Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nemesis Chicken & Rice

A few years ago I asked David what he wanted me to make him for his birthday dinner. Any dish he wanted, just name it and I'll make it. He thought about it for a while before he finally made his request. I figured he was reliving all of the wonderful things I'd made him over the years, struggling to pick just the right dish from the embarrassment of riches I'd brought to the table. He asked me to make him chicken and rice. I have to admit I was a bit offended.

Chicken and rice is one of the first dishes that routinely appeared on our dinner table after we first got married. I found the recipe on the back of a soup can. So right away you can tell it's a classy dish. (Is that harsh?) I served it so much because it was easy. Boneless chicken breasts, can of soup, some rice...dump it, stir it, stick it in the oven - done. And David loved it. (Obviously.) I made him his chicken and rice but since that birthday dinner I've become a bit obsessed with making chicken and rice 'right'. 'Right' as in without relying on a can of soup to be the featured ingredient of the dish.

Of course, to make any dish 'right' I generally turn to Cook's Illustrated. Imagine my delight after trying (and loving ) Skillet Chicken Pot Pie and Skillet Baked Ziti courtesy of the Complete America's Test Kitchen Cookbook I turn the page to discover Skillet Chicken and Rice. It's. So. On.

This was going to be the week. Tonight was going to be the night. Then things started happening. The 'Check Engine' light came on in my car. So I made plans to get the car serviced. A field trip needed another chaperone. So I stood in the middle of a maple sugar bush in the freezing rain. A class I'm teaching Friday became two classes. Details like making sure I had all of the necessary ingredients to make chicken and rice fell right off my (increasingly crowded) radar.

So despite my best efforts when I went to the pantry tonight I discovered I was missing a few essential ingredients for Skillet Chicken and Rice. I might have had words with myself (in my head) since the chicken was already thawed and the rice measured. The boys expectant. Then my eyes fell to the back of the pantry. Where it sat patiently waiting. A can of Cream of Mushroom soup. Can soup look smug? I swear it looked smug.

I am nothing if not stubborn so at first I resisted the soup. I refused to make 'old reliable' and ventured onto the Internet looking for guidance. What I found: Chicken Breasts on Rice. Featuring not just Cream of Mushroom soup; to make this bad boy I also required dry onion soup powder. Which laughed at me from another shelf of my pantry. I didn't have the required canned mushrooms but I figured it would eat fine without. And it was okay. The rice was gummy and the onion flavour a bit overpowering. The boys seemed to like the chicken which was very moist. And yes, it was pretty darn easy. So 'real' chicken and rice eludes me once again. It would appear I have a nemesis in the kitchen....

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