Baked Chicken and Rice (Tavuklu Kapama)

For every eid/bayram one of my aunts prepared the “traditional” version of this dish, common among Balkan immigrants in Thrace, in northwestern Turkey: pieces of lamb cooked in white rice. Over time lamb was replaced with chicken due to the increase in the number of picky children in the family, lamb has a smell. I tried to avoid eating the chicken dish, simply because it was mixed and really uninteresting; white rice and slightly dry chicken.

I started experimenting with this once I was the main cook at my favorite “esnaf lokantasi” (merchant's restaurant) in Ankara shared his tips for keeping the chicken moist and the dish interesting. I think I got it right (even my picky 7 year old compliments me when I make it) and this version is absolutely delicious, but you can make your own by switching rice for other grains or chicken for lamb. I also like it with bulgur or buckwheat, but this version is the favorite of the children in our house.

6-8 chicken thighs (or whatever parts you want)
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon peppercorns
a little parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
2 cups white rice
1 cup grated tomatoes
2 tomatoes, cut into 4
~8 shishito peppers (or any kind you want)
1 teaspoon dried mint (optional)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon or more of yogurt
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika

-Place chicken thigh or pieces in a large pot with a lid filled 2 inches with water. Add the bay leaf, garlic cloves, peppercorns, parsley and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for 30-35 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Don't throw away the water. Drain and store.

-In a cast iron or steel pan with a wide bottom (also suitable for the oven), heat the olive oil and butterR. (the one in the photo is diameter 11.75″, depth 2.13″)

-Add onions and cook until soft over medium heat, about 7-9 minutes.

-Add the grated tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes.

-Add the rice, mix for a couple of minutes, until it has absorbed the tomatoes.

-Add 4 cups of chicken stock you saved. Add the dried mint, salt and black pepper and wait until it starts to boil.

-Once it starts to boil, turn off. Position the chopsticks in the pattern you prefer.

-Place the peppers and sliced ​​tomatoes between the chicken pieces.

-Mix yogurt, tomato paste and paprika. Spread this mixture onto the chopsticks with a brush. This will help them have a nice color and keep them deliciously moist.

-Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C for about 30 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all the water.

-Remove from the oven and let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

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