August 25, 2015

I don’t know how I discovered the PBS show A Chef’s Lifebut I binged on both seasons of it over the weekend and Vivian Howard–the chef the title references–is pretty much my new hero. Howard moved back to her hometown in rural North Carolina to open a restaurant after working as a chef in New York for years, and the series chronicles the ups and downs of restaurant ownership and maintaining a work/life balance.

As you can imagine, Howard makes some pretty delicious food on the show–all of it inspired by her Southern heritage and ingredients that she gets from local farmers–and on Sunday, I decided to try and make her famous chicken and rice, which is actually her mother Scarlett’s recipe.

You guys: This dish was worth letting chicken simmer on the stove for two hours, and that is saying something because it’s been 95-plus degrees here every day this month. The recipe couldn’t be simpler–you let a whole chicken simmer in water with a split onion, some thyme and a bay leaf, and when it’s done you shred the chicken, add it to the stock you’ve made from it’s juices and that herbed water mixture, and cook the whole thing with white rice. You finish it off with some butter, and Rob added a few dashes of hot sauce to his second bowl, which was a good choice (although the dish totally doesn’t need it). Best of all, we’re going to have really leftovers for the next few days.

Here’s the recipe–with some of my notes–if you’d like to try it yourself, and I highly recommend that you do. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to make it.

Vivian Howard’s Chicken and Rice
Adapted just a teeny bit from this recipe

1 large, whole chicken (I got a brined, organic one from Trader Joe’s)
1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 bay leaf
3-5 sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups white rice
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, place your chicken, onion, bay leaf and thyme. Add cool water until the chicken is just slightly covered (and don’t be like me and use a slightly-too-small pot; everything turned out fine but I won’t make that mistake again), then add 2 Tbsp. kosher salt and 2 teaspoons of black pepper. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for about an hour and a half, or until the chicken is cooked through and easily shreddable with a fork.

Once the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat and let it rest in the broth for about 30 minutes. Remove it from the pan and shred the meat into medium-sized pieces; set aside.

This step is optional, but Rob is picky about having “bits” in his food and it makes removing any little bits of skin or thyme that are left in the broth easier, so I recommend straining your broth through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of any leftover sediment.

Once your chicken is shredded and your broth is strained, if you’re doing that, add the chicken back to the pot and bring everything back up to a simmer. Add two cups rice and cook for about 10-12 minutes, until rice is just cooked through. Remove from heat, stir in butter and serve immediately with extra fresh-cracked pepper (and hot sauce if you like!).

Would you make this dish? And do you watch A Chef’s Life? It’s so good, I promise!

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