Chicken Pi­laf

Serves 12.

Note: This is a great meal for a crowd — it can be pulled to­gether quick­ly using pan­try and freez­er sta­ples. Make sure that your li­quid is hot be­fore you add it to the rice, so that it will cook more e­ven­ly, and stir the rice very gen­tly with a sil­i­cone spat­u­la to keep the grains whole. (The sil­i­cone spatu­las are heat-re­sist­ant at high tem­pera­tures.) To pre­pare basmati rice, rinse it in a bowl of cold wa­ter, re­peat­ing at least 10 times or un­til the wa­ter re­mains clear; soak for 20 min­utes. To slice the ci­lan­tro leaves thin­ly, stack them a few at a time. From "Flavorwalla," by Floyd Cardoz.

2 (13.5-oz.) cans co­co­nut milk (stir well be­fore using)

About 6 1/2 c. un­salt­ed chick­en stock

• 1/2 c. ca­no­la oil

• 2 tsp. cum­in seeds

• 2-in. piece cin­na­mon stick

• 6 whole cloves

4 c. fine­ly chop­ped white on­ions

1/4 c. minced peeled fresh gin­ger

• 6 gar­lic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. co­ri­an­der seeds, fine­ly ground

1 tbsp. black pep­per­corns, op­tion­al

• 2 tsp. tur­mer­ic

• 2 bay leaves

6 c. white basmati rice, rinsed, soaked and drained (see Note)

3 lb. bone­less skinless chick­en thighs, ex­cess fat re­moved, quar­tered

• Kosher salt

1 c. thin­ly sliced washed and dried ci­lan­tro leaves with ten­der stems, plus more for garnish (see Note)


Pour co­co­nut milk into large glass meas­ure. Add en­ough stock to make 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups). Heat stock/coconut milk mix­ture in me­di­um pot over me­di­um-high heat un­til boil­ing. Re­duce heat and keep at very low sim­mer.

In 8-quart stew pot with tight­-fit­ting lid, heat oil over me­di­um heat un­til it shim­mers. Add cum­in, cin­na­mon and cloves and cook, stir­ring un­til the spices are fra­grant and little bub­bles form around them, about 1 min­ute. Add on­ions and cook, stir­ring, un­til soft­ened but not at all col­ored, about 3 min­utes.

Use a sil­i­cone spat­u­la to stir in the gin­ger, gar­lic, co­ri­an­der, pep­per­corns, tur­mer­ic, bay leaves and drained rice, then stir to coat the rice with the oil and spices. Stir in the chick­en, tuck­ing it into the rice, and stir over me­di­um heat for 3 min­utes.

Stir in the hot stock mix­ture and bring to a boil, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­al­ly. Sea­son to taste with salt. Cov­er and cook over me­di­um heat un­til all li­quid is ab­sorbed and chick­en is cooked, 15 to 20 min­utes. Fold in the ci­lan­tro. Cov­er and let rice rest for 15 to 20 min­utes.

Fluff rice with fork; re­move and dis­card cin­na­mon stick, cloves and bay leaves. Sprin­kle with chop­ped ci­lan­tro and serve.

Var­i­a­tion: Add a bunch of fresh dill, rough­ly chop­ped, along with the ci­lan­tro.