Persian-Inspired Chicken Dish Is Filled With Flavor

March 25, 2021 Updated: March 25, 2021

Transform plain chicken thighs into an easy, Persian-inspired chicken and rice dish with a beautiful golden color and a wonderful fragrance. If you have saffron, do add that optional pinch; just a little will enhance the flavor and aroma of the dish.

This double-batch recipe makes one meal for tonight and one to keep in your freezer for another night.

Lemon Chicken and Rice

Active Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Generous pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 small head)
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice, preferably basmati or jasmine
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
  • 1 lemon, sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat two 8-inch-square baking dishes or foil pans with cooking spray.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 chicken thighs, and cook, turning once, until both sides are lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken thighs. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon fat from the pan.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onions to the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until soft and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, turmeric, paprika, and saffron, if using; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Transfer the onions to a plate and set aside.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add cabbage. Cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice, lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and half of the reserved onion. Continue cooking until the rice is well coated and heated through, 5 to 7 minutes.

Divide the rice mixture between the prepared baking dishes; nestle 4 of the reserved chicken thighs in each dish. Top each with half of the remaining cooked onions. Cover both dishes with foil. (Label one and freeze for up to one month.) Bake the remaining casserole, covered, for 30 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees F and the onions are starting to brown around the edges, 5 to 10 minutes more. Garnish with parsley and lemon slices, if desired.

Tasty Tips

Instead of freezing half, you can bake the full recipe in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In Step 6, bake, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

To make ahead: This double-batch recipe makes one meal for tonight and one to freeze for up to one month (Step 5).

To cook from frozen: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake as directed, adding an additional 10 minutes of baking time once uncovered.

Recipe nutrition per serving: 273 Calories, Total Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Cholesterol: 49 mg, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Fiber: 3 g, Total Sugars: 2 g, Protein: 17 g, Sodium: 194 mg, Potassium: 307 mg, Iron: 1 mg, Folate: 28 mcg, Calcium: 39 mg, Vitamin A: 202 IU, Vitamin C: 15 mg.

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