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Monday, September 21, 2015

Creamy Chicken and Rice

In the summer, when our garden (or in our case our neighbor's garden) is rewarding hard work with the best homegrown vegetables available, I always seem to have a plethora of zucchini. We were brought an entire grocery bag of zucchini twice a week for nearly three weeks. We sauteed them with onions, added them to stir fry, and even turned a whole load of them into many loaves of zucchini bread, but this was probably my favorite use of all.

The recipe didn't call for zucchini, just carrots and onion in the way of vegetables. But I already had some extra zucchini already grated from the zucchini bread and thought, why not? It made a fantastic addition, but if you don't have any zucchini this dish would still be wonderful without it.

It's no secret how fond I am of rice. Perhaps because it's such a rare treat for me. I usually like rice on the side of Tex-Mex dishes and with Asian inspired meals but this is really more like an Italian risotto. It's a creamy mixture of chicken, vegetables, aromatic Jasmine rice, and Parmesan cheese. This is another one-pot meal, limiting clean up and coming together in less than an hour. I might not use chicken thighs next time as I found it difficult to remove the fat and I don't think the dish would lose any flavor if the thighs were swapped for breast meat. If you're looking for a bit more green you could add some fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped asparagus, or even some steamed broccoli.

I skipped the wine that the recipe calls for. I know it would have probably added some depth but I knew Nana would prefer it without so I just substituted extra chicken broth in place of the wine. Maybe next time I'll run by the liquor store and grab a bottle of good dry white.

The flavors of this dish are homey and fresh. It's sure to be a crowd pleaser in almost any home.

Creamy Chicken and Rice

Source: Natasha's Kitchen

1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, grated
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken broth, heated
2 cups Jasmine or other medium-grain rice
1 head garlic
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for serving

*If you have a dutch oven, use it. You'll get more flavor from all of the ingredients and the whole dish will cook more evenly.

I didn't have a dutch oven available so I used a large soup pot instead.

Begin by heating the olive oil and 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium-high heat.

When the butter has melted add the onion, carrots, zucchini, and 1 tsp of the salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or burning. This will take about 8-10 minutes.

Once the vegetables are soft add the chicken pieces and season them with the remaining salt and pepper. Cook until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides. I'm sorry for all the steam in the picture, this was the best shot I got out of ten.

Add the bay leaves, increase the heat to high, and pour in your wine. Cook the wine down, scraping the delicious browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you go.

Cut the head of garlic so that all of the cloves are open but still attached. Set it aside for a minute.

Once the wine has mostly evaporated pour in the hot chicken broth and stir in the rice. Then place the head of garlic cut side down in the liquid.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to low. Cover and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked.

While it's cooking go outside and find a bunny. Okay, that's just me, but there were dozens of bunnies at Nana's house this summer and they weren't even afraid of us so we got pretty close to some of them. Can you find the bunny? He's kind of camouflaged here.

Once the rice is cooked remove the garlic. At this point you can either toss it in the trash or push a few of the cloves out, mash them up, and mix them into the rice. I chose to use about 4 cloves because I like garlic. Add the remaining butter and stir until it melts in. Now stir in the parsley and Parmesan until the dish is creamy.

Serve immediately to prevent the rice from turning to mush.

Add some extra fresh grated Parmesan or chopped parsley if desired.

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