20. November 2014 · Comments Off on Let’s Make Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , ,

Late fall and early winter are the time of year to start craving comfort foods, especially ones where you can do a little prep work and then set them aside to cook while you get other stuff done. An old-fashioned example is the classic Carolina-style chicken and rice, with whole chicken parts simply simmered with stock in golden South Carolina rice. I’ve made it a few times before, and while it’s tasty, I always wanted something with a bit more punch flavor-wise.

So, when the co-op slings me a pound of wild rice from the Great Lakes and some free-range chicken breasts, I figure it’s time to step things up a bit. Protein and starch are fine, but I want some veg in there too – especially aromatic sorts. So let’s add some sweet red onion and carrots. Cumin goes with carrots and chicken nicely, so some toasted whole seed should be a part of this. Wild rice usually gets cooked with onion and celery, but I’m just gonna stick with celery seed for the flavor without the extra prep. For herbage, chicken loves sage and tarragon, so they’ll get simmered with the broth to extract their complex flavors.

The prep part of this takes about 15-20 minutes if you’re a decent multitasker, and about a half hour if you’re not. Then, you throw it all into an oven for and hour and a half. Which gives you plenty of time to work on your Thanksgiving menu or Christmas shopping list while your kitchen fills with fantastic smells.

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup wild rice
1/2 large red onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and cut to ¼” dice
2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp kosher salt plus extra for seasoning
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp whole cumin seed
1 tsp dried sage, rubbed
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350° F. Have a covered casserole or baking dish of at least 4 qt capacity ready.

Combine broth, sage, tarragon, and 1 tsp salt in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a visible simmer. Continue to simmer broth with herbs while you ready the rest of the ingredients.

Pat chicken dry, and season on both sides with a couple generous pinches of salt. In a large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over high heat until it just barely starts to smoke. Place chicken breasts and sear on each side until just browned, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate.

Add a bit more olive oil to pan, reduce heat to medium, and add the cumin and celery seed to the pan. In a minute or so, the seeds will start to pop and become fragrant. Add onion, reduce heat to medium-low, and saute until onions begin to soften and become translucent. Remove from heat and remove onions and spices from the pan to the casserole.

Add carrots, rice, and hot broth to the casserole. Stir to combine, then place the browned chicken on top, adding whatever juices have accumulated as well. Cover the casserole dish and place in the oven to bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Check the dish after an hour and 15 minutes, and if the rice grains are tender and have burst open, you can consider it done. Otherwise, let it bake the full time. Remove from oven and let stand for at least 5 minutes, preferably 10, before serving.

Break up the chicken when serving onto plates or shallow bowls. A little bit of cayenne pepper sauce works well with this dish for those who like a bit of spice. Collard or other greens would be an appropriate accompaniment if one is desired.

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