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~All-in-the-Pantry Easy Chicken & Rice-a-Roni Bowls~

IMG_6838Bone tired.  That was how my parents and grandparents sometimes described how they felt after a long day -- it didn't mean they necessarily had a bad day, meaning, if you think about it, even a day at the beach can leave one feeling bone tired when they return home.  It happens to all of us, and, on those days, bone tired does mean:  too tired to do one more thing.  That said, desperate times call for desperate measures and when your bone tired but hungry, head to your pantry.

I believe I could live on Rice-a-Roni.  I suppose I'd get tired of it eventually, but, it could be worth the experiment simply to see how long it would take.  I love the stuff, and, it's one of the few convenience foods I indulge in.  As a kid, if I was feeling under the weather, I always preferred a dish of chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni over a bowl of Campbell's chicken noodle soup.  If that sounds odd, it's not, as the seasoning packet contains nothing more than dry chicken soup mix. As an adult, beef-favored and Spanish-style Rice-a-Roni have earned spots in my pantry too.

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

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.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4f5de08200dMaria 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.

Amongst Rice-a-Roni aficionados, chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni is still the undisputed favorite.

One skillet & no stress = two hearty, weeknight meals:

IMG_67902  large, boneless, skinless chicken thigh paillards (lightly-pounded chicken thighs)

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning chicken thighs

2-3  tablespoons corn or vegetable oil, for sautéing chicken thighs

1  6.9-ounce box chicken-flavored Rice-a-Roni

2 1/2  cups water

2-3  tablespoons salted butter, for sautéing the dry pasta and rice mixture 

2 1/2 cups water, for simmering the Rice-a-Roni

all contents from the seasoning packet

IMG_6792 IMG_6794 IMG_6796 IMG_6798 IMG_6800~Step 1.  To sauté the lightly-pounded chicken thighs, place 2-3 tablespoons corn or vegetable oil in a wide-bottomed 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight, deep side (or a 10" skillet with a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat.  Add the paillards to the hot oil in the skillet.   Season their tops (liberally) with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté gently until light-golden in color on both sides, turning only once, about 6-8 minutes per side, turning the heat down, if necessary, to prevent scorching.  Turn the heat off.  Using a fork, transfer the paillards from the skillet to a plate and briefly set aside (leave drippings in bottom of skillet).

IMG_6801 IMG_6803 IMG_6806 IMG_6809~Step 2. Add butter to chicken drippings in pan. Melt the butter over low heat.  Add and stir in the pasta and rice mixture from the box.  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_6815 IMG_6817 IMG_6818 IMG_6820 IMG_6823~Step 3.  Slowly add the water to the pan of sautéing rice and pasta -- steam will billow up, so, be careful.  Add the contents of the seasoning packet.  Give the mixture a stir and wait for it to return to a simmer.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.  Cover the pan and simmer until rice and pasta are cooked through and have absorbed all the liquid, about 14-16 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let rest on the warm stovetop about 5 minutes.

IMG_6826 IMG_6827 IMG_6830~Step 4.   While the Rice-a-Roni is simmering, slice the chicken thigh pillars into thin strips. Remove the lid from the pan and rake through the mixture with a fork to fluff and separate the rice grains and pasta pieces.  

Portion Rice-a-Roni into 2 pasta-type bowls & top each w/chicken strips from 1 thigh paillard.  Serve ASAP. 

IMG_6834All-in-the-Pantry Peasy Chicken & Rice-a-Roni Bowls:  Recipe yields 2 hearty servings.

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

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51a5586200bCook's Note: Coming up with copycat recipes for three flavors of made-at-home Rice-a-Roni made for a fun few days.  Truth told, I love developing copycat recipes -- I'm good at it too.  From sea to shining sea, as items we've come to take for granted disappear from our store shelves, many have reached out to express appreciation for these recipes.  There's more.  Many have reached out to request these recipes. ~ Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix & My Copycat Recipe ~  is one example. Try my ~ Copycat Chicken, Beef and Spanish-Style Rice-a-Roni ~ recipes.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023)


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