½ teaspoon saffron threads
2 cups basmati rice, uncooked
1 tablespoon salt
2 oranges, zest only
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, sliced
½ cup pistachio nuts, shelled and chopped
1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease deep baking dish.
2) Steep saffron threads in 2 tblsp of hot water for 10 minutes. Remove threads and save liquid.
3) Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in large pot. Add rice and salt. Return to a boil and cook 8 minutes uncovered. Drain rice in colander and spoon into a bowl. Set rice aside.
4) Remove zest from oranges and cut into fine shreds (1 inch long).
5) Place one cup of water in saucepan with sugar and zest. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Liquid should form syrup. Remove from heat and strain syrup from zest. Do not discard zest! Pour syrup over rice and stir to coat rice. Set aside.
6) Heat olive oil in skillet. Add chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides. Brown chicken on both sides and remove chicken but leave oil and chicken juices in pan.
7) Add onion. Sauté onion for 10 minutes, until softened. Add 1 cup of water and stir to deglaze the pan. Return chicken to skillet and cook on med-low for 10 minutes. Be sure and stir the bottom of the pan when deglazing.
8) Spread half of rice on bottom of casserole dish. Place chicken pieces and onion on top of rice. Pour half of the cooking liquid from the chicken skillet on top of the rice and chicken. Sprinkle with half the remaining orange zest and half the almonds. Spread remaining rice on top. Pour remaining chicken liquid over the top.
9) Cover dish with lid or aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
10) Transfer chicken and rice in serving dish. Garnish with remaining zest and almonds. Sprinkle with pistachio nuts. Pour saffron liquid over rice dish.
*Recipe by Shelley Neese, vice president of The Jerusalem Connection. Click here for her articles and videos.