February 3, 2013

Cheesy Chicken and Rice

Today's recipe is one of those that's inspired by typical restaurant fair, cheesy chicken and rice.

If you're like us, you might like the food at restaurants but hate the price and noise. Seriously, if you have sensitive ears or the least bit of hearing loss, going out to eat isn't all that fun. Hubby and I used to enjoy going out, even though he's always had issues hearing the waiters and me thanks to a childhood injury. Then I started slowly loosing my hearing five or six years ago now, and it's just gotten sad.

Our conversations in restaurants these days mostly consists of, "What did you say?" and, "I beg your pardon." Well, they do if we're out alone on our two or three date nights a year. We each end up taking a girl and spending most of the meal answering their questions and tending to their needs when we all go out as a family. Hubby and I have given up trying to talk to one another more than absolutely necessary on such occasions. It's the same, "Can you repeat that?" and, "Huh?" as it is when we're alone but with questions and pleas for help interrupting us.

So, a few years back, I started reverse engineering some of our favorite restaurant meals. You know me though, I can never leave well enough alone though, so I made a few of my own additions. In this case, I added some veggies to my version of El Camino Real's Cheesy Chicken and Rice.

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Recipe
Cheesy Chicken and Rice with Side Salad

20 oz. Shredded Chicken
1 Cup Rice (Uncooked)
2 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Can Diced Tomatoes with Chillies (Drained)
1 Small Can Sliced Black Olives (Drained, Optional)
1 Jar Queso Dip
2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
2 Tbsp. Parsley
1 Tbsp. Onion Powder (Or 1 Small Onion, Diced)
1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
2 tsp. Ground Red Pepper

I've started pouring my rice into a mesh strainer and rinsing it well before cooking to remove any powders left behind in processing. You'll be amazed when you see the water running off the rice!

In a large pot, combine chicken, rice, broth, tomatoes, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper, and parsley. (I usually take the shaker bit off the parsley powder to make it easier to measure and rub it between my hands to quick grind it into a fine powder instead of the huge flakes most come in.) Stir it well, place the pot over medium high heat, about 6 or 7 on a numbered dial, and bring it to a boil. Make sure you stir, scraping the bottom of the pot, every four or five minutes to prevent sticking and scorching.

Once it comes to a roiling boil, back off on the heat to medium low, or about a three on a numbered dial. Let it simmer there until it starts to become a little tough to stir. (Don't forget to give it a good stir every four to five minutes, or the rice will stick and scorch.)

Here's the trick to it. Take your pot off the heat when you still have a few shallow pockets of broth sitting on top of the rice. This will help the cheese sauce thin enough to mix evenly and keep the dish moist even after reheating. (It's another one of those recipes that will feed a family of four for at least two or three meals, so this is important.) It will make it a touch on the soupy side that first evening, but even fully cooked rice is going to absorb a bit more liquid as it cools. Plus you get the added bonus of this pulling the cheese flavor into the rice itself!

Once your rice is off the heat, add the olives and cheese dip and stir until combined.

You may be wondering why I didn't tell you to add the olives with the tomatoes. I actually did that the first time I made this, and they became hard, crunchy, and tasteless. It wasn't nice.

Yeilds roughly eight adult servings.

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