Monday, April 6, 2015

Super Speedy Chicken and Rice Bake

Chicken and Rice

I don’t know about you, but dinner is often a challenge for me on weekday evenings. Sometimes that’s because I haven’t planned ahead and don’t have all the ingredients to make what I want to make. (Menu planning has never been my forte.) Sometimes it’s because I’m tired and grumpy after a difficult day of work. (And by difficult, I mean Monday.) And sometimes it’s because the various members of the Foodie family have different demands on their time, which means I’m driving to and fro when I’d rather be (or need to be) cooking.

For such evenings, there are recipes like this one. If you’re the sort of cook who eschews anything as bourgeois as a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, you are free to make your own–there’s an excellent recipe here–but don’t blame me when your dinner prep ceases to be super speedy, as the name of this recipe claims. For the rest of us, who believe that the occasional can of condensed soup never hurt anybody (especially if you choose a reduced-sodium version of canned soup), this recipe will get dinner on the table in a hurry.

If you have time to marinate your chicken before you start cooking (half an hour is all you need), any kind of vinaigrette salad dressing or bottled marinade will do the job. Put the chicken in a resealable storage bag, add about a cup of dressing or marinade, squish it around to coat the chicken, and let the mixture sit in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.  Just shake off any excess marinade before putting the chicken in the pan. If you don’t have time to marinate, just season the chicken with salt and pepper, along with anything else that sounds good. I usually sprinkle on a little garlic powder or Chinese five spice powder, depending on which way my taste buds are leaning.

Also, you can use any kind of frozen vegetable (or vegetable blend) that you like in this recipe. I’ve used broccoli,  peas, and a blend of peas and carrots; I’ve also chopped up fresh spinach and stirred it into the sauce before adding the chicken to the pan. To keep this super speedy, though, I’d recommend sticking with frozen veggies, which don’t need to be thawed or chopped.

The rice in this recipe will turn out creamy, not fluffy–more like a lovely risotto than a pile of steamed rice. Stirring in a little Parmesan cheese at the end of the baking time, after you’ve removed the chicken from the pan, adds another layer of flavor and makes this recipe taste like it took way more time than it did.

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Super Simple Chicken and Rice Bake

Ingredients:

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (or, 1 1/4 cups of homemade)
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 cup uncooked long grain rice (not instant rice)
1 cup frozen vegetables of your choice
Parmesan cheese to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with non-stick spray.

Whisk together the condensed soup and milk. Sprinkle in the powdered garlic and the dry rice; stir to combine. Finally, stir in the frozen vegetables and make sure they're distributed evenly throughout the pan.

Set the chicken on top of the rice mixture. Season the chicken as you like. (If you've marinated the chicken, you can skip this step.)

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. After taking the pan out of the oven, remove the chicken and let the rice sit for five minutes, to absorb some of the remaining liquid. Stir in Parmesan cheese to taste, then serve with the chicken.

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