Recipe: Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice with White Sauce

New York City is famous for a lot of things.  Some say it’s the greatest city in the world.  It has the best of the best of many things.  Some of the most well known and best restaurants are in New York City.  There are tons of options for food from fancy 5 star restaurants to an endless number of pizzerias.  If you know a New Yorker, they will most likely include the Halal street carts as one of their top guilty pleasures for fast food.  In particular, this one.

My husband and I usually visit New York at least once a year, but this year we weren’t able to go.  So we were missing New York a little.  The easiest way to fill that void?  Eat.  We decided to recreate Halal cart-style chicken and rice at home.

The turmeric rice is to die for!  It smells so fragrant and amazing!  All we were missing was a styrofoam or tinfoil box.

Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice with White Sauce:
Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 45 minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 4

Adapted from Serious Eats.

For the chicken:

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup light olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, trimmed of excess fat (2-3 breasts or 6 to 8 thighs)
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

For the rice:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups long-grain or Basmati rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
Fluffy pocketless pita bread, brushed in butter, lightly toasted, and cut into 1 × 3-inch strips
Harissa-style hot sauce or any hot sauce (I used Tapatio)

  • For the chicken: Combine the lemon juice, oregano, coriander, garlic, and olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth. Season the marinade to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. Place the chicken in a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag and add half of the marinade (reserve the remaining marinade in the refrigerator). Turn the chicken to coat, seal the bag, and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally to redistribute the marinade.
  • Remove the chicken from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels. Season with kosher salt and pepper, going heavy on the pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed cast iron or stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat until it is lightly smoking. Add the chicken pieces and cook without disturbing until they are lightly browned on the first side, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the center of each thigh registers 165°F. on an instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Using a chef’s knife, roughly chop the chicken into 1/2- to 1/4-inch chunks. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the remaining marinade, cover loosely with plastic, and refrigerate while you cook the rice and prepare the sauce.
  • For the rice: Melt the butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes without disturbing. Remove from the heat and allow to rest until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
  • For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, parsley, and 2 teaspoons black pepper. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt.
  • To serve: Return the entire contents of the chicken bowl (chicken, marinade, and all juices) to the skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. To serve, divide the rice, lettuce, tomato, and toasted pita bread evenly among four to six plates. Pile the chicken on top of the rice. Top with the white sauce and hot sauce. Serve immediately, passing extra sauce at the table.
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