Home Video What Makes Chicken and Rice Even Better? A Little Bite.

What Makes Chicken and Rice Even Better? A Little Bite.

What Makes Chicken and Rice Even Better? A Little Bite.


My first attempt at crunchy rice was not entirely on purpose. I was a young, multitasking cook with a pot of rice left on low heat until … wait, was something about to burn?

I salvaged what tender grains I could and was about to plunge the pot and its residual crust into a sink of soapy water, when I caught a whiff of something caramelized and toasty. I dislodged a shard of crust with a butter knife to sample, then went back, sprinkling the next with salt. Before I knew it, I was full, and the pot was clean.

By now, I’ve learned that this layer of crunchy, golden rice that can form at the bottom of the pot is rightly prized across cultures, be it Persian tahdig, Korean nurungji or Spanish socarrat, to name just a few. Achieving the ideal layer of crisp rice is the kind of culinary feat that takes long practice — or, occasionally — dumb luck.

Or you could use this simple hack: Spread cooked, oiled rice on a sheet pan and bake it at high heat. The large surface area of the sheet pan will dry the rice before it browns, making it especially crunchy, and the oven’s steady, indirect heat helps keep the rice from burning — a welcome relief for us multitasking cooks.

For this technique, I particularly adore the textural contrast of short-grain rice, because while the plump, starchy grains get nicely crisp where they meet the bottom and edges of the pan, the top stays softer and chewy. But long-grain rice, which takes on a consistently crunchy texture, also works.

Since you have a sheet pan of rice in the oven, you may as well put some protein on top to make it a meal. For this recipe, I slather bone-in chicken legs with a pungent mix of turmeric, ginger and garlic, and nestle them into a pan of rice flecked with scallion for sweetness. The spiced chicken fat renders and coats the rice as it roasts. Then, at the very end, I dab everything with more of the turmeric-ginger mixture, adding yet another dimension of fragrance and verve.

There are, of course, no shortcuts to the nuanced flavors of tahdig or nurungji or socarrat, but this dish makes for a deliciously easy one-pan meal that will come out right every time, without either practice or luck.


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