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Jerusalem: Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice

I don’t talk much about it here, but when I was quite small, I lived in Israel for almost two years. It was there that my pale Russian skin received a sun-kissed glow and, I like to think, I developed a taste for hummus. Our stay was brief; like many Jews who took the opportunity to flee the Soviet Union when they could, my family escaped in search of a better life. Our ultimate destination was the United States, but those years in Israel, where I attended 1st and 2nd grade, learned how to swim, and carried a gas mask to school (that is a story for another time), were a poignant time. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring Jerusalem and had I, I doubt I would still carry any well-developed thoughts about it. But Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book, Jerusalem, written with fellow Jerusalemite, Sami Tamimi, brought me back to a place I haven’t been back to and don’t think about too often these days.

Yotam, who comes from the Jewish side of the city, and Sami, who grew up on the Arab side, put together a beautiful collection of recipes and stories that illustrate the intricate threads that hold together this great city, and as much as I enjoyed bookmarking dishes I am excited to make, I spent a good afternoon in my own memories.

The flavors of Jerusalem — and Israel in general — are big, bold, tart, cooling, minty, syrupy. Recipes jumped out at me from ever corner, and vibrant photos of city life gave me a serious case of wanderlust. There is the Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread drizzled with date syrup which is already on the agenda. The Kohlrabi Salad. Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs. Turkey & Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion & Cumin. And this Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice dish, which I am sharing with you today.

Perhaps what struck me most about the book is that it illustrates that this multi-cultural city is so passionate about food. Maybe one day, we can all agree on hummus.

Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice
*serves four
adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi* and Sami Tamimi, published by Ten Speed Press**

*Yotam is also the author of another one of my favorite cookbooks, Plenty.
**I must thank Ten Speed Press for sending me a pre-release copy of the book. I was thrilled to have it show up on my doorstep! The book is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be officially released on October 16th. Order yours.

For the chicken and rice:

3 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of water
2 1/2 tablespoons of barberries (you can sub currants)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 whole chicken, quartered, or 2 1/4 pounds of chicken thighs
10 green cardamom pods
rounded 1/4 teaspoon of whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks (or 2 long, broken in half)
1 2/3 cup of basmati rice
2 1/4 cups of boiling water
1 1/2 tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup of dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the yogurt sauce:

1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons of olive oil

1. If you are using currants, skip this step. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the barberries. Allow the barberries to soak while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the onion and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is golden and caramelized. Transfer onion to a small bowl.
3. Combine the chicken with salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon. Mix everything together with your hands.
4. Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high. Add the chicken, along with the spices, to the pot and cook for 5 minutes on each side. You want it to get golden, and for the skin to crisp up a bit. Use a pair of tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
5. Add the rice, caramelized onion, salt, and pepper to the dutch oven. Stir until the rice is coated in the oil/leftover chicken fat. Drain the barberries and add them to the pot. If you are using currents, add them in at this stage. Stir and then re-add the chicken to the pot, tucking it into the rice.
6. Add the boiling water, cover, and dial down the heat to low. Continue cooking, over very low heat, for 30 minutes.
7. After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, take off the lid and place a tea towel over the pot. Replace the lid and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, use a spoon to stir the olive oil into the yogurt and set aside.
8. Stir in the herbs and use a fork to fluff the rice. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Transfer to a serving bowl. Enjoy this dish hot or warm, with a few dollops of yogurt sauce.

Musical Pairings: Grizzly Bear – Shields + Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • Shannalee T

    Wow, what a compelling story, Kasey! You have me interested in this cookbook now; in fact, I just emailed my mom about it. : ) This recipe looks wonderful!

  • Thank you, Shanna! I’m a big fan of these types of hearty, warming rice + meat plates. The flavors here are quite spectacular. I think you’d love the book! The photos alone are spectacular.

  • Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen

    Whoa, your story was amazing. Loved that little bit of Kasey I had no idea about. I just received this book too and I absolutely love it. Can’t wait to cook from it. All of the recipes look exactly how you described – syrupy, minty…delicious!

  • Ottolenghi is such an inspiration. I cannot wait til my copy comes! And cardamom rice? That sounds amazing.

  • Thanks, Adrianna! It doesn’t come up that often, since I was so young, but as with all experiences, that one helped shape me. I have soo many recipes bookmarked already. I’m a little overwhelmed with new cookbooks at the moment but my mind is racing 🙂

  • I completely agree- I think you’ll love it. There are a lot of “Kimberley” recipes in there – ones I could totally see you loving…the flavor profiles are just fantastic. Congrats again on the official book news. I cannot wait for you!

  • WithStyleGrace

    This sounds so comforting! I could definitely go for a big bowl of this.

  • It is, Lisa! Super cozy food 🙂

  • Ashley

    I can not wait to get my hands on this book. His last book was so incredibly inspiring and by the sound of it this one will not disappoint. I hope you are feeling well, friend.

  • Ashley, I agree – I turn to Plenty often when I need some inspiration. I’m doing well! Starting to get into the bigger/tired stage, but pushing through 🙂 I’m very much looking forward to having her join us 🙂 Hope you are well, too! I’ve loved reading about all your travels. I really want to get my butt out to Santa Fe now!

  • I definitely must get my hands on a copy of this book! The whole concept sounds amazing. That chicken is making my mouth water!

