Ciao'd while watching the weather report. More rain. For days.
A few days ago, plagued by a fit of indecision and doubt, I asked a question of the universe, “Let me know if what I am thinking (hoping) is the right way to proceed?” I asked for three signs.
This morning, gazing out my kitchen window at the birds as I usually do, I saw five woodpeckers perched like soldiers in formation on my fence. Their garnet heads bobbed and glowed above the squadron of little mushroom-brown wrens pecking on the lawn. Woodpeckers are known for their temerity. A sign? And, p.s., in a 5-plus expression?
Later in the morning, a squirrel flew from the Blue Spruce tree to the terrace outside the den. He (she?) hopped from planter to planter, pausing in each one to gaze, dare I say stare, at me. Even my Carolina dog, slung across a club chair to better see out the window, could not growl or bark him away. Alighting on the last planter, the squirrel flicked his tail and, I swear to God, fixed a “let’s roll” expression on his face and launched himself at the window. Squirrels are light, swift, and agile. And clearly, determined. A sign?
So far today, the third sign has not availed itself. Maybe the moon (or a nightingale, wouldn’t that be nice?) will wake me with a message. Perhaps an owl will hoot a bon mot of wisdom from the top of the tree. Nature has an uncanny way of whispering to us if we are open to listening.
Please enjoy this simple and satisfying Chicken with Rice and Chickpeas. It’s a one-pot meal that expresses itself honestly and deliciously. Why tackle the complex when you can cook the comforting?
CHICKEN WITH RICE AND CHICKPEAS
Every culture has a version of chicken with rice, led, I think, by the Spaniards. They, after all, govern the realm of paella. This dish is inspired by that savory history. In Spain, you would not likely come upon chickpeas in this dish while in Italy, you may. I like the nutty flavor and crunch they add.
Serves 4 to 6
4 bone-in chicken thighs
4 bone-in drumsticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cups canned tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
one 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long-grain rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally until well browned, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Remove. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the pancetta and onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and becomes translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, smoked paprika, chickpeas, a generous dash each of salt and pepper, and broth, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the rice and arrange the chicken in an even layer. Cook, partially covered, over medium-low heat until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.