Chicken with Spanish Rice; How to buy 2 potatoes

Chicken with Spanish Rice

I’ve been wanting to participate in Gay’s (A Scientist in the Kitchen), Market Event, but, frankly, our markets are kind of boring up here in the Vendée.

Could be all the rain.

The markets we went to in Spain were all outdoors, taking over most of the streets and plazas in the village.

They were loud, bustling, raucous affairs, teaming with shoppers, people meeting and chatting, kids running and dogs barking

Here they are all indoors, in purpose-built pavilions.


And, being French, everything is very neatly stacked, arranged,…. Even the shoppers are ‘propre’!

So rather than waxing eloquently about the wonders of my market, let me tell you about my own, somewhat slow, learning process, taking me from the giant supermarkets to the small veggie stall.

In the U.S. people buy big (Costco); here they buy small.

Even at the farmer’s market I went to in Minneapolis, things were often for sale in large quantities – bushels of tomatoes, peck’s of beans.Market

It’s taken years to break myself of the ‘sack of potatoes’ habit when I buy food.

I’m feeding two people.  We have potatoes once or twice a week.  What am I going to do with a 10lb (5 kilo) or even a 5lb bag of potatoes?

For a long time, I just couldn’t convince me that it was okay to buy in small quantities.

That it didn’t say bad things about me as a person if I only wanted/needed 6 olives.

That it didn’t reflect negatively on my status in the world, my disposable income, my ability to provide sustenance for my family, my capabilities as a ‘femme du foyer’  (housewife) or the size of my penis (Just seeing if you’re paying attention…)

At the markets here (at least in France and Spain) one does not touch the merchandise.  The vendor will pick out your fruits and vegetables for you.  You tell them what and how much you want and trust them to choose.  If it’s a perishable item, like an avocado or a melon, you also tell them what day you will be eating it so they can select appropriately.  They do know their stuff, after all.

I always felt that, if they we’re going to do all this work for me, I should make it worth their while, and buy lots.

Then, one hot summer afternoon in Spain, I popped into a small market to buy a bottle of water.

All I wanted was 1 bottle of water.

I was there for 20 minutes.

There was a woman in the shop already, doing a bit of shopping.  I watched as she bought (as best as I remember):
4 thin slices of salami, which had to be cut
4 thin slices of ham, which had to be cut
3 thin slices of some bologna-type sausage, which had to be cut
8 thin slices of chorizo, which had to be cut
4 thin slices of Manchego cheese, which had to be cut
1/2 of a very small goat’s milk cheese
1 small wedge of a soft cheese
1 spoonful of fromage frais
1 chicken breast
2 pork chops
1 baguette
1 avocado
1 tomato
a small handful of strawberries
1/2 head of broccoli
2 containers of yogurt

Well, you get the idea… Everything was carefully sliced, cut, weighed, and wrapped by the shop owner, with a smile and a “What else”.

I would have bought a lb of some kind of cured meat, a whole chicken, a slab of cheese and a bag of oranges.

I would have ended up without nearly the variety and, probably, with lots of waste.

I still have to really force myself, and I often end up with a bit more than I intended, but I can now buy 2 potatoes, or 3 apples, or 8 strawberries, or 6 olives….

The biggest challenge in cooking for one or two or three, is not the cooking; it’s the shopping!

And the planning to use up all the odd bits….

Here ‘s my last cool weather dish for those of you still waiting for spring – or anticipating winter – in memory of the lesson learned in that little shop in the village.

Chicken Breasts with Spanish Rice

2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinlessChicken_spanish_rice
1 onion
1/3 green bell pepper
1/3 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup brown rice
1 can whole tomatoes, 15 oz (450gr)
1/4 – 3/4 cup chicken stock or water
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs olive oil

Chop onion and peppers. Mince garlic. Cut chicken breasts in half.  Heat oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes each. Remove to a plate. Add chili powder, onion, pepper, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Open tomatoes and drain liquid into a bowl. Chop the tomatoes and drain again. Add drained tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and rice to pan. Measure the drained liquid and add enough water or chicken stock to equal 1 cup (or however much liquid your rice package calls for). Pour this over the rice/vegetables in the skillet and stir well to combine. Lay the chicken breasts on top of the rice and cover. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until rice is done. Mine took 20 minutes – check rice package. Stir occasionally while cooking. When done, serve – either from the pan or arrange nicely on a platter.

Check out all the markets at A Scientist in the Kitchen right after the end of May.

23 thoughts on “Chicken with Spanish Rice; How to buy 2 potatoes”

  1. In the neighborhood where I used to live in Boston, there was a greengrocer right next to a Syrian market, just one block from my house. I would walk down the street every day and shop for that night’s dinner. No big box stores. It was heaven.