  • One of my friends from university had a similar upbringing and she actually went back to Israel once we finished university to spend a couple of years in the army. I can’t say that I would have done the same but she found it an absolutely fascinating place all these years later.

    This is exactly the kind of meal that I like & I can see this being a big hit with my family as well. Simple but bursting with flavour.

  • I cannot wait to get my hands on this cookbook, and I’m fascinated by the story behind it. I love cardamom in both sweet and savory recipes, and the idea of pairing it with caramelized onions is very enticing. Thanks for sharing a bit about your story.

  • It’s a really cool cookbook, Eileen – I would definitely recommend it.

  • Interesting! Truthfully, I can’t imagine doing that right now either because having lived in the U.S. for pretty much most of my life, I consider myself pretty ‘American’ but I think it’s probably a profound experience..This is definitely a family meal. There’s a little Persian restaurant near my house that makes these amazing pilafs and my family actually makes a similar dish, originating in the Balkans called ‘Plov.’ Funny how connected we all really are…

  • Jess, it’s really a gem, and I agree that the story is quite fascinating. I, too, am a big fan of cardamom…I feel like I’m always trying to throw it into recipes! This post took me a LONG time to write and I’m glad you enjoyed a piece of my story!

  • Jeanine

    wow, your “story for another time” sounds truly fascinating… I love this book, really makes me want to hope on a plane and visit Jerusalem.

  • MikeVFMK

    Fascinating story. And beautiful dish! My copy arrived a few weeks ago now and this was one of the recipes I was gearing up for making. I’m definitely going to now. Lovely.

  • Oh, those recipes sound even more incredible that the ones in Plenty! Thanks for sharing your perspective on your time in Israel and its food.

  • Thanks, Jeanine…perhaps one day I’ll share it!

  • Thank you! Isn’t it such an inspiring read? I’m looking forward to trying more recipes from it.

  • I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the collection of recipes in Jerusalem is very different from Plenty. I love both books, but this one is definitely the heartier of the two. Lots of lamb recipes!

  • Stephanie

    I heard an interview of these two guys on NPR! Their book sounds great.

  • Gotta love NPR! The book’s fantastic..I think you’d really enjoy the recipes…and the stories/photography!

  • Olivia

    Can someone explain what I did wrong here? I followed the instructions to the letter, using 2.3 lbs of chicken thighs rather than a whole chicken as prescribed. Everything seemed like it was going well until I cut into the meat and it was still raw inside. Likewise, the rice was crunchy—not entirely raw, but a very liberal take on al dente. Anyone else have this problem? I’m eager to fix it as the flavor was all there (though I had to finish the chicken off in a pan which left it a little less juicy).

  • Hi Olivia, I’m sorry to hear that your chicken and rice were undercooked! It’s possible that you may have needed to cook your chicken slightly longer before adding it to the rest of the ingredients (or maybe it was partially frozen when you used it?). Cooking time for rice can vary widely, depending on the type of rice you are using. For example, brown rice takes much longer to cook (did you use basmati rice in the recipe?). Also, if your rice has been sitting around your pantry for a while, it may also take longer to Everyone’ cooking environment and ingredients are different, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint why the recipe didn’t turn out for you. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

  • Olivia

    Thanks so much, Kasey! The Basmati rice we used was in our pantry for a while, so that may have had something to do with that. Not sure where the chicken went wrong, perhaps the heat may have been too low when I set it to simmer with the rest of the goods after I crisped the skin (a little longer than 5minutes on each side)? I wound up fixing the rice a bit when I reheated the leftovers and it was still ridiculously tasty, so I’ll definitely have to try again.

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  • lucky

    Has anyone tried this delicious recipe but did the last cooking of rice, boiling water and chicken in the oven?

  • dishnthekitchen

    I see you decreased the amount of salt in the recipe. I followed the original recipe closely and found it to be quite salty. Salt is quite heavy throughout the book…I don’t tend to use a lot of salt when I cook and definitely not this much!
    I also had a problem with the rice and chicken even though I let both the chicken fry longer and let it cook with the rice a bit longer. Next time I will add more water and cook for 45 minutes.

  • Sophie — Dinners for Winners

    I don’t own this cookbook YET and I haven’t cooked this dish yet either, but my sister made this for us last night and in my internet search for the recipe, of course I knew I could trust you! Wow, this is a whole new way to eat rice. I loved the socarrat-ish crisped, almost blackened rice from the bottom of the pan and the flavors of sweet carmelized onions, currants and spices were insane together. The chicken fat made this such a rich and comforting dish! She used chicken thighs and the meat just fell off the bone, super moist. YUMM. Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to make it myself!

  • lisa

    I made this recipe because it sounded exotic and fabulous, but the mix of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon paired with dill and cilantro was bizarre (and not pleasant) to me.

  • lisa

    I had the exact same experience, even after reading through about 100 comments on another site, and making an effort to avoid this very thing. Room temp. chicken, basic basmati rice, etc….

  • Tiffany Broussard Casey

    Question_ What would be a great vegetable side with this…maybe something cauliflower or eggplant? Any ideas??

  • Nicole

    This sounds fabulous! I am living in Israel now and I’m having so much fun learning about all of these new spices and flavors. I am looking forward to getting one or two of these cookbooks once I get home!

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