgotten because I simply can’t multi-task. I am no longer as evolved as my 23 year old self was; I am no longer as efficient as she was. I am the antiquated, slower, can only handle one thing at a time person and I’ve decided that I’m okay with it. In reality, I probably have no choice.
I’m discovering (rapidly) that I perform much better, feel much better, and relax much more when I deliberately and thoughtfully choose ONE thing to do at a time. No longer do I want to chat on the phone while I make dinner. I’d much rather cook the dinner, finish making it quickly, then sit down to have a 10 minute chat with a friend. I don’t want to strip the sheets while talking on the phone, or go grocery shopping with someone on the other end of my conversation, simply because MY BRAIN CAN’T DO TWO THINGS AT THE SAME TIME!
So this dish is my ode to MONO-tasking. I got the recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and the nature of the dish itself requires my full attention, not because it’s hard, but because it benefits from close attention to the details to create a truly wonderful, fragrant, complex yet simple rice dish, which comforts, excites and soothes. Evidently this dish multi-tasks so I do not have to. The spices are subtle but slightly exotic and the one pot preparation cuts down on dishes. You should study this recipe and this technique a bit, which in a brief summary requires you to fry onions, remove from pan, season chicken and cook, remove from pan, add rice to pan, add back in onions, chicken, and pour hot water over. It is actually a very simple technique with some interesting but detailed tips to get the rice perfectly delicious. It’s been a huge hit with Children, and we’ve already eaten it more than five times.
Set aside 30 minutes. Quietly prep your ingredients. Mono-task this dish and I promise, you won’t regret it. Mono-task the consumption of this dish as well, because it requires your full attention to enjoy.
Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice
Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of thinly sliced onions
2 to 2½ lbs chicken legs, cut into smaller pieces (or just chicken thighs or drumsticks – but bone in and skin on)
10 cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
2 long cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1⅔ cup basmati rice
¼ cup raisins, golden or regular
2¼ cup boiling water
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
¼ cup parsley leaves
salt and pepper
In a heavy saute pan that has a lid, in which you can cook all the rice and chicken, heat pan and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions until it is deep golden brown. Remove onion from heat, and wipe pan clean of excess oil.
In a large bowl mix together 1½ teaspoon salt, 1½ teaspoon pepper, 2 tablespoons olive oil, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Add chicken pieces and use hands to rub and coat chicken with olive oil spice mixture. Heat frying pan again over medium high heat and place chicken, skin side down in pan. Sear chicken until skin is golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Turn chicken over and sear again, until golden brown, another 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to a bowl. A lot of fat will have rendered and the chicken will be golden brown but not fully cooked.
Remove most of the rendered chicken oil by soaking it up in a paper towel or draining. Leave a light sheen of oil and then add rice, caramelized onion, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir in raisins and return chicken to the pan, pushing it into the rice.
Pour boiling water over rice and chicken and cover with tight fitting lid. Reduce heat to very low and allow to cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove lid and quickly cover with a clean dish towel and seal again with lid. Leave dish undisturbed for 10 minutes. Finally sprinkle cilantro and parsley over dish and fluff with a fork.
Serve hot or warm with some Greek yogurt on top if desired.