Monday, November 12, 2012

of Fancy Chicken and Creamy Rice Casserole

In honor of my sister Mandy's birthday I decided to share a delicious dish I tend to make for special events. One thing I used to be horribly afraid of food wise is rice. When I was a little girl, the absolute only way I would eat rice was in my mom's (but possibly grandmother's recipe) chicken and rice casserole. The way the juices would mix with the French onion soup mix and rice was complex, creamy, salty and absolutely delectable. I couldn't resist that flavor profile. I've grown up a bit since then and have even come to semi even like rice; provided there is some sort of flavor attached. This recipe is by far my favorite way to eat it, heck I've even made the rice recipe without the chicken.

I make fancy chicken and rice casserole in the wintertime when I'm looking for a more stick to your ribs kind of dinner, for friends birthdays, or even for impressing some dinner party guests.  This recipe is a relatively versatile and easy to make stunner that will knock your flavor socks off. The creamy herbed rice creates a kind of French risotto vibe that melds perfectly with the flavorful and juicy chicken. It is at once comforting, interesting, and a nice change for those who usually don't do French because of sauces that are too rich or recipes that are too involved. BTW the fresh herbs make all the difference so try to use those if you can!

Today's Cast of Characters:

Kind of involved ingredients wise today which I enjoy immensely, I always like to give myself ingredient challenges every now and again. We have chicken, rice, chicken broth and fat free half and half of course (you could sub in some cream for a dreamier treat); but we also have a little bit of sour cream and dry white wine hiding out in the sauce. Salt and pepper lend some taste to both the sauce and chicken while Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning  provide a little something for the chicken to love.  We also have fresh herbs; I usually get the poultry mix at the grocery store because I am not special/talented/responsible enough to grow them all in my house. I always have fresh basil on hand though due to my trusty basil plant Milton, the one who tries to take over my life. Things continue to get interesting with Cremini mushrooms, paprika, garlic, onion, and olive oil. All of these ingredients work to give this casserole such an incredible depth of flavor that the whole dish should make mouths very happy indeed.

What to Do:

First, as always recommended when using the oven, preheat the oven to 375°F. This dish takes awhile to bake and you won't want to wait around as soon as you smell how good this baby smells.

Next, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high or high heat. The pan should be hot enough to brown but not burn. If it helps, I usually use medium high because I'm horribly afraid of burning anything.

Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning. I use Herbs de Provence usually but sometimes I mix it up.

Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on two sides. Since you are not cooking it through it will only take about 1-2 minutes per side per batch. Add a little olive oil if needed after every batch. This will help prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan but if you are cooking it right, the chicken will not be sticking. Remove chicken pieces and set aside in a bowl with paper towels.

In the same sauté pan lower the heat to medium, add the onions and a bit of oil and cook until translucent. This generally takes about 3 minutes on my stove. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and just starting to brown. Remove onions and garlic to a 9x13 casserole dish.

Raise heat to medium high, add the sliced mushrooms. Do not add any butter or olive oil to the pan and dry sauté them, allowing the mushrooms to brown lightly and release some of their moisture. Add the mushrooms to the casserole dish.

Add the dry white wine to the pan to deglaze the pan, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine reduce to about 1 Tbsp which can easily be eyeballed since the mix will reduce by 3/4.

Then add the chicken stock, and remove from heat. Stir in some salt, a bit of pepper, the fat free half and half, and the sour cream. Whisk or beat with a fork until the sour cream is evenly dispersed.

Add the uncooked rice to the casserole dish. Mix the rice with the veggies. Then add a little extra Italian seasoning or Herbs de Provence to the casserole dish if you want. I generally don't add any more seasoning because I prefer to let the fresh herbs shine however I was unable to find the fresh herbs today so I added a bit more Herbs de Provence and a good amount of fresh basil.

Chop up about half of each of the herbs included in the poultry mix. I usually do this by snipping them into the rice mixture but today was an epic failure in the fresh herbs department so I just did the basil. I then pour the stock, white wine, cream, sour cream mixture over the rice. Stir the rice, onion, mushroom, herb mixture so that everything is evenly distributed in the casserole dish.

Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture in a single layer if you can, don't worry they will be crowded and sprinkle a bit of paprika on the top. Bake in a 375°F oven for 45 minutes if the casserole is still too liquidy, let it cook a few minutes more, still uncovered, until the excess liquid has evaporated away and the chicken reaches an ok temperature to eat. I often find that this takes about 50 to 55 minutes instead.

Finally, remove from the oven, serve it up on a plate and you got yourself one nice meal. Enjoy!


 Ingredients:

Fancy Chicken and Creamy Rice Casserole
 2 1/2 lb bone in chicken legs and thighs connected (6 per pack)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 ¾ cups* chicken stock**
3 or 4 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup fat free half and half or cream
1 cup raw, medium or long grain, white rice
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
about 1 teaspoon of Herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
About 2 teaspoons each of fresh sage, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high or high heat (hot enough to brown but not burn). While you wait, season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and Herbs de Provence seasoning.
2.Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on two sides, about 1-2 minutes per batch. Add a little olive oil if needed after every batch if needed, if the chicken is cooking correctly, this will not be necessary. Please note that the chicken does not have to be cooked through, only browned. Remove chicken pieces and set aside in a bowl with paper towels.
3. In the same sauté pan lower the heat to medium add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 30 seconds more. Remove onions and garlic to a shallow (9 x 13 x 2) casserole dish.
4. Raise heat to medium high, add the sliced mushrooms. Dry sauté them with no additional butter or oil, allowing the mushrooms to brown lightly, and release some of their moisture. Add the mushrooms to the casserole dish.
5. Add the dry white wine to the pan to deglaze the pan, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, since I use nonstick there are never any bits. Let the wine reduce to about 1 Tbsp, then add the chicken stock, and remove from heat.
6. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cream, and the sour cream and mix until well blended and smooth looking.
7. Add the raw rice to the casserole dish. Then pour the cream mixture over the rice. Add all of the fresh herbs. Stir the rice, onion, mushroom, herb mixture so that they are evenly distributed in the casserole dish.
8. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture in a single layer if you can, don't panic they will be crowded. Bake in a 375°F oven for 45 minutes uncovered. If the casserole is still too liquidy, let it cook a few minutes more until the excess liquid has evaporated away, this dish usually takes about 50 minutes in my oven. The chicken should be a safe 165 degrees by then.
9. Enjoy!

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