Iraqi Jews have long made this simple dish in advance of the Sabbath, when cooking is one of the types of work that are prohibited. Old recipes call for an "old bird," perhaps because the bones would break down a bit for added flavor.
Though they share the same pot, the rice that cooks inside the chicken will taste different from the rice that cooks outside the chicken, so serve some of both with each portion.
Make Ahead: The chicken and rice will need 10 minutes' cooking time on the stove top and 30 to 60 minutes' resting time before going into the oven for 10 to 12 hours.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 1 large potato, peeled and cut into very thin slices
- 3 1/2 pounds whole chicken (chicken livers and heart reserved), preferably not a young bird
- 3 cups uncooked long-grain rice
- 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes, preferably Pomi brand
- 3 cups water, plus 1 cup boiling water
- Hot or spicy paprika
- Pinch ground cinnamon or 3-inch piece cinnamon stick (optional)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Use the potato slices to cover the bottom of a medium Dutch oven (preferably just large enough to accommodate the bird and the rice mixture); they will help keep the rice and chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Trim any tough connective strands from the chicken livers, then finely chop the livers and heart. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl along with the rice, crushed tomatoes and the 3 cups of water. Add paprika to taste and the ground cinnamon or the cinnamon stick, if desired; mix well.
Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper to taste. Place 4 large spoonfuls (as with a wooden cooking spoon) of the rice mixture inside the chicken, then place the chicken, breast side up, in the Dutch oven. Pour the rice mixture around the bird (but not on top of it). Lightly sprinkle the top of the chicken with paprika. Cover and place over medium-high heat; bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour; during the last 10 minutes, preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
Pour the remaining cup of boiling water around the chicken into the rice mixture. Cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven; cook for 10 to 12 hours. The rice will be cooked through and hugging the chicken; the top of the chicken will be lightly browned, and the meat should fall away from the bone easily.
Remove the cinnamon stick, if using; serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from a recipe of Tel Aviv resident Erela Arnon.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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