I was given this Riz au Gras recipe by Liz Zunon, my guest for Episode 008 of The Storied Recipe, "Grandpa Cacao's Granddaughter." In that episode, Liz talks about her life as a child in the Ivory Coast. Her father was Ivorian and her mother was from Albany, New York. When her parents met at a college in New York, Liz's mother was impressed by Liz's father because "he could cook and he could vacuum." This is one of the first recipes Liz's dad made for her mom. Throughout her child, and even now, Liz's dad makes it for occasions both simple and celebratory.
I first made this dish on a very cold and windy night. My niece and nephew were over and the kids were making a lot of noise in the basement. While there was chaos elsewhere in the house, I felt calm in the kitchen. It was soothing to cook something so simple, hearty, and nourishing all in one pot. As Liz said in her interview, she loved this dish because all the flavors melded together. As a result, every single bit is perfectly balanced, robust, and flavorful. Truthfully, as I prepped the dish, I thought the exact same thing. It makes so much more sense to cook everything together so that all the flavors intermingle and marinate together. I asked myself, "Why don't we do this more often?"
Liz says this dish is also known as Senegalese Rice or Jollof Rice in other parts of Africa. In the end, this "African Paella", as Liz calls it, as has many variations as cooks that make it. Liz's version has chicken, vegetables, and tomato sauce. The chicken creates a rich broth that melds together with all the other flavors into a hearty and nourishing dish.
After the rice finished cooking, I sent my niece and nephew home with a steaming container for dinner. Back here at home, the 6 of us sat down to bowls of this hot, wholesome rice. It seemed like every bite, the kids were saying how delicious it was! Right then, my phone buzzed, and it was a text from my sister-in-law. It said, "Dinner was delicious! Thank you so much!" So take it from Liz, my family, and my brother's family - this is delicious! And the best part? Just one pot to wash!
Episodes Related to This Riz au Gras Recipe
The Storied Recipe Podcast, Episode 008 "Grandpa Cacao's Granddaughter"
Listen to Liz now:
In this episode, I interview Liz Zunon, Author and Illustrator of Grandpa Cacao. In her book, Liz tells the story of a little girl baking a cake with her father. The act connects her across continents, climates, and generations to her grandfather in the Ivory Coast. In this episode, Liz talks about her real life grandfather. She also talks through issues of fair trade chocolate and cacao farming. Finally, she explains how she creates a visual language with different artistic techniques to make her books understandable even to non-readers. Click here to listen to the episode.
My Experience with this Recipe
Delicious with no changes. I made this 3 times and did 3 variations, which I am sure is typical! My only tip is to stir frequently in the last stages, as Liz mentions. Mine stuck badly once because I wasn't paying attention! Enjoy!!
Riz au Gras (also known as Senegalese Rice or Jollof Rice)
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Recipe by Guest of The Storied Recipe Podcast
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hour Total time
The African Paella” – a hearty, wholesome, nourishing one pot dish of chicken, rice, vegetables, and tomato sauce.
*These measurements are not exact- my Dad measures his ingredients by eye, adding a bit more of this or that ingredient until it looks or tastes best to him. So feel free to do the same! This recipe serves about 4 people*
2 large skinless chicken breasts (cut into 2” chunks)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 can (8 ounce) tomato sauce
1 onion, diced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
2 handfuls baby carrots, halved
7 handfuls uncooked long grain rice
3 cups water (approx.)
- Place your chicken breast chunks into a large pot, drizzle the olive oil onto the chicken.
- Add 3 sprinkles of salt, 2 of the chicken bouillon cubes (crushed) and half the can of tomato sauce.
- Mix these all together, then add the onion, zucchini, baby carrot pieces, remainder of tomato paste and last bouillon cube.
- Then add your 7 handfuls of rice, mix together, and add enough water to cover everything in the pot (about 3 cups).
- Cover pot and place on stove at medium-high heat.
- When the water in the pot comes to a rolling boil, move the cover on the pot so it is askew, able to let steam escape.
- Let simmer at low heat until rice is cooked, checking on it every few minutes and stirring pot from the bottom with a big spoon or wooden spoon to prevent rice from sticking to bottom of the pot and burning. Stoves vary, but we cooked ours on low heat with the lid askew for about an hour….
- When all water looks like it has been absorbed and the rice looks edible, it’s time to turn off the heat and enjoy! Bon appétit!
- Make sure to listen to Liz on The Storied Recipe Podcast, Grandpa Cacao’s Granddaughter while you make her Riz au Gras recipe!
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