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Plau B’jeej: Iraqi Chicken with Almonds and Raisins over Red Rice

April 05, 2021
Plau B’jeej: Iraqi Chicken with Almonds and Raisins over Red Rice

As the editor-in-chief of the Israeli culinary magazine Al Hashulchan since its inception in 1991, and the author of the 2008 cookbook The Book of New Israeli Food, Janna Gur is Israel’s unofficial culinary ambassador to the world. “Gur is one of the people who influenced Israeli culinary art and advanced it the most,” Gerda Glezer, editor of Walla!Food, told me. But in her new cookbook, Jewish Soul Food: From Minsk to Marrakesh, Gur shifts her focus from modern Israeli cooking to the traditional Jewish cooking in the Diaspora that preceded it.

First the chicken is cooked in water, tomato paste, and spices, then the spiced cooking liquid is used to make delicious red rice. Clever, huh? And there is more: While the rice is cooking, the chicken is shredded; slowly sautéed with onions, almonds, and raisins; and then served over the rice. Grandma’s cooking at its best! Save any leftover red rice—it makes a delicious side for beef, chicken, and fish dishes.

Featured in: A Taste of Hungary. And Morocco. And Iraq. And Bulgaria. And Libya.

Ingredients

For the Plau B'jeej

  • 4chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks)
  • 5cups water
  • 7oz (200 g) tomato paste
  • 1teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Pinch hot paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt
  • 2cups long-grain white rice
  • 3tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3large onions, thinly sliced
  • Pinch hot paprika or ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1teaspoon baharat spice mix
  • ½cup blanched almonds (halved or slivered)
  • ½cup golden raisins

Garnish (optional)

  • 1tablespoon vegetable oil
  • cup blanched almonds (halved or slivered)
Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Preparation

To make the Plau B'jeej

  • Step 1

    Place the chicken legs in a medium saucepan. Mix the water, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and cayenne (if using) in a bowl. Pour over the chicken. Par¬tially cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 1 hour over low heat until the chicken is tender. Toward the end of cooking, taste and season with salt.

  • Step 2

    While the chicken is cooking, soak the rice in water for 15 minutes. Rinse in cold water several times until the water runs clear. Drain in a colander.

  • Step 3

    Remove the cooked chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Measure 3 1/2 cups of hot cooking liquid and return it to the saucepan. Add 1 heaping teaspoon salt. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover tightly, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Open the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, cover, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Step 4

    While the rice is cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large shallow sauce-pan. Add the sliced onions and sauté over medium-low heat until soft and golden, at least 10 minutes. Season with salt, a dash of turmeric (if using), and the baharat.

  • Step 5

    When the chicken is cool enough to be handled with bare hands, remove and discard the skin and the bones. Shred the meat into small pieces and add to the onions. Add the almonds and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes over medium heat. Add the raisins and sauté for another minute.

Garnish (optional)

  • Step 1

    Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan and toss the almonds until golden and crisp. To serve, mound the chicken and onion mixture over the rice and garnish with toasted almonds.

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