Last week, while working on my post “Cheep Eats” (sic), I got on a roll cooking chicken drumsticks, my very favorite part of chicken. I kept thinking about a big baked casserole of whole chicken pieces and rice I often made when feeding our family of six. Occasionally I’d swap in pork chops for the chicken. And while I still have that recipe in my now worn BETTY CROCKER COOKBOOK (I don’t see the exact one on the internet despite looking), I knew it needed a big update. I no longer cook with dry soup mixes very often and CURSES! my oven had died, so a new version had to work on top of the stove. I wanted bunches of vegetables included to make dinner a breeze. Is there anyone who doesn’t like a one-pot, whole meal dinner? What I had in mind was a chicken-rich, herby rice pilaf full of those veggies and with plenty of room for herb or cheese garnishes at the end. I know it’s not quite fall, but I’m in the mood for cozy food and this hit the spot!
Because the chicken would overcook if I cooked everything all together (the original recipe tended toward dryness), I knew I needed to brown the chicken well in a Dutch oven (or a deep heavy skillet with a lid), remove it from the pot, cook the vegetables, add the rice and liquids (much like a Mexican sopa seca (dry soup), a southwestern rice, or a la risotto), and then return the chicken to quickly finish cooking. I wanted to use end-of- summer zucchini and sweet peppers because I had them and knew they’d need to be added later instead of earlier with the longer-cooking onions, carrots, garlic, and celery. Chicken and rice is popular dish world wide (Just think of Arroz con Pollo, Thai Basil Chicken Fried Rice, and so on) and all I wanted was my own little Colorado Springs easy dinner take on it. Once I got the chicken cooking, I was on my way!
Because the vegetables, along with their seasonings (more on this under TIPS), go in right after the chicken is sautéed, they need to be already chopped. While my drumsticks sizzled and tossed up a tantalizing aroma, I threw the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic into the food processor and carefully pulsed them into a medium dice so that the vegetables wouldn’t cook too quickly and would be visible in the dish when it was plated. In a second version (below), I used diced bacon instead of the butter and olive oil indicated in the recipe (remove the bacon after cooking and stirring it back in at the end) for another twist. Ham is another thought, if you’ve a bit in the house. l will say we liked it equally as well with and without the bacon. Or rather, I did. Husband Dave would defend any recipe with bacon.
After the vegetables were about half done and the garlic added (it will burn if added earlier), I poured in some white wine to deglaze the pan and bring up the “tasty brown bits” at the bottom. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but I find it adds a certain special feel to the dish. What isn’t better with wine? You can, if you like, simply add the tomatoes and broth and stir it up then. The drumsticks were once more added to the pot and the lid snuggled down for about 10 minutes. Rice typically takes 20 minutes or so to cook through, so at the halfway mark (10 min.), it was time to add the fast-cooking diced zucchini and red pepper for the final 10 minutes of cooking. At this point, if the rice is cooking too quickly (the liquid is gone, but the rice isn’t tender), you’ll need to add maybe another 1/4 cup broth or water. Lid on tight once more and the Dutch oven simmered until everything was tender and an instant read thermometer in the chicken registered at least 170 degrees F. If it’s more, not to worry. Dark meat can hardly be over cooked. If you’ve no thermometer, take a piece of chicken out and cut into it to make sure there’s no pink remaining. I seasoned it one last time and served happily hot.
There’s a reason many folks all over the world make their own version of chicken and rice (see TIPS and recipe for ideas to change it up), and you will, too, when you try this:
One-Pot Drumsticks and Rice with Vegetables
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 8 chicken drumsticks, patted dry
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 large stalk celery, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence- Can sub a mix of oregano and basil.
- 3 garlic clove, minced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 ½ cups white rice (I like Ben’s Long Grain Rice for this.)
- 15- ounce can chopped or puréed tomatoes
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock, plus more if rice becomes dry/or can use water
- 1 large yellow, red, or orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish- optional
- Julienne of basil for garnish-optional
- HEAT A 6-QUART DUTCH OVEN with the oil and butter over medium-high heat for two minutes. Sprinkle the drumsticks with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, along with the pinch of crushed red pepper. * Add the seasoned chicken to the hot pan and cook for about 5 minutes or until well-browned on one side. Turn and brown the other side. Remove chicken to a plate and cover.
- SAUTÉ THE ONION, celery, and carrot, Herbes de Provence, and another 1/2 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in the Dutch oven for about 10 minutes – or until softening, stirring often. Add minced garlic and stir. Cook another minute before pouring in the white wine. Simmer until the wine is nearly all absorbed.
