We all have our food we crave when sick, and more often than not, it involves chicken in some form. Something about chicken is comforting. Maybe it's the appealing, non-aggressive flavor. Or its status as an everyday protein. Or, it could be the brothy richness of stock, as more often than not chicken soup is what tops many lists.
Whatever it is, I was laid up with the flu last week and wanted nothing but this to eat. It's not a chicken soup, but good chicken stock is integral to all parts of it—as the main liquid which forms the base of the sauce, and as the cooking liquid for the rice.
Rather than a traditional milk-only bechamel sauce, this recipe calls for chicken stock to make up to two-thirds of the liquid, which makes the sauce less gummy and thick and more soupy and rich. It's a bit of a gravy-and-bechamel hybrid. Lemon juice imbues it with brightness, while a pinch of cayenne and nutmeg round out the flavors. I threw peas into this batch but they're not required. I also used brown basmati rice because it was in the pantry.
- 4 chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup milk or half-and-half
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup rice
Rinse the rice and combine with 2 cups of the chicken stock in a medium pot. Bring to a boil then simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, adding water if necessary. Add peas, if using, towards the end of cooking.
In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until the foam subsides. Add the flour and whisk into the butter, breaking up any clumps. Add the chicken stock, whisking. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 10 minutes.
Add the milk, nutmeg, cayenne, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer an additional 5 minutes.
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and saute over medium heat until cooked through (alternatively, they can gently poach until cooked).
Add the final tablespoon of lemon juice to the rice and taste for seasoning. Slice the chicken and serve on the rice smothered in the sauce.