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~Homestyle Chicken and Vegetable Rice-a-Roni-Pilaf~

IMG_1459Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat, was a savvy entrepreneur's son's take on rice pilaf.  Italian 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.

Maria 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 chicken broth and seasonings, Vince went to work developing a new product.  In 1958, his creation, named Rice-a-Roni, was introduced to the NW United States as "The San Francisco Treat".  Four years later, in 1962, it went nationwide.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51a5586200bIn the case of this homestyle roasted chicken and Rice-a-Roni-for-dinner recipe, I'm not posting one of my copycat recipes for Rice-a-Roni, meaning,  I'm using the boxed mix and seasoning packet just as they are.  I simply adding several on-hand kitchen-, pantry- and freezer-staple vegetable additions. It's these additions that turn this boxed mix into an absolutely-delightful super-easy-to-make one-skillet dinner: one cup each of diced celery and onion, a can of sliced mushrooms, and one cup of frozen peas and carrots.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09befcf4970dRotisserie chicken is not my "gig".  It takes all the sport out of cooking.  I roast chickens.  I have roasted many chickens in my life, and, I've been roasting chickens since before some of you were born.  I've never served roasted chicken to a guest that didn't mention how moist and perfectly cooked it was and ask how in the world I got it that way. Everyone and anyone who cooks has an opinion on roasting chicken, and, mine is quite basic.  Two chickens, two hours.  Read all about:  This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken.

Homestyle winner-winner chicken dinner:

IMG_1405For the Rice-a-Roni-Pilaf dinner:

3  tablespoons salted butter

1  7.2-ounce box Rice-a-Roni Rice Pilaf Mix + seasoning packet

1  cup diced onion

1  cup diced celery

1 1/2  cups water, including 1 cup liquid from 2, 4-ounce cans sliced mushrooms (from below), 1 1/2 cups total liquid

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon poultry seasoning

2  4-ounce cans sliced mushrooms, well-drained

1  cup frozen peas and carrots, unthawed

1  pound chicken breast or thigh meat, hand-pulled into bite-sized pieces, leftover chicken from 1 roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken

store-bought chicken gravy, your favorite brand, warmed, for dipping or drizzling (optional)

IMG_1410 IMG_1410 IMG_1410 IMG_1410 IMG_1410 IMG_1410 IMG_1410~Step 1. Over low heat, melt the butter in bottom of pan.  Prepare the Rice-a-Roni according to package directions, starting by browning the rice and pasta in the butter, while stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the diced celery and onions and cook about 1 more minute, again, stirring constantly.

IMG_1428 IMG_1428 IMG_1428 IMG_1428 IMG_1428~Step 2. Slowly add the water containing the mushroom liquid to pan --  steam will billow up, so, be careful.  Add the seasonings (the packet from the box, plus the 1 teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning).  Give the mixture a thorough stir and wait for it to return to a simmer, 1-2 minutes.  Adjust heat to a simmer gently.

IMG_1441 IMG_1441 IMG_1445 IMG_1445 IMG_1445 IMG_1445~Step 3. Cover the pan and simmer 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.  Add and stir in the pulled chicken.  Cover and allow residual heat to heat chicken, about 5 minutes.  Portion onto plates or into shallow serving bowls.

Good enough to put on anyone's table for dinner:

IMG_1473Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Rice-a-Roni-Pilaf:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

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

IMG_0579Cook's Note: Chicken-noodle soup is the quintessential comfort food. While nourishing the body, chicken-noodle soup channels ones mind back to kinder, gentler, childhood times. When I was growing up, I don't remember eating canned chicken-noodle soup.  Mom always had homemade chicken soup in the freezer.  When it was gone, she made more.  That was that.  No canned soup for me.  While stocking my pantry with a few chicken-y staples (chicken stock, granulated chicken bouillon, and, bags of wide egg noodles), my mind wandered to back to mom's absolutely wonderful ~ Oodles of Tender Chicken and Noodles Casserole ~.

"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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