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For me, cold weather and comfort food go hand in hand. Autumn and Winter are the best seasons to enjoy more heavy and warming dishes. One of our favourites all year round is mum’s spaghetti and meatballs; it’s worth suffering through the heat to make in the summer, but absolutely enjoyable to come home to in the winter. The same can be said of my grandmother’s bisquick chicken. It’s an absolute favourite. In the summer, the kitchen turns into an oven, a place to avoid if you know what’s good for you. But in the winter, when you’re seeking warmth, the aroma of chicken baking lures you in and the warmth keeps you there. Not to mention there’s the promise of getting to try other cooking foods. But that’s another story. Then there are some dishes that were just made for autumn. To me, any meal that requires a long slow cooking process is perfect for the shorter colder days of fall and winter. Think of a pot roast for instance. While it simmers all day without heating up the kitchen, pairing it with stewed carrots and fluffy mashed potatoes with gravy makes it entirely too heavy of a meal to eat during the summer. The same could be said of casseroles. Casseroles are great and I’m partial to the holiday months because there are two casseroles that mum makes that I look forward to all year round. For years, I (like any other child who didn’t know what tasted good) wouldn’t go within a mile of mum’s green bean casserole at Thanksgiving. Why would I want to? Even though it smelled delicious, I would still wrinkle my nose at it. It was green and looked gross. What was that she put on top of it? Were the green beans held together by some kind of whitish sauce? A couple years ago, I took the dive and tried it. I couldn’t believe I had been missing that all these years and now I go back for seconds not for the turkey, but for the casserole. At Christmas mum makes this thing with sweet yams. Again, for years I wouldn’t go near the stuff. It smelled sweet like candy but they looked orange and were covered in a glaze. I finally got brave last year and asked mum to pass the sweet potatoes. They’re super delicious and now there’s one less box in the fridge for Christmas leftovers. Before Sunday, I hadn’t actually made a casserole myself and I’m happy I did. Though chicken and rice casserole is one of the more basic casseroles out there, it was slightly beyond my comfort zone in cooking and it sounded really good when I was reading through my behemoth cookbook at some ungodly hour of the morning.

Sunday was cold. I woke up nestled in my blankets, my nose cold from having kept the window open the night before. Though I started my day with a hot shower, I was still frozen on the inside and was thankful to be able to wear a hoodie. As the day progressed, the temperature never got above 60 and by the time late afternoon rolled around, I was glad I had chosen a dish so warm and comforting as the chicken and rice casserole. There was no need for the fireplace as the heat from the stove was more than enough to warm me up while I bustled around the kitchen working on dinner.

I started out like always, something instrumental was piping through the kitchen from my iPod and I was blissfully alone, except for the things I needed.

The Ingredients-
Back, left to right: Rice, Flour, Milk, Olive Oil
Front: Thyme, Oregano, Poultry Seasoning, Garlic Powder, Nutmeg, 6 Chicken breasts

I didn’t actually have a copy of the recipe with me and instead had to keep eyeballing the picture I took of it while getting ingredients figured out.

The recipe called for between 1/3 and 1/4 cup of flour. Even though I was just dredging the chicken in it, I ended up doubling it.

Seeing as the first step called for me to dredge the chicken in flour and then fry it until golden and crispy, that’s where I started.

It also occurred to me at this point that if I dredged the chicken in just flour, it wasn’t going to have too much flavour, so I added poultry seasoning and a touch of nutmeg to the flour.

It always astonishes me at how gluey flour can become even if you’re just dredging chicken in it to fry it up quickly.

Finally, with a bit of flour all over the counter, I finished getting all of the chicken pieces coated. Good thing, too, the flour was starting to dry and cement on my fingers.

With the chicken all coated, I set a pan of oil to warm over medium-high heat and eyed the dish pile warily. I would have to do dishes at some point and man, I hate doing dishes.

When the oil had heated, I set about frying up the chicken in batches. Soon, the house took on an aroma that was heavenly.