- STIR IN THE RICE, cook for one minute, and pour in both the can of tomatoes and chicken stock. Return the browned drumsticks to the pan and push them down into the rice mixture just a bit. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes or so.
- SPRINKLE IN THE BELL PEPPER AND ZUCCHINI on top of the chicken and rice and simmer another 10-15 minutes covered or until rice and vegetables are tender and an instant read thermometer placed in the drumsticks registers at 170 degrees F or above. Check a time or two to make sure rice isn’t dry before it’s done and add a little extra broth or water if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- SERVE HOT, fluffing rice as you spoon it into shallow serving bowls and garnish with cheese and basil, if using.
- Store leftovers well-wrapped in the refrigerator for no more than 3 days. Reheat leftovers covered over low heat, adding a little water to maintain moistness and adjusting seasonings once more. Do not freeze.
If you liked this, you might also like my One-Pan Bacon-Chicken Legs with Cabbage, Potatoes, and Apples
Because Americans have such an intense love affair with chicken breasts–especially boneless ones– (I don’t get it, but read the article up above), drumsticks are easy to come by at a very low price. Our nearby COSTCO sells seasoned drumsticks (like the ones in the above pan) for $1.79 a pound and plain drumsticks for 99 cents a pound. The math will be different depending on what rice you have and which vegetables you choose, but this whole pot of goodness might be made for 5 or 6 bucks if you’re a good shopper. The corner grocery will also have a decent deal on chicken legs, but watch for sales.
CHANGE IT UP: The flavors in my Drumsticks and Rice are basic and would be happily eaten by a wide range of people in the U.S. That said, there’s a lot of room for invention here and following are only a few thoughts. Dip south of the border and toss in some roasted green chiles. Use oregano and cumin (not too much cumin) for seasonings and garnish with Queso Fresco and cilantro. Replace part of the tomatoes with salsa. Think Asian on a really wide basis and consider fish sauce or soy sauce, citrus zest, Thai basil, chiles, fruit, or even coconut milk. Puerto Rican arroz con pollo often includes olives or capers or pork. North African Chicken and Rice might include a little cinnamon and raisins. To say the world is your oyster is just about true if we’re talking chicken and rice. Make it your own…. Consider the ingredients you have on hand and how they might meld into a dinner you’d like to try. Try small broccoli florets instead of zucchini–a favorite at our house. Maybe you’ve winter squash on your counter you could dice and sauté with the onions, celery, and carrots. Some cabbage or fennel calling your name from the crisper? Snowy white or toasty brown mushrooms singing on the shelf. (Sauté mushrooms first, remove while everything else cooks, and add them back in at the end to avoid overcooking.) A big handful of fresh parsley about to freeze in the garden. Keep the proportions of rice and liquids the same and play with the rest, making sure your vegetable pieces are of a size to finish cooking in the time allotted. Be brave! Trial and success is the name of the game.
Need less? You can cut this recipe in half easily (choose a smaller pot) and 6 legs will work with less or the same amount of rice and liquid. You’ll just have more rice or can feed two of you two legs and rice for dinner and one leg and rice each for the next day’s lunch. One at the table? Make six legs and eat up for a couple of days! Or invite a friend.
Need more? I haven’t tried it, but the cook in me says you’ll have no problem. Use an 8-quart Dutch oven, cook 10 drumsticks in batches, increase vegetables by a quarter, the rice to 2 cups, and the broth to 2+ cups. Make sure to increase the salt, pepper, and herbs a little. Check the ideas here if you need twelve servings.
Just a smidge of rice left? Time for a rice frittata for lunch!
LIFE GOES ON:
We’ve a small family of skinny, but growing, gray squirrels in our back yard this summer chasing one another up and down the garden and high-tailing it through the back forty. Recently the young ones are brave enough to come to the front yard and climb the ornamental crab apple tree — driving poor Rosie nuts.
Speaking of Rosie (8-year old labradoodle), she’s a little shaky right now after a couple of her nails split badly and had to be professionally pedicured, shall we say, by the vet. Only very short walks right now, she’s been on pain killers and antibiotics for a week. And lest she think that’s been a PITA (pain-in-the-a$$), in two weeks she’s having a few teeth pulled. Ouch.
Thanks for keeping me such good company in my kitchen that will soon have a repaired oven. Who knows what we’ll bake? (If it ever cools off enough.)
Make some chicken and rice…and everything nice,