Afghan Entreeafghan chicken with rice and carrots

Chicken w/ Rice & Carrots
Kabuli Palow
(Serves 8 )

This beloved Afghan dish has many variations and involves a lot of steps. But it's well worth the effort.

2 C Basmati rice (see sidebar)
1/4 C ghee or butter (see sidebar)
1 yellow onion (sliced thinly)
3 lb. chicken pieces (without skin)
2 T tomato paste
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic (crushed)
3 1/2 C water
1 T garam masala (see sidebar)
2 carrots (shredded or julienned into matchsticks)
1/2 C raisins
1/3 C slivered almonds
1/2 C hot water

Pre-cook rice: rinse Basmati rice several times in cold water—draining and rinsing until rinse water is clear. Bring 6 C of water to a boil and add Basmati. Cook for only 6 minutes. Drain rice and set aside. Discard the rice liquid.

Caramelize onions: in a large skillet, heat ghee or butter. Add onion slices and caramelize, cooking till dark brown. This will take a while. Remove onions and set aside, leaving most of the ghee or butter in the pan.

Cook chicken: add chicken pieces to skillet and brown on all sides. Remove chicken, saving ghee, and place chicken pieces in a good-sized pot. Add salt, garlic and 3 1/2 C water to the chicken. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes or till chicken is tender. Remove chicken and set aside in a warm place. Reserve chicken liquid.

Cook Rice: in a food processor, blend caramelized onion with 1/2 C water or chicken liquid, tomato paste, and salt. Pour tomato paste mixture back into chicken broth and boil for 10 minutes. Add rice and garam masala to chicken broth mixture. Cover and simmer rice until liquid is reduced and rice is tender.

Cook garnish: while the rice is simmering, cook shredded carrot in the skillet with left over ghee till golden brown. Drain ghee from skillet, add raisins, almonds and 1/2 C water to the carrots and cook till all the water is reduced.

Serve: place rice on a platter or in a large shallow bowl. Arrange chicken pieces on top of the rice and garnish with the carrot-raisin-almond mixture.

| See more Afghan recipes |

Tips & Glossary

Afghan food is similar to the Middle East's and India's, using use many of the same spices. But Afghan cuisine is milder and lighter than its Indian cousin.

Many of the ingredients used in Afghan dishes probably aren’t in your spice shelf, but you'll find them at Asian or Mid-Eastern shops.

Deep Frying: be sure oil is hot; otherwise food will be soggy and greasy. Use a deep-fry thermometer to achieve the called-for temperature. When cool, oil can be strained, refrigerated, and re-used.

Basmati Rice: literally “Queen of fragrance." This rice, cultivated in India, is known for its delicate flavor and fragrance. 

Besan: also known as “gram flour,” made of ground chana dal, like chickpeas, only smaller and lighter in color. 

Cardamom: related to the ginger family. Pods (green, brown, or black) are the best way to store cardamom. But high-quality ground is also available. A rule of thumb: 10 pods = 1 1/2 tsp. ground.

Coriander: aka cilantro, Chinese, or Mexican parsley. Both fresh leaves and dried ground seeds are used in Afghan, Mid-East, Asian, Indian, and Mexican cuisines.

Garam Masala: literally, “hot spice,” usually a mixture of cinnamon, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and green cardamom seed or black cardamom pods. Because it loses its flavor quickly try to buy it with whole spices and grind it when you need it.

Ghee: clarified butter. Melt 1 lb. unsalted butter over low heat for 20 minutes (careful not to burn), remove from heat and skim away solids. Strain through cheesecloth into a separate container and keep…forever. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated. If you buy commercial ghee, make sure it comes from real butter, not hydrogenated oils.

Rosewater: distilled from rose petals and used to flavor Mid-Eastern and Asian cooking. You can make your own—but why? Buy it.

Turmeric: a deep yellow ground spice, member of the ginger family, used in curries. It has a marvelous earthy, peppery flavor.


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