When it comes to Arabic cooking there is always a lot of stuffing going on!
Leaves, vegetables, meat, anything that can be stuffed with rice and meat, is stuffed at some time or another with rice and meat.
And that is how we get to this chicken dish, unlike western cooking that stuffs birds with bread based stuffing, here rice is utilized instead.
I’m sure you have read about my love of bread in some of my blog entries, and well yes, I seem to have a love for rice as well (don’t tell bread!).
There are so many types of rice to choose from, arborio, basmati, white, brown, jasmine, long grain, medium grain, short grain, and on, and they are all so tasty in their own unique ways.
Where to start eating?!
Back to the stuffing…the most common leaves that are stuffed are grape leaves and cabbage leaves.
They are blanched to soften, and then rolled with a rice and meat filling.
Squash is cored, along with peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and the vegetable list goes on.
A popular dish is a whole stuffed sheep, or lamb, and if you don’t want to cook the whole animal then you can stuff the shoulder.
The meat is cut away from the ribs creating a pocket for the stuffing, and often more stuffing will be served on the side as well.
Fish and chicken can also be stuffed for a satisfying meal.
The meals that I personally am less ‘satisfied’ with, meaning I don’t like is when the cooks move inwards on the animal.
Intestines for example!
These are cleaned and stuffed with rice, meat, and chickpeas.
No different than making sausage, the difference is that sausage is not called intestines!
Better marketing for the sausage!
Stomach which is also known as tripe is also used.
The stomach is cleaned thoroughly and cut into squares, sewed into pouches and stuffed with the same stuffing used in intestines.
Not my favorite, but you have to admire that the whole animal is used and nothing is wasted.
All this talk of unusual food, and wasting nothing made me remember being at my grandfather’s house in Jerusalem when I was a kid.
What probably originated as a poor person’s food was the sheep’s heads, would show up on our table every once in a while to the delight of many in the family.
I was not one of those delighted, I would just eat the rice and meat stuffing they were served on.
In what I saw as true savage manner my relatives would proceed to bang and crack the heads open sucking the marrow from the bones.
I found this distasteful as a kid and wondered how I ended up in such a family!
I will however eat the stuffed chicken, it is a wonderful dish where you get tons of flavors and textures.
You get the crispy skin, the soft chicken meat, the moist rice, the rich flavor of the ground lamb, and the crunch of the pine nuts.
What could be better?
Rice Stuffed Chicken
For the Rice
- Put the rice, water, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small pot and bring to a boil.
- Turn down to a simmer, and place a top loosely over the pot leaving a gap for steam to escape.
- Cook until done. Roughly 20 minutes.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add the garlic, and onions.
- Cook unti soft.
- Add lamb, and stir regularly to keep from burning.
- When almost cooked through add the remaining salt, spice, pepper, and pine nuts
- Cook until done, remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
- Place half the stuffing in the bottom of a glass baking dish.
- Stuff chicken with the other half of the stuffing.
- Place chicken in the dish on top of the rice filling and place in the oven.
- Cook until done, roughly one hour.