During our last trip to visit family in Greece, we were as usual, fussed over by my mom’s sister. My Thea (Aunt) Nitsa is an amazing cook, so being fussed over by her means you are in for a treat and will not be allowed to leave without being thoroughly stuffed.
My thea (pronounced THEE-ah) is the stereotypical Greek woman. When it comes to entertaining she will make enough food to feed 10 times the number of people she actually expects to serve. My cousin once joked that she had prepared the tzatziki in the bathtub because that was the only thing large enough to hold the quantity she was making. For a Greek woman, it is the height of embarrassment to run out of any food being offered to her guests.
This most recent trip was no exception and we were once again treated to a delicious meal. On the menu was whole roasted chicken laying on a bed of rice that had cooked along with it. The chicken and rice had been drenched with lemon juice, butter, and olive oil, and seasoned with Greek oregano. To say that it was good would be a gross understatement!
As usual, asking for the recipe resulted in a vague listing of ingredients and measurements because measuring is for sissies. In the end, as long as I had a “parts list” I figured I’d be able to recreate this once we returned home, at least well enough to please everyone. I knew that the secret was an ungodly amount of butter and olive oil, so as long as I had that all would be good. All that was left to do was to work out the balance of flavor from the mustard and lemon juice. The fact that my two younger boys were fighting over the remnants of the rice tells me that I got it right.
Some quick notes before you begin:
The pictures show roughly a half recipe of the amounts listed below, so feel free to reduce the quantities if desire.
If the chicken sinks down into the broth, don’t worry. Eventually as the rice cooks it will push the chicken higher up. The shape of your pan will also make a difference as to whether this happens. You can also check on the chicken about 30 minutes into the cooking and lift the pieces above the rice to allow the skin to brown better.
The amount of rice this will make will be quite a bit, so be prepared for leftovers. Don’t try to cut it back too much, though, because if the rice and water are too shallow, the water will evaporate off too quickly and your rice will scorch and/or be undercooked. Adding water while cooking is tricky because then you let out too much heat from the oven each time, and it’s hard to know how much to add.
Because of the moisture in the pan, the skin on your chicken may not crisp up or brown as much as you might like. If you want the skin a little more done, after removing the chicken from the pan, you can put it under the broiler for just a few minutes if desired.
Be sure to use a pan that is somewhat deep and just wide enough to hold your chicken pieces. This will help trap the broth under the chicken and ensure that the rice is properly cooked.
Don’t expect “fluffy” rice. The cooking process and other ingredients will make for a wetter rice, but you won’t mind when you’re eating it!
Lemon-Mustard Baked Chicken and Rice
- 5 to 6 pounds chicken pieces, skin on and bone in (be sure to save your bones for making broth!)
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano, Greek preferred
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. mustard
- 3 to 4 large cloves garlic finely chopped, about 1 Tbsp.
- 5 1/2 cups hot chicken broth
- 2 3/4 cup white rice, any kind except not quick cooking
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredient except for the chicken, rice, and broth. Place the chicken skin side up in a deep roasting pan that is just big enough to hold the pieces. Drizzle the lemon juice mixture over the chicken, making sure to coat it as evenly as possible. Lift the chicken out of the pan and set aside on a plate. Leave behind any of the lemon juice mixture that dripped off into the pan.
Add the hot broth and rice to the pan and mix in with the lemon juice mixture until combined. Set the chicken skin side up on top of the rice mixture.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked and the juices run clear. Remove the pan from the oven, loosely cover with foil, and allow to sit for 10 minutes so the rice can finish absorbing any excess liquid.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set on a platter. Stir the rice to ensure everything is evenly mixed together and put into a serving bowl. Additional salt or lemon juice can be added if desired. Enjoy!