Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chicken and Rice Casserole - a 30-minute meal

It's not fancy - it's COMFORT FOOD!
It all started out with a hankering.

Now, you have to know that if you have a hankering for something, it's not going to be something highbrow. No one hankers for escargot or seared scallops. No, you hanker for tater tot casserole or hot dish or 7-layer dip.

I was thinking that I wanted that chicken with cream-of-something soup. Maybe made in the slow cooker.

So I browsed for recipes and realized that I didn't have enough slow time for the slow cooker. But then I saw recipes that cooked in the oven. Well, okay then. A storm had just rolled through, so it was cool enough to turn on the oven.

I kept one eye on the clock while I worked on a few blog things. The average cooking time for the recipes I saw was about 45 minutes in the oven and maybe a 10 minute rest. I figured I'd give myself extra time, just in case it wasn't done in time. Or if I wanted photos.

I envisioned a thin layer of melted cheese, just for the fun of it. I figured I could cook the thing covered for 40 minutes, check the chicken temperature, add just a little tiny sprinkle of cheese, and then cook for another 5 minutes uncovered to let the cheese melt and maybe crisp the top a little.

It was all going swimmingly well. I dug out the 9x13 casserole I wanted to use and found ingredients and turned on the oven to preheat. I had just bought a couple bags of a frozen mirepoix mixture - one regular (carrots, onion and celery) and one Cajun (onion, celery, and green pepper), and I figured one of those would be nice in the rice. I grabbed the regular one.

The dice on the mirepoix wasn't as small as I'd have done if I was cutting, but it was fine for this purpose. I'm not sure if I'll buy it again, though. We'll see.

And then I looked at the oven to see how the preheating was doing and glanced at the oven clock and UH OH! Somebody stole a whole hour from me.

Grrrr. I had riced mixed with soup and water in the pan and I had the mirepoix bag cut open and chicken waiting for me ... and NOW WHAT?

I really didn't want to eat dinner an hour late, and although I could have scrambled some eggs, at this point I had mixed enough that I felt like I was committed to making this recipe. And then I did the thing that I thought I'd never do. I cooked the whole danged thing in the microwave.

And ... it was actually good. I needed to adjust flavorings at the end, but the recipe below has ths corrected amounts. As far as the cooking, it was fine. Not weird at all.

Of course, if you know how to read a clock, you could make this in the oven and figure about 45 minutes of cooking time, covered, at 375 degrees.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 cup jasmine rice (or other white rice like basmati)
1 10 1/2 ounce can cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom or celery)
1 soup can full of water
1/2 teaspoon salt*
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 12 ounce bag frozen mirepoix mix (or frozen mixed vegetables)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mix the rice, soup, water, salt, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, and mirepoix mix in a microwavable casserole dish. Mine was a 9x13, but a 9-inch square or round should be fine, as long as it all fits.

Cover with microwavable plastic wrap (I had one brand that tended to melt, so make sure yours is okay in the microwave) or cover with some other microwaveable cover. Cook for 10 minutes on high.

PLEASE keep in mind that microwaves vary in power, so you might need to adjust your cooking time. But this should get you close.

While the rice is cooking, cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes of somewhat even size.

When the 10 minutes are up, remove the pan from the microwave carefully. Peel back the plastic wrap (or remove the lid) very carefully. Steam burns are pretty awful, so vent it away from you and make sure your hands are enclosed in mitts or are well out the way.

If you want to taste for seasoning now, you can do so. The rice will be crunchy, but you'll get an idea of what the flavor will be.

Add the chicken, stir to combine, and cover again. Microwave for another 15 minutes, stopping about midway in the cooking process to stir again. Since we're cooking in a microwave, the center portion will be less cooked than the outer portion, so consider that when stirring.

When time is up, take a peek to make sure the chicken is cooked through and the rice is no longer crunchy. Most of the liquid should be absorbed. If you prefer it saucier, stir in a little hot water. If it needs more cooking, give it another stir and let it cook for another few minutes.

Taste for seasoning, and add more salt, if desired.

Serve hot, and don't admit that you cooked this in the microwave. A sprinkle of chopped parsley or chives adds some green freshness and makes the dish a bit more festive.

*Yes, I know that chicken soup has a lot of sodium ... for soup. But it's not quite salty enough for a cup of uncooked rice, 3/4 pound of vegetables, and three chicken breasts. If you fear that this will be oversalted, omit the salt at the beginning, and taste it at the end of cooking time and adjust, if need be.
30-Minute Chicken and Rice Casserole