I was tempted to title this blog post "Chicken Little." While we were out in West Marin the other day, we stopped at Marin Sun Farms to buy eggs and I came away with a nice little chicken, too. It was slightly larger than a poussin, but a very young yardbird, indeed.
Today, I turned it into dinner.
I had been thinking about not roasting another chicken; have I finally gotten my fill? For the moment, it would seem so.
I had made some chicken stock from the bones of the last chicken I roasted and got busy doing something else so it cooked a long, long time before I strained out the bones and chilled it to remove the fat. It was so concentrated that it jelled in the fridge - future chicken goodness.
I had four leeks in the fridge that were crying out to be made into something. It's one of the good things about leeks - they will keep in the fridge for quite some time, until your creative juices have the leisure to come up with a good idea for dinner.
And because I had a hankering for some of that sublime Massa brown rice, I was mulling over ideas to incorporate those ingredients in some sort of skillet dinner. If I may say so, I succeeded big time.
First, I cut up the chicken into serving-size pieces. Did you know that if you cut up your own chickens, you save a significant amount of moolah over buying already-pieced chickens? It's not difficult and takes just a few more minutes with a good sharp knife.
Anyway, I browned the pieces, skin side down, in a mixture of olive oil and butter until they took on a golden hue, removed them from the pan and dumped in the rice, which I tossed to coat with the butter/oil/chicken drippings in the pan, cooking it for a few minutes until some of the grains turned opaque, then added the chicken broth and a heaping tablespoon each of two kinds of Dijon mustard, the brown one with whole mustard seeds and the smooth yellow one.
Once the mustards were swirled into the chicken stock and rice mixture, I added the sliced leeks and eased the chicken pieces down into this mustardy hot tub, clapped on the lid and lowered the flame to simmer.
Massa rice takes almost an hour to cook so we decorated our Christmas tree to keep ourselves busy while that pan of chicken sent out the most tantalizing smells. We hung the ornaments one by one, remembering the source of each one, awash in memories while the chicken steeped in mustardy broth. The little black and yellow bee with spun glass wings that we found in Antwerp when we were in Belgium for Christmas. The ratty old glass balls that came out of my parents' attic when they passed away. The funny star My Beloved's girls made for us when we shared a Christmas in Hawaii. The Santa lovingly hand-painted by my nephew when he was a little boy about the age of his daughters now. The clothespin toy soldiers my first mother-in-law made during her crafty stage. The beautifully handmade ornament my brother's wife bought for us in Vienna. Each one has a memory attached.
We plugged in the colorful lights, plated our killer dinner and enjoyed the tree while we sampled our Rice Chix. The rice had absorbed all the flavors of the pot while lending its own nutty goodness. The chicken and the leeks had relaxed like guests at a friendly Christmas party. It was so good, we were tempted to have seconds, although we are trying not to add to our avoirdupois over the holidays. We restrained ourselves, just barely. My Beloved suggested that next time I should add some mushrooms and I think he's right, but it was deeply satisfying just as it was.
1 small organic, pastured chicken, cut into serving size pieces
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup organic brown rice, preferably Massa rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 heaping Tablespoon brown Dijon mustard with whole mustard seeds
1 heaping Tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
4 leeks, washed and chopped
* 1 dozen mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry and cut into quarters
In a wide, shallow skillet, brown the chicken pieces thoroughly in the butter and oil mixture over a medium flame. Remove chicken to a plate while you scatter the rice into the chicken goozle in the pan. Cook until about half the rice grains have turned opaque.
Add the chicken stock and the two mustards, mixing until well incorporated. Add the chopped leeks. Nestle the chicken pieces back into the pan, cover and reduce the heat to simmer for about an hour. It will be a little soupier than risotto. Plate with the rice underneath the golden brown chicken pieces - it would look great served on a big, deep platter at a family dinner, allowing everyone to serve themselves.
*If you use the mushrooms, I'd brown them before the chicken, then set them aside while you brown the chicken in the same pan, then set that aside and so on.