Maybe I could just ditch the idea of a casserole and serve the chicken as was. But rather than continue with that train of thought, I put it aside. What could I serve fried chicken with, anyway?

While the chicken cooled on a plate, I started heating the oven (after making sure it was cleared out of all the pans that are stored within it) and greased the pan I was going to use.

Next I added the rice, milk and water mix that though I didn’t grab a picture of it, caused me all sorts of grief when I was mixing it. While eyeballing the recipe, I had managed to mix up the proportions of water and milk. Luckily it was before I had added anything else to the milk, but when I was trying to pour it back into the jug, I had managed to spill it on my camera. Imagine my distress! I paused everything just to dry it off and make sure it still functioned. I lucked out and there was no damage done, thank goodness.

After adding the milk-water-rice mixture, I carefully put the chicken on top. If I had used a four pound bird cut into pieces, they wouldn’t have fit into the pan. I used breast pieces and they barely fit.

When the oven reached temperature, I put foil on the mix and carefully slid it into the oven. I haven’t burned myself yet and had no intentions of starting.

After I had put the dish into the oven, I contemplated making bisquick drop dumplings to add on top, but in the end decided against it. As the dish cooked, the aroma of the cooking chicken and rice wafted around the house and my stomach began to growl. After what felt like ages, the timer went off. It was perfect timing too, Josh’s mum had just arrived home and she was walking up the stairs while I was pulling the casserole out of the oven.

When it came time to dish the plates, Josh’s mum made hers and her boys’ plates, but rather than doing mine, she gestured for me to go ahead, saying that I have a “particular way of doing it” because I take pictures of it. While I found that funny, I was greatly appreciative that she understood.

When I finally stopped being a shutterbug and sat down to eat, I was deceived by the aroma and appearance of the dish. Yes, the chicken had a good flavour but it was missing… something. During the meal, I got up and meandered over to the fridge to try and figure out what exactly this dish was missing. While I could have stood and scowled at the fridge for hours, I ended up grabbing the parmesan cheese and adding it to the rice. With a bite, I knew that I was right, but I was wrong as well. The flavour was too bold and overpowered the subtle flavours I had achieved. If I had added cheese to the mixture before baking it, the flavour would have been perfect. While eating, it also occurred to me that this was a very one note dish. There were no conflicting textures and even the flavour, while it was good, was singular. When we had finished eating, we sat around the table and bounced ideas around. This dish needed some crunch to it. I suggested broccoli, or even making it slightly less healthy with the addition of French fried onions on top. While both ideas seemed to quell my curiosity for the time being, it wasn’t until I stood up to start dishes that I noticed with some amusement it mustn’t have been that bad: we ate the whole thing.

~Recipe: Chicken & Rice Dinner~

This isn’t my recipe, but I will say that it turned out good. Next time, instead of fussing over whether or not I was following the recipe to a T, I’m going to mix and match and try to make it my own. Until then, enjoy this easy to make dish. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Broiler/Fryer chicken (3 1/2-4 pounds) cut up*
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour**
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Method:

  1. Dredge chicken pieces in flour. In a large skillet, brown chicken on all sides in oil over medium heat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the next six ingredients. Pour into a greased 13 in. x 9 in. x 2 in. baking dish. Top with chicken.
  3. Cover lightly with foil. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes or until rice and chicken are tender and a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees.

Yield: 6 Servings

Nutrition Facts: 3 ounces cooked chicken (skin removed) with 3/4 cup rice mixture equals 541 calories, 23 g fat (6 grams saturated fat), 108 mg cholesterol, 504 mg sodium, 43 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 38 g protein 

Catherine, Cassidy. The Taste Of Home Cookbook. The Cooks Who Care Ed. Greendale, WI: Reiman Media Group Inc., 2009. 211. Print.

Xx Steffanni

~Author’s Notes~

* I used six chicken breast pieces and honestly feel like a whole chicken (though it’s cut up) wouldn’t fit into the pan. I had enough trouble trying to get all of the chicken to fit as it was.

** I ended up doubling the flour to 2/3 cup of flour because 1/3 cup didn’t seem like enough.

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