Food and Drink

Cajun chicken and rice is a one-pot delight

A whole roasted chicken is a glorious sight — golden skinned and crisped just so — add in vegetables and rice, this one-pot dish is pure comfort food. Open to all sorts of flavor profiles, I sometimes make this as an alternative to traditional jambalaya, using sausage, bone-in chicken thighs or a whole chicken. This version gets depth from fresh poblano as well as tomato paste and a can of green chiles. Change out the spice mix for your favorite combo or try roasted red peppers and saffron; olives and tomatoes with some crumbled feta at the end; garlic-rich pesto and a sprinkling of Parmesan and fresh basil. You’ll need a large, wide ovenproof pot with lid, one that holds at least 6 quarts but preferably 8 quarts. The juices from the chicken as it cooks for the first 50 minutes create a savory broth for the second cooking with the rice and vegetables. Pull any leftover meat and save for chicken salad or add to soup made with the carcass. Serve with green salad dressed with a mustardy vinaigrette. — Kim Sunée

One-pot Cajun chicken and rice

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds, rinsed and patted thoroughly dry

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow or white onion, halved and thinly sliced (1 1/2 to 2 cups)

1 stalk celery, diced


1 poblano or Anaheim chile, stem and seeds removed, sliced

6 to 8 ounces smoked sausage, such as andouille, sliced (optional)

2 tablespoons tomato paste, preferably double concentrate in a tube

3 to 4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium blackened seasoning or low-sodium Cajun/Creole spice mix

1 (7-ounce) can fire-roasted green chiles (or two 4-ounce cans)

1 2/3 cups long grain rice, (such as jasmine or basmati), rinsed and drained

Optional: vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, artichokes, fresh or frozen corn, peas

Garnishes: sliced green onions, fresh chopped parsley, lemon wedges

• Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels; season generously all over, including cavity, with 3 teaspoons salt and about 3/4 teaspoon pepper for a 4-pound chicken; insert half a lemon/lime/orange and some fresh thyme into cavity; set aside. Note: This can be done ahead; place chicken in fridge uncovered up to eight hours; remove from fridge 30 minutes before cooking.

• In a very large Dutch oven (6-to-8-quart) or similar heavy-bottomed pot with tight-fitting lid set over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons olive oil. Add onion, celery, poblano, and sausage, if using; cook, stirring occasionally, seven minutes; reduce heat to medium and add tomato paste; stir often, using back of spoon to spread paste around and cook another 2 to 3 minutes to extract flavor; if paste starts to stick or burn, lower heat slightly; add 2 to 3 tablespoons water and scrape bottom of pot. Reduce heat to low, season lightly with salt; add garlic and stir.

• Add half of Cajun seasoning to the onion mixture and stir. Push onion mixture to sides of pot. Sprinkle remaining spice mixture over chicken. Add one tablespoon olive oil to pot and place chicken breast-side down; reduce heat to medium and cook until just golden (and not browned), about three minutes. Very carefully turn chicken over. Pour two cups water, vegetable broth or chicken broth around sides of pot but not on the chicken and add fire-roasted chiles. Note: If including vegetables that require a longer cooking time, add now or add when adding the rice in the next step. Bring to a quick boil, cover, and place in oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

• Carefully remove pot from oven and, using a spoon, add rice evenly around chicken, tucking all the grains into the liquid; make sure all the rice is submerged. Add up to 1/4 cup more liquid, as needed, to submerge all the grains by about one inch. If adding raw vegetables, such as broccoli or cauliflower or carrots, add as well. Cover and place back in oven and cook another 26 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If using frozen peas or corn, carefully remove lid and scatter frozen veg over rice. Cover pot and let sit 10 to 15 minutes. Top with green onions and fresh chopped herbs. Serve with a green salad and lemon wedges.

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Kim Sunée

Kim Sunée is a bestselling author ("Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home," "A Mouthful of Stars," "Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks") and a former magazine food editor. She's based in Anchorage. For more food and travel, visit