Simple Italian “Stir Fry”

With just the right balance of sweetness and acidity, this easy meal will take you directly past your fill. Using one pan to cook the rice (unless using leftovers, which makes for an even easier meal!) and another to saute the chicken and “stir fry” the tomatoes and rice, you’re left with a quick cleanup and more time to enjoy each other’s company and, perhaps, a little bite of dessert in front of the television…


THE RECIPE


Simple Italian Stir Fry

(makes about 4 servings)

Don’t forget to check out my Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions at the bottom of the recipe.

Ingredients

Rice

  • 1 cup rice (Jasmine or Basmati is great)
  • 1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth

Chicken

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skin-on chicken breasts or any equivalent parts you prefer
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Stir Fry

  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Cooked rice (from above or leftovers, if you want to skip cooking rice)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon (or a whole lime)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the rice and water in a mid-size pot and bring to the boil.
  3. Stir once before covering and turning the heat to low.
  4. Cook for 20 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, then pull off the heat.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the chicken.

  1. Heat a large, oven-proof saute pan over medium high heat.
  2. Season the chicken pieces with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Add a few turns of olive oil to the pan once hot.
  4. Add the chicken to the pan, skin side down and brown on all sides, turning every couple minutes until a golden walnut color, for about ten minutes (brown in batches, if necessary).
  5. With the chicken skin-side up, place the pan in the oven and cook for about ten more minutes, until, when pricked with a knife, the juices run clear.
  6. Set chicken aside on a cutting board to rest.

Start Stir Frying

  1. Place the same saute pan over medium heat and add the tomatoes, sprinkling with salt and pepper.
  2. Stirring occasionally, cook the tomatoes for about ten minutes, until lightly broken down and softened.
  3. Fluff the rice and add it to the pan, stirring to incorporate.
  4. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey, and lemon juice, stirring to evenly coat the rice.
  5. Once everything appears to be uniformly mixed, place a couple scoops of rice and tomato on a plate, top with chicken, and enjoy!
  6. I also recommend a nice, cool can of San Pellegrino Limonata on the side 😉

Tips, Tricks, and Substitutions

Chicken: I like to use boneless breasts with the skin on to get the best of both worlds–quick cooking and yummy crisp skin. You can absolutely use whatever you like, though. Boneless skinless, thighs, anything. Just remember to adjust your cooking times because bone-in will take longer to cook. Also, I don’t recommend browning skinless chicken without first coating it in flour. I find the outside of the meat is simply tough and dry, at least with chicken breasts, so that’s something to consider if using skinless poultry.

Balsamic Vinegar: Feel free to experiment with other vinegars. The taste will change, yes, but it might be absolutely delicious. And use it to taste. Is the dish acidic enough? Does it need more bite, add some more. Is there too much? Add more honey. This recipe uses my favorite balance, but yours might be different.

Honey: As always, use your preferred liquid sweetener, and feel free to sweeten to taste!

How Much Olive Oil in the Pan? When you’re browning meat, you really just need enough oil to coat the pan.

How Hot is Hot Enough? When heating a pan to brown meat, your palm should feel hot within 4 seconds of placing it near the bottom of the pan. Also, the oil will start to look like it’s shimmering. Once it begins to smoke, it’s too hot and will need to be removed from the heat to bring the temperature down.

Cooking Method: If you like, you can cook this more accurately like a stir fry by dicing the chicken prior to cooking and then frying it up with the tomatoes before adding the rice. As I don’t want the extra work of dicing and enjoy the crunch of the browned skin, I don’t do this.

Serving: To serve several people, consider slicing the chicken on the bias, so that each person may take the share he or she desires. As B. and I can each only eat about half a chicken breast, we simply cut it in half and end up with lots of leftovers

Make it a Toddler Meal (9+ Months): Cube the cooked chicken and add, with rice/tomato mixture, to a food processor. Pulse until desired texture and serve! It should be just as delicious to your baby as it is to you 🙂 If you’re one who avoids giving salted foods to your baby, simply cook the meal sans salt and add it, at the end, to your own portion.

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