Jamie Oliver’s All-in-One Chicken & Rice is Perfect for Chaotic Family Nights

published Nov 7, 2021
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It’s been a while since I’ve had a home-cooked meal. In our household, this is unusual, since our home life typically revolves around the shopping, prep, and anticipation of dinner. However, for the past month we’ve been in the middle of buying and selling a house, so our lives are in a state of total disarray. Dinner has become an afterthought, and a rotation of take-out meals, frozen boxed dishes, and Costco grab-and-go has taken its place.

When I heard that Jamie Oliver had a popular all-in-one chicken dinner, I gladly took on the challenge. With a glance over the ingredient list, I was happy to find that I had almost everything required in my depleted kitchen and pantry, with the exception of chicken legs and fresh coriander (aka cilantro, as we know it here in the states). I’m not a drumstick fan; they seem like an unnecessary stop on the Flavortown highway to where we actually want to be, and that’s Thighland. So I just doubled up the amount of bone-in chicken thighs the original recipe called for. Cilantro was easy enough to snag during an afternoon full of errands. The only other requirement I imagine might not be a staple for the average American kitchen would be the Medjool dates, but lucky for me, I had half a box leftover from another summer recipe. (You can also buy these in bulk sections sometimes, which reduces waste!)

How I Made It

The prep for this dish is minimal, as the onion, garlic and dates are the only items calling for a dice. “Heat a splash of oil in the pan and brown the chicken thighs and legs all over,” the first step instructs, which assumes a whole lot of competency on the part of the audience. Drawing from my personal experience with braising chicken for one-pot meals, I added about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a large Staub braiser on medium-high heat. I also liberally seasoned my chicken with salt and pepper at this point, because unseasoned meat is not something I abide in this household, chaos or not. 

After browning the chicken and sweating the onions on medium for about 4 minutes, with another generous pinch of salt, I added in the rice, spices, honey, and dates. The smell of that fragrant cumin and coriander hitting the heat was absolutely intoxicating. There’s nothing quite like the moment spices come alive, and I’ve missed it terribly.

It was at this point, returning the chicken to the pan for the half-hour braise, that Oliver’s lack of specificity became a problem. “Cover with water and bring to a boil,” the recipe reads. There is no measurement for water in the ingredient list, or in this step. Did he want me to cover the rice with water? The nested chicken? How much water, Jamie!? I started with two and a half cups, which lightly covered the rice itself. About 15 minutes into the braise I checked it and noticed that some of the rice around the edges seemed to be dry. I added one extra cup to help out.

My Honest Review

Both the chicken and rice were cooked through to perfection in exactly the time allotted, which meant that dinner was on the table (or at least, on plates that we held on the couch) within an hour. I served it with a baguette and dressed spicy greens, which turned out to be a fantastic foil to the sweetness that the dates and honey lent the rice. The thighs remained incredibly juicy, and the skin retained its crispiness. 

Even after happily devouring our full plates, there was plenty left for lunch the next day, when my daughter got a chance to taste it. She ate the vast majority of her portion, which was a marked improvement over this week’s last chicken experiment, where she rejected grocery store rotisserie pieces and Stove Top. I may be raising a food snob. I’m grateful to have this new recipe in my arsenal for the future hectic nights our new home is sure to hold. 

3 Tips for Making Jamie Oliver’s Chicken and Rice

  • Don’t forget the salt and pepper! Season the chicken before searing, the onions when softening, and taste the end product and adjust.
  • Pre-measure your spices into a small bowl that you can just dump into the pan. Everything is quickly added to the hot skillet, and the spices will burn if you have to take the time to scoop them out.
  • Keep an eye on the rice. Check it halfway through the cooking process and if it looks dry with hard grains, add more water by a half-cup at a time.