A rice stuffed chicken is a wonderful variation on the roast dinner, providing lots of different flavors.
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 ground meat, is stuffed with rice and meat.
Unlike western cooking which stuffs fowl with bread based stuffing, this dish utilizes rice instead.
What is Rice Stuffed Chicken?
A roast chicken that is stuffed with a blend of cooked rice, and lamb acting as the stuffing.
The rice mixture is cooked when it is sgtuffed into a raw chicken which is then placed in a baking dish and baked.
Chicken and rice is a well known combination, and with the addition of ground lamb and spices, the flavor is so much more.
This stuffing can also be made as a rice side dish served alongside the chicken.
There are so many types of rice that can work from, arborio, basmati, white, brown, jasmine, long grain, medium grain, short grain, and on.
How to Make Rice Stuffed Chicken
Place rice and salt in a small pan and cook as you would rice normally for about 15 minutes.
Pour some olive oil in a skillet, heat, then add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent.
Add the ground lamb and spices and cook until the lamb is cooked through, then add toasted pine nuts.
Add the cooked rice, and cooked meat mixture to a bowl, combine until well mixed.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
Fill the chicken up with the stuffing, and put the leftover stuffing in the bottom of the pan.
Put the chicken on top of the rice and place the roasting pan in the oven and back for an hour.
This chicken recipe uses white rice, but wild rice is a great alternative to try.
Once cooked, serve the stuffing on a plate topped with a chicken breast, thigh or any piece of your choosing.
This rice stuffing is what you will most likely find at an Arab American table at THanksgiving.
Only for Chicken or Turkey?
Rice stuffing in the Middle East is common where many foods are stuffed with hashwe, the word for stuffing in Arabic.
Two of the most common stuffing dishesleaves are stuffed grape leaves and stuffed cabbage leaves.
The leaves are blanched to soften, and then rolled with a rice and meat filling and cooked on the stovetop.
Squash is also cored, along with peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and then stuffed with the vegetable list going 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 fond of are when the cooks move inwards on the animal.
Intestines for example!
These are cleaned and stuffed with rice, meat, and sometimes including chickpeas.
No different than making sausage, the difference is that sausage is not called intestines, which is how this dish is referred to in Arabic.
Stomach which is also known as tripe is also used as a vehicle for stuffing.
The stomach is cleaned thoroughly and cut into squares, stuffed with the rice stuffing and sewn into pouches.
Not my favorite, but you have to admire that the whole animal is used and nothing is wasted.
Musings on Memories
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.
These 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 a true savage manner, my relatives would proceed to bang and crack the heads open.
Sucking of the marrow from the bones was an audible experience.
I found this very 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.
An Arab American Variation
I like the addition of a gravy with this dish, that is far more an American tradition rather than Arab.
If there is a gravy or sauce with an Arab dish it is usually a byproduct of the cooking, or the food was cooked in the sauce.
Gravy is a standalone addition to a meal that can be incorporated in many dishes on the table.
And this is why I say, make yourself a tasty chicken gravy and add it to this recipe for a real special meal.
Rice Stuffed Chicken
- 1 Chicken medium
- 1 cup Rice
- 2 cups Water
- 1½ tsp Salt
- ½ lbs Lamb
- 1 Onion chopped
- 4 Garlic Cloves chopped
- 1 tsp Seven Spices
- ½ tsp Black Pepper
- ¼ cup Pine Nuts toasted
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
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.