  2. I know exactly what you mean! I find this is true for so many aspects of European living — here small is considered virtuous and big is over-the-top, greedy and, dare I say it, a bit ‘American’ (though in Canada we are equally bad at buying everything in bulk).
    I’m liking this return to small, and I hope to keep at it when I go back to Canada. We’ll see how long it lasts…
    Have a good Wednesday,

  3. Ha, Katie, you think I don’t pay attention!
    I always enjoyed cooking for our boys and their friends. I found it very hard to cook for just the two of us but you’re right it’s even harder shopping.

  4. Katie, great observation!
    That’s why I always end up at supermarket; I don’t have patient to wait, nor an ability to chat with vendors…
    hey, I do pay attention 😀

  5. I love buying small. It encourages you to eat less. I feel guilty if too much plenty goes to rot.
    Another reader who pays attention. :0

  6. I love all these one pan dishes…very comforting for sure because of the lack of cleanup afterwards. I rarely shop at Costco these days because of having to buy in bulk…but even with buying small quantities I have so much waste it is a sin:D

  7. Boy, I’m with you on those market quantities. I buy for three people and would love to be more economical. You would think farmers would want to be accommodating, wouldn’t you? It’s nice to have a market option daily here, but I sincerely would love to be able to shop like the woman you mentioned. That would be heaven!

  8. I have enough of a hard time grocery shopping, but if I had to buy small amounts of precisely what I needed, it sounds like I’d be in for some trouble!

  9. Gay, I thought you might like the rice ;-))
    Colleen, it’s such a hard habit to break… but the tiny fridge’s are a great incentive!
    Lydia, I want that! I’ve never lived ‘in town’ – never withing walking distance of anything – well, other than the village store as a child..
    Heidi, I’ll be curious to see how long it lasts, too…
    Tanna, just checking… Yeah, with boys there is never hope of leftovers, only worry there’s not enough!
    Gattina, glad to see it – but you have such beautiful markets where you live!
    Susan, hehehe! I am learning to not waste… By the end of the week my fridge is usually absolutely bare bones.
    Val, lack of cleanu-up – always important!
    Kate, the quantity thing is a hard habit to break… and, I think some vendors just want to get rid of their stuff so they’re done with it!
    Mike, it does take practice and planning… Especially, if like me, you only get to town once a week!

  10. So funny and familiar! Although European I’d never dare ask for 8 strawberries, on the other hand we had great laughs at the multiple lbs ground beef or mega bags whatever in the US.
    Still I never forget the look on the face from somebody buying 1 tomato and my mom asking him if he was expecting company..

  11. I still remember the farmer at a market in Trouville yelling at me: “MADAME! Ne touchez pas les freaises!!!”
    Ever since i’ve known to let the vendor do the choosing.

  12. When we lived in Ohio, I was about a 30 minute drive to any store. Therefore I would load up on grocerys so I would not have to make many trips. Now I am a bicycle ride away from a store. So it took me awhile to get used to buying 2 potatoes instead of 10 lbs. Also I do not have the storage space here that I did in Ohio. So many adjustments have to be made in life!
    Your chicken dish sounds and looks very tempting! I would think adding the 2 bell peppers would give it a great flavor!

  13. baking soda, the thing that always amazed me was the Spanish women who would be 8 strawberries would then bu 15 different kinds of fish…
    Casey, I think it takes one good yelling for most of us to remember that… I’ve had mine!
    Neil, I’m much more patient in the memory that I was in the reality ‘-))
    Deb, I’ve never lived close to shops. In Andorra, a good snow could keep us on the mountain for days… It’s a hard habit to break!

  14. Lovely idea for a one pot meal! Worcestershire sauce is sure to be the “secret ingredient” in this dish 🙂 It is amazing how much flavor that little bottle can add to a recipe.

  15. LisaRene, I use a lot of Worcestershire… It’s too bad is’t rather expensive here (International food, and all; ie: not French)

  16. I remember when we visited my half-sister in France in 1989, my mom went to market with her and came back telling my dad in horror how they had only bought one or two of everything and how each purchase had involved a LONG conversation with the vendor. The entire way of shopping European stlye was totalyl foreign, so I can imagine that you took some time to adjust! With the current uproar here about the amount of food wasted, we could all do a lot worse than going back to buying two potatoes at a time.

  17. Jeanne, I try very hard not to waste. When I think of all the food I tossed out when I lived in the U.S…. Wow, have I changed!

  18. He, he, I didn’t know about your American’s way of shopping 😀 Do you then always take your car when you go to the market? or maybe a lorry?? 😉

  19. Nuria, we usually would come home with bags and bags, enough for at least a week – plus lots to throw out when it didn’t get eaten!

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