Food Friday: A Chicken in Every Pot


It has been bitterly cold, with lashings of snow and ice; winter weather combinations that cry out for a warm kitchen and warm bellies. But with all the books we got for Christmas, we are still loathe to stir ourselves from our comfy chairs and sofas to waddle into the kitchen. What can we do when dinner time rears its ugly head once again?

I always opt for easy, with the prospect of many leftovers. Working from home does not afford me many glamorous luncheons, swanning about with my stylish Spy editors at fashionable eateries and watering holes. Most of the time it is just Luke the wonder dog and me, standing at the kitchen counter, scarfing up peanut butter crackers and the latest New Yorker magazine.

I’m sure the editors are doing lots of research, testing raw water and other trendy, newsworthy items. But back at the famous Spy test kitchens this week, we are eating lots of left over chicken. One-dish chicken dishes, to be specific, that we have had earlier this week for dinner. And I have to say, that as far as comfort and taste and making me feel warm all over, Vivian Howard’s mother’s chicken rice dish is my personal fave.

Scarlett’s Chicken and Rice takes some time to prepare. But that is what Sunday afternoons are for. Go buy a chicken and make this on Sunday. Along about Wednesday or Thursday you will be thanking your lucky stars.


1 large chicken left whole (best case scenario, this would be an old tough bird/laying hen)
cool water to cover
1 yellow onion (peeled and split)
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups white rice (mom swears by Uncle Bens, I like Carolina Gold)
3 Tbsp. butter

Put your bird, the split onion, thyme, and bay leaf in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Cover the bird, just barely with cool water. Add 2 Tbsp. salt and 2 tsp. black pepper to the pot. Cover and bring it all up to a simmer. Cook for about an hour or until the bird, in my mom’s words, is “falling to pieces.”   If this is a typical young chicken this should not take any longer than an hour and a half. If it is a laying hen, it could take up to 5 hours. I know that is crazy, but a hen will provide a much better broth.

Once the bird is “falling to pieces” turn off the heat and let her rest in the broth for 30 minutes. Remove and reserve the bird. Discard the onion, bay leaf, and thyme. Tear the chicken meat into medium pieces and add it back to the pot. Bring the broth and the chicken up to a simmer. Add the rice. If you are a rice rinser, resist the urge here, as the starch helps make the broth homey and rich. Cook the rice for about 12 minutes, depending on the variety or brand the time could vary. The rice should be just cooked through and should absolutely hold its shape. Turn off the heat. Add your butter. Taste for seasoning and adjust with additional salt or pepper.

I particularly like to cook Miss Scarlett’s chicken and rice on Sunday, when I can enlist Mr. Friday’s help in picking the chicken off the bones. He does a much nicer job than Luke, who tends to be a little stingy when he should be sharing.

Mark Bittman, one of our household gods, has a one-dish recipe for Chicken with Vinegar.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3-pound chicken, cut up for sauteing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup minced shallots or scallions
1 cup good red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Set a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; when it is hot, place chicken in the skillet, skin side down. Cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned. Turn and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Place skillet in the oven. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until almost done (juices will run clear, and there will be just a trace of pink near the bone). Remove chicken to an ovenproof platter. Place it in the oven; turn off the heat, and leave the door slightly ajar.
3. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the cooking juices out of the skillet (discard them). Place skillet over medium-high heat, and add shallots; sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar, and raise the heat to high. Cook a minute or two, or until the powerful acrid smell has subsided somewhat. Add 1/2 cup water, and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is slightly reduced and somewhat thickened. Stir in butter, if desired.
4. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, and turn the chicken in the sauce. Serve immediately. 

This is an excellent chicken dish for a week night, when you want to look as if you actually care what everyone is eating for dinner. I am always surprised when six o’clock rolls around on the guitar again, so this is a good cover for me.

And here is a recipe you can winterize – just substitute canned tomatoes for fresh and you will have a deeply satisfying winter meal. It can be stretched out to lunch or dinner leftovers by shredding the chicken and adding it to fresh hot rice or pasta a day or two later when the chicken has soaked up even more tomato-y goodness. Food52 says this was one of their most viewed recipes in 2017. Get cracking!

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell.

About Jean Sanders

Letters to Editor

  1. The absolutely best chicken dish in our galaxy is the Hainanese Chicken Rice served at the Chatterbox restaurant in the Mandarin Orchard Hotel in Singapore. We have been there three times and every visit is one of the highlights of our cruises. The preparation is a bit fussy but worth the trouble. The sauces are a key element to the taste experience. The closest recipe to the original is

    • Jean Sanders says:

      This sounds delightful! I will put it on the Spy Test Kitchen bulletin board for a test. Thanks!

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