Once every four years there is one magical month, the World Cup, during which I watch an average of four or more hours of soccer a day. This past week we have been parked outside my brother’s house, so in addition to celebrating Thanksgiving with family, I’ve been parked in front of his giant television for most of every day, shipping books and enjoying the beautiful game.
This World Cup is hosted in Qatar. There are 10,000 reasons why it never should have been hosted there, and it is fairly obvious that they won the bid through corruption and bribery. But I don’t think the entirety of a nation should be judged by the actions of their wealthy and powerful (I certainly hope that I am never judged by the actions of wealthy Americans), and one of the beautiful about the World Cup is that it brings together the regular people of nations from all over the world to celebrate a shared love: football. Food is certainly the thing that most connects us with other cultures, but if I were picking a second, it might be football.
This dish, machboos, is the national dish of Qatar as well as a handful of other middle-eastern nations. It is a chicken and rice dish cooked in a single pot, which, like football, is another thread that connects many countries. In fact, I adapted this recipe from my Costa Rican arroz con pollo recipe. The vegetables and the spices are different, but the cooking method is the same. Once you have all the spices, it is an easy and inexpensive meal to make, and boy is it delicious.
You will almost certainly find at least a couple of things in the spice mix which you don’t currently have in your cabinet, but they’re worth it. And isn’t learning new ingredients and new dishes half the fun of learning about a new culture?
1 chicken, broken down 8 pieces
1½ cups rice
1 white onion, diced
1 cup roma tomatoes, diced
2 jalapenos, diced
½ tbsp garlic, minced
½ tbsp ginger, minced
¼ cup vegetable oil
4 tbsp Qatari spice mix
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup water
Salt, to taste
Break down the chicken and pat dry. Coat the pieces heavily with the spices and brown them in oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (around 5 minutes on each side), and remove them to a plate to rest.
Add the vegetables to the pot and cook for 5 or 6 minutes. Then add the rice and toast for around 1 minute.
Next, add the stock and water, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, return the chicken to the pot, and cover. Cook like this for 20-25 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed.
Remove from heat and allow to stand covered for another 10 minutes before serving to allow the rice to finish steaming.