This chicken and rice could possibly be the best part about winter, it’s that good. I know that’s a strong statement, but I defy you (wait, that sounds confrontational – and I’m definitely non-confrontational!). I mean, I challenge you not to like it. Or, I challenge you to like it? Wait. Now I’m just confusing myself.
What I mean to say is, YOU WILL LIKE IT! Even No-Thank-You-Boy digs right in, and he doesn’t usually eat anything that doesn’t say JIMMY JOHNS somewhere on the label. This stuff is good, baby. Really good.
Now before I get you all excited, a slight confession: I am fully aware that this dish is going against my ‘let’s lighten up’ rule but I had to make an exception. I’m delivering dinner to a good friend who just had a baby (Hi, Baby Chloe!), and this is my standard “I’m-taking-dinner-to-a-sick-or-newly-unpregnant-friend” dish, so it is what it is. It’s not light, and if you over-indulge it will definitely add to your, uh – bottom line, shall we say. But let’s don’t worry about that today. Bikini season is a long way off. If you’re having calorie angst, add a few minutes to the old treadmill when you’re at the gym tomorrow.
Chicken and Rice. It’s what’s right with the world!
Note: Here’s the fine print. This isn’t the kind of dinner you can throw together in a skinny minute; it’s a little time consuming to make. I recommend it for Sunday dinner when you’ve got a little extra time on your hands! On the bright side: this freezes beautifully! If you freeze it, be sure to thaw it completely before baking. Enjoy!
CREAMY CHICKEN & RICE WITH PEAS, CARROTS, & CHEDDAR
Source: The Best Make Ahead Recipe, by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated. Pp. 248-249
- 4 T. butter
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
- ¼ c. flour
- 6 c. chicken broth (Imagine broths are on sale)
- 1 c. heavy cream or half-and-half
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5; Value Packs are on sale)
- 1 ½ c. long grain white rice
- 1 – 1lb. bag frozen peas and carrots medley (about 3 cups)
- 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
- Ground black pepper
- 1 recipe (2 ¼ cups) Toasted Bread Crumb Topping (see below)
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and the cream.
Add the chicken breasts, partially cover, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover completely, and cook until the thickest part of the chicken breast registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 10-15 minutes.
Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Stir the rice into the pot, cover, and continue to cook over low heat, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed much of the liquid and is just tender, 20-25 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the shredded chicken, peas and carrots, and cheddar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into a 9 x 13” pan and sprinkle with the crumb topping. Cover tightly with foil (freeze at this point). Bake until the casserole is bubbling and hot throughout, about 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the crumbs are crisp, 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.
Note: I love to keep an extra batch of this in my freezer. I try to make a batch whenever I have on-the-verge-of-stale bread hanging around my pantry. These crumbs are great to have on hand!
TOASTED BREAD CRUMB TOPPING
Makes enough for 1 9 x 13” casserole
Source: The Best Make Ahead Recipe, by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated. P. 242
- 4 slices good quality white sandwich bread, quartered
- 2 T. butter, melted
- 2 T. minced fresh parsley leaves
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 325. Pulse the bread and butter in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 6 pulses. Spread the crumbs out over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and dry, 20-30 minutes. Let the crumbs cool, then toss with the parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste.
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