Dinner Tonight: Chicken and Rice With Almonds and Dried Cherries

Dinner Tonight

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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Chicken and rice is a dish that transcends national borders, but it wasn't until halfway through this recipe that I wondered where in the world I had actually ended up. Originally, the mix of cinnamon and almonds reminded me of Morocco, which isn't such a bad place to be. But then I realized that the spices are just as comfortable in India. In the end, I decided that as long it tasted good I would let the dish remain a bit ambiguous.

I could have kept the chicken and rice separate, but in the spirit of making this recipe as simple and straightforward as possible, I wanted to cook everything in one pot. That meant that I had to sauté the chicken pieces first, remove them, and then nestle them back in at the end as the rice cooked. Fortunately, the time it takes to cook rice is just about the same as it takes to finish the chicken. This is where a meat thermometer comes in real handy. If the chicken does need a few extra minutes, it's no big deal; the rice can handle it.

Though flavorful, the dish benefits from a few last second additions. Both cilantro and mint work wonders here, while a squeeze of lemon helps perk up each bite. The dried red chilies provide a faint background warmth, but a little more hot sauce wouldn't be out of question. If you're leaning Morocco, harrisa works well; if it's Indian, mango pickle makes everything better. And, as is often the case, sriracha is always there for you.

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