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03/24/2020

~ Spanish-Style Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat ~

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Back in the 1960's my mom was the queen of Rice-a-Roni recipes.  I was the princess who loved them.  If I was feeling under the weather, she knew I'd rather have a bowl of chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni than a bowl of Campbell's chicken-noodle soup.  She served the prince (my brother) and I pan-seared hamburgers and gravy atop a bed of beef-flavored Rice-a-Roni, to prevent us from bugging her to buy overpriced Salisbury-steak TV dinners.  To two boxes of Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni she added two pounds of peeled, raw shrimp.  In our kingdom, our family of four we ate it as a sort-of jambalaya dinner.  Fond memories of kinder, gently times indeed. 

Rice-a-Roni -- The San Francisco Treat.

IMG_0230Italian born immigrant Domenico (Charlie) DeDomenico moved to California in 1895 to open a fresh produce store.  After becoming a successful businessman, he married Maria Ferrigno, an immigrant from Salerno, Italy, where her family owned a pasta factory.  In 1912, Maria persuaded Charlie to set up a similar business in the Mission District of San Francisco.  Gragnano Products, Inc., was born and began delivering pasta to Italian restaurants and stores throughout the area.

IMG_0280Maria and Charlie's sons, Paskey, Vince, Tom and Anthony worked in the family business, and, in 1934, Paskey changed the name to the Golden Grain Macaroni Company. Tom's wife Lois fell in love with a pilaf recipe she received from an Armenian immigrant, Mrs. Pailadzo Captanian, which she served at a family gathering.  After tasting the unique pilaf, which was made by sautéing a combination rice and pasta in butter before adding broth and seasonings, Vince went to work developing a new product.  In 1958, his creation, named Rice-a-Roni, was introduced to the Northwestern United States as "The San Francisco Treat".  Four years later, in 1962, it went nationwide.

Copycat Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni is super-easy to make, tastes the same or better, &, saves money at the checkout:

IMG_0221For the 6 1/2 total ounces (1 cup) of rice & pasta:

3 3/4 ounces long grain white rice (about 1/2 cup)*

2 3/4 ounces fideo, cut spaghetti  (about 1/2 cup)*

*Note:  Yes.  I really did sit around for two hours one afternoon separating the rice grains from the vermicelli pasta, from one box of Rice-a-Roni, to make sure the measurements are correct.

For the 1/2 total ounces (2 tablespoons) seasoning blend packet:

2  tablespoons Knorr granulated tomato bouillon w/chicken flavoring (Note:  Contains salt, sugar, cornstarch, dehydrated tomato powder, chicken flavoring, turmeric (for color) and annatto (for color).)

1 teaspoons onion powder

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

For the sauté and simmer:

2-3  tablespoons salted butter, for sautéing the pasta and rice mixture (Note:  I use three. The box calls for two.  I never thought two was enough.  It isn't.)

2  cups water, for simmering the Copycat Rice-a-Roni

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes or diced tomatoes, undrained

2  tablespoons dehydrated green & red bell peppers (Note:  1/4  cup each, small diced green and red bell pepper may be substituted.)

IMG_0233 IMG_0233 IMG_0233 IMG_0233 IMG_0233~Step 1. In a wide-bottomed 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight, deep sides (or a 10" skillet with a tight-fitting lid), melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat.  Add and stir in the 1/2 cup rice and 1/2 cup fideo.  Increase heat to medium- medium-high.  Using a large slotted spoon, stir constantly and sauté until rice and pasta are light golden, about 3-4 minutes.

IMG_0248 IMG_0248 IMG_0248 IMG_0248 IMG_0248~Step 2.  Slowly add the water to the pan -- lots of steam will billow up, so, be careful.  Add the diced tomatoes followed by the seasonings: the chicken-tomato bouillon, onion powder, garlic powder and dehydrated bell peppers.  Give the mixture a thorough stir and wait for it to return to a simmer, about 1 minute.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.

IMG_0260 IMG_0260 IMG_0260 IMG_0260 IMG_0260~Step 3. Cover the pan and adjust heat to simmer gently until rice and pasta are cooked through and have absorbed almost all liquid, 14-16 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside 5 minutes.  Remove lid and rake through the mixture with a fork to fluff and separate the rice grains and pasta pieces.  Transfer to a bowl or plate and serve immediately.

Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni -- "The San Francisco Treat!":

IMG_0284Spanish-Style Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat:  Recipe yields 4 cups/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides and lid; large slotted spoon or spatula; 2-cup measuring container; fork

IMG_9248Cook's Note: In New England, baked cod with crunchy Ritz-cracker topping is everywhere.  The first time I tasted this delightful dish was in the restaurant of the Killington Resort's, VT ski slope.  Most eateries, from big city restaurants to small town diners, have it on their menu.  Recipes for this cracker-topped fish-dish don't vary much.  ~ Baked Lemon-Pepper Cod w/Ritz Cracker Topping ~  served with a side of buttery green beans atop a bed of Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni is a delightfully easy weeknight dinner.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

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