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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chicken and Rice Stew

Well, really, this is another of Rachel Ray's infamous "stoups," but as we all know how I feel about that word, we'll just call it a stew, shall we?

I had actually cut this page out of the magazine for the recipe on to the left and on the back. I hadn't really considered making the chicken and rice thing, but it just sounded wholesome with lots of ingredients Amir will eat: chicken, rice, and carrots.

The one caution I'd give before making this dish is that it creates a lot of dishes. This is a good recipe to make when your dishwasher is empty or your sink is full of hot, soapy water. Otherwise, after mealtime, you'll be crying in your stew bowl over how many dishes you'll have to clean up. Or maybe you have that agreement with someone that ones cooks, one cleans dishes. I've heard that people do this, but I believe it's a myth like Sasquatch and the Chupacabra.

Chicken and Rice Stew

1 pound skinless, boneless white- or dark-meat chicken
2 onions, 1 quartered and 1 chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup orzo pasta
3/4 cup long-grain white rice
One 32-oz container (4 cups) chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
2 ribs of celery
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
salt and pepper
2 tsp thyme
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 tsp parsley
2 tsp dried grated lemon peel

1. Place the chicken in a small pot and add enough water to just barely cover, 2 1/2 to 3 cups. Add the quartered onion and the bay leaf, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover the pot, lower the heat and simmer to cook through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, then shred with 2 forks. Reserve the cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and cook, stirring often, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the rice, then add 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to boil. Lower the heat to low, cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. (Cooking the rice separately from the soup lets you add it to the liquid when you're ready to eat, so it doesn't overcook.)

3. In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, celery, and carrots; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Strain in the reserved cooking liquid and the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir in thyme, dill, parsley and lemon peel. To serve, pile the chicken and rice in bowls and top with broth.

The Verdict: Warm, heavy and feels like comfort food. But the taste is nothing to write home about.

As predicted, Amir did like this dish thanks to the chicken and rice. The finely chopped veggies were a plus as they're too hard to pick out. Noyan and I liked it, but both found that it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. As you probably know by now if you read regularly, I most often use dried herbs and not fresh. Maybe that's part of where I went wrong. But there was nothing that popped for either of us. In addition, Noyan is not into the idea of "stoup." His first complaint was that there needed to be more or less broth. I explained the stoup concept and he wasn't buying it.

Unless you want to separate all your ingredients into multiple leftover containers (if you have leftovers), I would suggest you have extra stock on hand for subsequent meals. The recipe says that cooking the rice and orzo separately prevents it from overcooking; overcooking means the pasta and rice sucking up all the broth. And that means that tomorrow, you have a lot of fat rice. It's not a bad taste or consistency; you just have hardly any liquid left. Just add anywhere from one to two cups of extra stock to the pot when reheating.

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