Here's to the humble chicken breast: No more dowdy sides for you. Rice takes on exotic flare when laced with spices, dried fruits, and nuts.
- 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
- 2 wide strips lemon zest
- 2 cups cold water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (an Indian spice blend)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup basmati rice, lightly rinsed and drained
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup toasted unsalted pistachios or cashews
Put the apricots and lemon zest in the 2 cups of cold water. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garam masala, and toast, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and translucent, about 6 minutes.
Stir in the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the water along with the apricots, lemon zest, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, wrap a clean dish towel around the saucepan lid, and cover saucepan. Cook for 10 minutes, set aside for 5 minutes undisturbed, then remove lid and fluff with a fork. Mound the pilaf on a serving platter or in a shallow bowl, tear the mint over, and top with the nuts.
Game Plan: Toast the nuts while the rice cooks.
Cook's Note: Wrapping the lid with a dish towel keeps the steam in the pot, encourages the rice grains to stay separate, and absorbs condensation that would otherwise collect on the lid and drip back into the pan.