Lebanese Cinnamon Chicken Rice
This Recipe Is A Cherished GiftI have been holding on to this recipe for several months. It was sent to me by Summer, one of my readers, shortly after my daughter Margo passed away. Summer shared her family's Lebanese recipe as one she serves to friends and family who have just had a child or lost a loved one, explaining "oddly the joy and sorrow of these two occasions often renders us unable to cook for ourselves." Summer went on to say "We've never met, but you've become my friend through the special connection that women/moms make with one another while we share recipes. We know that recipes are more than a list of ingredients and instructions. We know that they instead are a peek into a personal kitchen, a window into the soul and the life blood of a loving family circle. And for us moms, they are one of the most important tools we have in our maternal tool chest." Summer's note resonated deeply with me and I knew if we were neighbors she would have delivered a pot of her healing chicken to my door. I want to thank Summer, my friends, family and the many readers whom I have never met for all you did to reach out to me when Margo passed. You thoughts and kind words are still with me and helped me navigate the difficult journey of losing a child.
A Healing CombinationThis recipe is simple, but packed full of nourishing ingredients. It is chicken soup without the soup. It is infused with an insane amount of cinnamon, a spice that has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties and has been shown to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. It makes sense that this is the dish Summer turns to when healing is needed. I took the liberty of adding yellow raisins, pomegranates, mint, parsley and almonds to Summer's recipe, as I can never seem to follow a recipe exactly. This dish must be served with a generous garnish of Labneh, a cheese made with Greek yogurt.
About this DishI did a little research and the Lebanese name for this dish is Riz Bi-Djaj. It can be made with just chicken or alternatively with chicken and ground lamb or beef. Riz Bi-Djaj is considered a special occasion dish and is frequently served at Easter. It can be served warm or at room temperature. This dish requires a lot of cinnamon. The chicken is cooked with two sticks of cinnamon and an additional 3 - 4 tablespoons of ground cinnamon is added to the rice. This sounds like a lot, but it works well. The goal is to use enough cinnamon to season each grain of rice. You can always add part of the cinnamon, taste and continue to add until you get it right for your personal preference.
Lebanese Cinnamon Chicken Rice
Yield 10 servings
This traditional Lebanese cinnamon rice and chicken dish is called Riz bi-Djaj. It is served on Easter and special occasions.
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups medium grained rice (such as jasmine or basmati)
- 3 - 4 Tablespoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1 cup yellow raisins
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup almonds
- 2 cups pomegranate seeds
- 1 handful of fresh mint, torn
- 1 handful of fresh parsley, torn
- 2 cups labneh
- Put the entire chicken and the quartered onion in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a medium simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and tender. Do not over cook or chicken will become tough. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool and discard the onion.
- To clarify the broth strain by placing a paper towel or coffee filter in the bottom of a stainer. Pour the broth through the strainer and into a bowl. Transfer 6 cups of the strained broth to a large pot and reserve the remaining broth for another use.
- Add three cups of rice to the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is done. Allow to sit another 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
- While the rice is cooking remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- When the rice is done melt the butter in a skillet and saute the nuts for 2 - 3 minutes until they are golden brown. Combine the rice, chicken, ground cinnamon, salt, raisins and half of the pine nuts and almonds in a bowl or in the pan you cooked the rice in. Mix until the rice is evenly coated in the cinnamon.
- To serve pack the rice mixture into a small bowl. Invert the bowl onto a serving platter. Top with the remaining almonds and pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, mint and parsley. May be served warm or at room temperature. Serve with labneh.