Lemon Garlic Chicken with Mushroom Wild Rice

My favorite restaurant in college was Northstar Cafe. It’s a chain of homey little eateries found only in Columbus, Ohio. The food is locally sourced and the menu is small but each dish is made to perfection. The casual atmosphere is inviting to a mixed crowd of both young and old(er) patrons. As a college student it was definitely on the pricier side. My best friend Morgan and I loved this place. We would come here all the time and usually get the same things. One of us would get a flatbread, either chicken or veggie; a fish sandwich; a couple of ginger ales and a dark chocolate truffle giant cookie (for starters).

While I loved all the food, the one thing that always made me happy was the side dish that came with the fish sandwich. It was called a wild rice salad. A rice with a husk covering giving it the texture of oatmeal, along with a sweet dried currents, a silky acidic bite because of added dry wine, and a crunch delivered by slivered roasted almonds. The complexity of flavors and the simplicity of its appearance baffled me. I wanted to recreate this but give it my own twist.

Wild Rice

Lets start by talking about wild rice. A dark blown/ black colored rice indigenous of North America packs a lot of flavor. Unlike basmati or other polished rice, it doesn’t take in flavors but contributes its own to the dish. That’s also why it cannot be the only thing you serve. It has to accompanied with other flavors and perhaps even a protein. I decided to do both. For flavor, I substituted the currents with caramelized onions which provides the sweet profile but still is savory and I added thinly sliced button mushrooms that are cooked in a white wine reduction. This removes all the alcohol from the wine but flavor is soaked up by the mushrooms which compliment the rice amazingly well. For the protein, I chose the chicken breast that I sliced laterally and marinated in lemon juice, garlic, and dried rosemary for a quick 30 mins. Once the flavors were soaked in, I pounded the chicken thin and lightly coated in flour. The flour makes sure the chicken remains moist and also prevents the garlic and rosemary from burning.

What you end up with are well seasoned fillets of chicken with juicy outer layer and charred edges with just a hit of burnt garlic flavor. The rice is smooth and silky and mushrroms melt in your mouth while the rice gives some resistance but the kind that gives you the satifsfaction that you are eating something healthy. And to be honest, this is quite healthy. The rice is rich in fiber, chicken breast has no fat and we use very little oil. Though, there are ways to make it unhealthy too. Add butter in the rice and then dress it with raisins and roasted almonds for a decadent yet satifying side.

Go ahead and give this recipe a try and let me know how you like wild rice!

Ingredients

Serves 1

For the marinade

250 g Chicken Breast

2 tsp dried rosemary (1 tsp if you are using fresh rosemary)

2 tsp dried thyme (1 tsp if you are using fresh thyme)

2 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

For the rest of the meal

2 tsp of all purpose flour

1/2 cup of wild rice (follow packet suggestions. Usually takes about 30 minutes to cook)

350 g of any fresh mushrooms finely sliced (3 cups chopped)

1/2 medium red onion finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup of dry white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc)

6-8 fresh basil leaves, tightly rolled and finely chopped

Salt, pepper, and lemon juice for taste

Preparation

Step 1

Start with the marinade. Take the chicken breast and cut lenghtwise. Add to the bowl with olive oil, garlic, dried spices, lemon juice and a lot of salt & pepper. Leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes and no more than 30.

Step 2

Take out the chicken and wrap in plastic wrap. Then with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin (I used a rolling pin) beat the chicken until its about 1/4 inch thick. Place the tenderized chicken on flour and lightly coat both sides of the meat.

Step 3

Take a medium skillet, heat on high and add 1tbsp olive oil.  Add chicken and cook each side for 1.5 minutes. Remove and place on paper towel.

Step 4

Reduce the pan to medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook until soft but not steaming. Add garlic, onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes and then add basil and wine. Lets the wine bubble off and cook based on the amount of liquid you want. I cooked for 30 seconds until no actual liquid was draining but the rice was still moist. Add butter if you want a shimmering look and a silky texture.

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Chandini Chowk: A feast for all the senses

There was this article (2011) in the National Geographic Magazine commemorating the fact there are now 7 Billion humans on this planet. The author, Nigel Holmes talked about what it would be like to have a party where the whole world is invited. He said that an elevator allows about two to three square feet of space per person, however this is a party and he wants everyone to have some space to dance, giving them six square feet of space. This means that the party would need a space of about 1500 square feet. Holmes then said that such a kind of party space would be found in places like the complete city of Multan, Pakistan or all the 118 islands of the French Polynesia. After reading this article I spent the next week thinking how this party would be like, how it would be to party with so many people in such a small place.

Chandini Chowk is an apt example of how such a party would be like. Correction, its an exact example of how crowded it would be. Chandini Chowk is a small district in the older parts of Delhi. It overlooks the Red Fort and was and still is used mainly as a large marketplace for the masses. I have gone there thrice. The first time was when I was ten and we had to go meet some relative. I hated it. I was ten and forced to walk through crowded, poo infested streets and I didn’t even get a Mc Donald’s burger for lunch because there weren’t  any in a twenty mile radius (I was growing through a phase where everything was too spicy and dragging me out of my house to meet relatives costed my parents a burger).

The second and third time was quite different. Six years after growing taste buds and an increased temperament to the Indian sweaty crowd, my opinion about the place changed. In 2011 I went with my parents with no real agenda of my own. It was the winters and weather was perfect to walk around tiny lanes with the greasy smell of paranthas. Chandini Chowk was really the first place I took an interest in macro photography. We walked to a never ending strip of markets specialized for selling just spices. It was really an amazing sight. The heaps of raw spices were a visual, however they did give a good battering to my olfactory senses with that strong, pungent smell.

Chilies

I experimented quite a bit with such spices walking through the heavily scented area. Apart from the chillies another favourite picture among the spices is a picture of a bowl of mixed spices, the star of the picture being incidentally, a star anise.

Star anise

There is stark religious divide in Chandini Chowk. The complete shopping area is divided in a Hindu and a Muslim market. The Hindu markets are in close proximity of the Red Fort and is also where you would end up if you ask any local for the way to Chandini Chowk. The Muslim market overlooks giant mosque called the Jama Masjid. The two areas (the latter is called Chawri Bazaar) are different is some ways. The people in both the areas speak the same language but have different dialects, the colors that dominated the Hindu side were red and mustard, and the muslim side were white and hues of blue. I don’t know if the colors are really a difference, it was just an observation. India is known to have a somewhat deep religious divide even though on official paper we are “secular” nation. India is known to have fights based on religion. However, such a divide is not observed in the people residing there.

The most recent time I went to Chandini Chowk was with my school friends. We had gone there with the aim to take pictures though the heat and one friends insistence to buy kilos of sweets put me down. I did however enjoy going with them. There was no time limit being hounded on me by my dad my mum insisting me to put sunscreen due to the heat. I was truly allowed to get lost. It was also the first time I ventured into to Chawri Bazaar. I was able to click a couple of pictures. This one is of a trio of wheel barrows that are stuck in a traffic jam.

trio

Another picture I took was of a bowl of peppercorns. Those tiny black spherical seeds really were able to express nature’s ability to create colors. Each corn was of a different hue of black or brown. It’s beautiful to think how many different colors were actually needed to get that color.

Pepercorn

I have not seen a place thiscolorful, hot, noisy, dirty, and tasty as Chandini Chowk. I cant wait to go again, beat the odds and click satisfying pictures and meeting interesting people, be it in the Jama Masjid or in the newly opened Mc Donald’s.

Spice Street