The pungent combination of oregano, saffron, onions, green peppers, and garlic is all you need to imagine the deliciousness of this Baked Saffron Chicken & Rice. Not only is the flavor and aroma amazing, but the cooking is easy. Once you get everything browned, it all goes in the oven to bake and you can go on doing something else.
Imagine sleepily waking up as a kid on a Sunday morning to aromas coming from Mama's kitchen where she was preparing lunch so that we could sit right down to eat when we got home from church. Baked Saffron Chicken and Rice is one of such memories for me. The oregano was the first thing, and it just kept getting better. When Sunday morning started like this, I didn't want to go to church ... I wanted to stay home and eat as soon as it came out of the oven!
Mom still has the original piece of paper that she wrote the recipe on. Heaven only knows where she got the recipe, but that piece of paper has certainly seen better days! It is oil-spotted and the ink has faded. It was obviously a much-loved recipe.
However, some of the amounts of various ingredients and even some of the methods didn't make sense to me so I've brought the recipe up to the way I taste and work in my kitchen while maintaining the deliciousness.
First off, what is saffron?
Saffron comes from the crocus flower. The stigmas and styles (called threads) are harvested by hand and accordingly, are very expensive. It is used as a flavor, but also to add color. Now you know.
The original recipe called for two and half pounds of chicken and 2 cups of rice. Two and half pounds of chicken is only about four chicken thighs and certainly not enough for Family Dinner. On the other hand two cups of rice turns into about four cups of cooked rice and that is just about right.
The bottom line is that you should choose how many pieces of chicken based on how many you're feeding. To feed four adults and three children 6 years old and under, I made four chicken thighs and two chicken breasts cut in half ... so eight pieces in all and we had three left over with some rice, too.
So let's get started
The first thing to do is to season the chicken with plenty of salt, pepper, and oregano. The original recipe called to mix the seasonings together then roll the chicken in it. I choose instead to simply sprinkle the chicken pieces with the salt, pepper, and oregano. In the recipe card, I give measurements, but you should feel free to add more. Certainly don't skimp on the seasoning!
After seasoning the chicken, brown all of the pieces in a large Dutch oven, working in batches if needed, and removing it to a separate platter.
NOTE: If you don't have a large Dutch oven, do all of the browning in a large skillet and transfer everything to a large baking dish.
Then saute the green pepper, onion, and garlic in the same Dutch oven until it's translucent.
Browning the rice adds yet another layer of flavor and one that I absolutely love. When it's browned, add the saffron and bay leaf and cook it again until the aromas have permeated the air.
Next comes chopped tomatoes. And before you say, "That doesn't look like chopped tomatoes!" I'll tell you that I'm well aware! But in the middle of making it, I realized that I only had passata ... tomato sauce ... and no diced tomatoes! Oops. So I went with it!
The browned chicken goes on top of the rice before it's all popped in the oven for about an hour and a half.
Just at the end, sprinkle some green olives and red pimentos over the top, then take that gorgeous pot to the table.
Serve up the Baked Saffron Chicken & Rice
Serve up the chicken and rice with some green peas and you have such a heart-warming dinner. And for ME? A heart-warming dinner loaded with childhood memories.
Other recipes you might like:
Baked Saffron Chicken & Rice
- 4 chicken thighs skin on, bone in
- 2 chicken breasts skin on, bone in, cut in half
- 4 teaspoons dried oregano
- salt and pepper to season
- Oil for browning
- 1 medium green pepper chopped
- 2 cups onion chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves chopped
- 2 cups rice (I use Basmati)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads crumbled
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomaotes
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ½ cup green olives pitted
- ½ cup red pimentos sliced
- frozen peas to serve
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and oregano. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, add some oil. Working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides. Remove to a platter as they are browned.
- Add more oil to the Dutch oven if needed, then add the green pepper, onion, and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Add the rice, and stir to mix with the green pepper, onion, and garlic. Stir the rice to toast it, about 5 minutes. Then add the bay leaf and saffron threads.
- Pour the chicken broth and diced tomatoes into the Dutch oven and stir to combine.
- Return the chicken pieces to the Dutch oven, laying them on top of the rice and vegetables.
- Cover and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle the green olives and pimentos over the top. Serve immediately with buttered green peas.