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WHAT SHE'S HAVING

Recipe: T’beet, an old Iraqi-Jewish chicken and rice dish, is still appealing today

T’beet (Iraqi-Jewish Chicken and Rice)Sheryl Julian

Serves 6

In this famous Iraqi-Jewish dish, a whole chicken is almost buried in rice mixed with spices before it goes into the oven. The traditional dish, called t'beet (from the Arabic word "tabayit," which means to stay overnight) was sent into a low oven before the Sabbath so it was ready the next day for the midday meal. Old recipes called for stuffing the bird with uncooked rice, then completely covering it with more rice, which turned the grains into a soft, savory pudding after its long stay in the oven. This more modern version cooks the chicken more quickly without stuffing the bird, though it still takes more than an hour to bake after lots of prep. This is slow food and you have to give it time. You need a large flameproof casserole or Dutch oven (4 to 5 quart capacity) that will hold the whole chicken with space around it. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and brown the bird, which will take about 10 minutes. As you turn the browning chicken, don't move it until the skin releases from the pan without prodding or you may tear the skin off. Parboil the rice before adding it to the pot. Then saute an onion, add plenty of spices and some canned tomatoes and chicken stock. Nest the chicken in the rice mixture. If you're worried that the pan lid will touch the chicken, cover the chicken with a round or oval of parchment paper the same size as the pan. After cooking covered for an hour or more, the grains should be done and the chicken cooked through (165 on a meat thermometer). Remove the lid and slide the pot under the broiler for a minute or two to brown or char the chicken and the top of the rice. In the end, the rice is tender, soft in places and crusty in others, infused with the taste of the warm spices and poultry juices.

2cups jasmine or basmati or another long-grain white rice
2tablespoons kosher salt
1whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
½teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
3tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1large onion, coarsely chopped
2teaspoons sweet paprika
1teaspoon ground cumin
½teaspoon ground coriander
½teaspoon ground cinnamon
½teaspoon ground allspice
½teaspoon ground nutmeg
1cup canned chopped tomatoes
2cups chicken stock
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Add the rice and return to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. The rice will not be cooked through. Drain the rice into a fine-meshed colander or strainer; set aside.

2. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook it. Pat the chicken dry. Remove the fatty flaps and gizzards from the chicken cavity. Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with about 1 teaspoon of the salt and the black pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

3. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a large flameproof casserole or Dutch oven (4 to 5 quart capacity) that will hold the chicken with space around it.

4. In the casserole over medium-high, heat the canola or vegetable oil. Brown the chicken well all over, about 5 minutes on a side. Brown one side of the breast first, then the other side, and finally the middle. It's not necessary to brown the backbone side. Turn the chicken with 2 large kitchen spoons but do not move it until it releases from the pan without much prodding or you may tear the skin. Transfer the chicken to a bowl.

5. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the onion softens. Stir in the paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes.

6. Add the rice and stock to the pan. Stir well until they are thoroughly combined.

7. Make a large well in the center of the rice. Place the chicken on the rice, breast-side up. Add any juices in the bowl to the pan. The rice will come up the sides of the chicken but not completely cover it. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cover the chicken with a piece of parchment paper if it looks like chicken breast will hit the lid when you set it on. Set on the lid and transfer to the oven.

8. Cook the chicken for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the rice is tender and a meat thermometer inserted into several places, including the thickest part of a thigh, registers 165 degrees.

9. Turn the oven to broil. The rack should be about 12 inches from the element. Uncover the pan and discard the parchment paper, if using. Broil the chicken for 2 minutes, watching the pan carefully, or until the top of the rice and the chicken are lightly charred.

10. Sprinkle with parsley. Use scissors to cut the chicken in the pan (this is messy but easier than lifting out the bird). Serve with rice from the top and bottom of the pan.

Sheryl Julian

Serves 6

In this famous Iraqi-Jewish dish, a whole chicken is almost buried in rice mixed with spices before it goes into the oven. The traditional dish, called t'beet (from the Arabic word "tabayit," which means to stay overnight) was sent into a low oven before the Sabbath so it was ready the next day for the midday meal. Old recipes called for stuffing the bird with uncooked rice, then completely covering it with more rice, which turned the grains into a soft, savory pudding after its long stay in the oven. This more modern version cooks the chicken more quickly without stuffing the bird, though it still takes more than an hour to bake after lots of prep. This is slow food and you have to give it time. You need a large flameproof casserole or Dutch oven (4 to 5 quart capacity) that will hold the whole chicken with space around it. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and brown the bird, which will take about 10 minutes. As you turn the browning chicken, don't move it until the skin releases from the pan without prodding or you may tear the skin off. Parboil the rice before adding it to the pot. Then saute an onion, add plenty of spices and some canned tomatoes and chicken stock. Nest the chicken in the rice mixture. If you're worried that the pan lid will touch the chicken, cover the chicken with a round or oval of parchment paper the same size as the pan. After cooking covered for an hour or more, the grains should be done and the chicken cooked through (165 on a meat thermometer). Remove the lid and slide the pot under the broiler for a minute or two to brown or char the chicken and the top of the rice. In the end, the rice is tender, soft in places and crusty in others, infused with the taste of the warm spices and poultry juices.

2cups jasmine or basmati or another long-grain white rice
2tablespoons kosher salt
1whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
½teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
3tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1large onion, coarsely chopped
2teaspoons sweet paprika
1teaspoon ground cumin
½teaspoon ground coriander
½teaspoon ground cinnamon
½teaspoon ground allspice
½teaspoon ground nutmeg
1cup canned chopped tomatoes
2cups chicken stock
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Add the rice and return to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. The rice will not be cooked through. Drain the rice into a fine-meshed colander or strainer; set aside.

2. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook it. Pat the chicken dry. Remove the fatty flaps and gizzards from the chicken cavity. Sprinkle the chicken inside and out with about 1 teaspoon of the salt and the black pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

3. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a large flameproof casserole or Dutch oven (4 to 5 quart capacity) that will hold the chicken with space around it.

4. In the casserole over medium-high, heat the canola or vegetable oil. Brown the chicken well all over, about 5 minutes on a side. Brown one side of the breast first, then the other side, and finally the middle. It's not necessary to brown the backbone side. Turn the chicken with 2 large kitchen spoons but do not move it until it releases from the pan without much prodding or you may tear the skin. Transfer the chicken to a bowl.

5. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the onion softens. Stir in the paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Stir in the tomatoes.

6. Add the rice and stock to the pan. Stir well until they are thoroughly combined.

7. Make a large well in the center of the rice. Place the chicken on the rice, breast-side up. Add any juices in the bowl to the pan. The rice will come up the sides of the chicken but not completely cover it. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cover the chicken with a piece of parchment paper if it looks like chicken breast will hit the lid when you set it on. Set on the lid and transfer to the oven.

8. Cook the chicken for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the rice is tender and a meat thermometer inserted into several places, including the thickest part of a thigh, registers 165 degrees.

9. Turn the oven to broil. The rack should be about 12 inches from the element. Uncover the pan and discard the parchment paper, if using. Broil the chicken for 2 minutes, watching the pan carefully, or until the top of the rice and the chicken are lightly charred.

10. Sprinkle with parsley. Use scissors to cut the chicken in the pan (this is messy but easier than lifting out the bird). Serve with rice from the top and bottom of the pan.Sheryl Julian


Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.