What is comfort food to you?
To me, it’s familiar. Like eating an old friend for dinner.
No, wait. That’s not right!
You get what I mean, though. Comfort food is food that makes me feel good when I eat it, makes me feel better if I need it and brings good memories to the table.
Baked chicken and rice is one of my favorite comfort foods. You’ve had it, haven’t you? White rice mixed with condensed cream of mushroom soup in a 9X13 pan, topped with chicken, baked in a 350 degree oven for an hour or so. The rice gets soft, the chicken gets crispy and all is good.
The only problem is that canned condensed cream of mushroom soup a) is kind of iffy in the ingredient area and b) has wheat flour in it for the most part.
Here’s a recipe that I came up with that lets me still have my favorite comfort food, without a belly ache and need for a nap afterward. It requires a little more work than the traditional recipe, but that’s par for the course with gluten free food.
You could call this slow-food comfort-food, I guess.
GF Comfort Food Baked Chicken and Rice
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 white onion, minced
1/4 cup mushrooms, minced
1 large stick of celery, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons rice flour
1 Cup milk
2 cans chicken broth
1 1/2 Cups rice
Make the soup base first. The key to this recipe coming out right (i.e., the rice is cooked and not crunchy) is to have the liquid boiling when you pour it over the rice.
Start by putting the olive oil into a sauce pan. You could use butter, too, but I like the taste of olive oil in this. A stick of butter is going to give you creamier and more butter-flavored rice. Bring which ever fat you choose to medium-high heat.
Add the minced onion, mushroom (not the sliced mushrooms, only the minced), celery and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are translucent and soft. Season with black pepper and sea salt to taste.
Sprinkle one tablespoon of rice flour over the vegetables and stir in. Repeat with the second tablespoon of rice flour. The goal is to have the flour blend in smoothly with the fat. Stir for a minute or so to cook the flour a little.
Add the cup of milk 1/4 cup at a time, whisking after each addition to keep the soup from having any lumps of rice flour.
Add the two cans of chicken broth, slowly, one at a time, stirring well as you do. Taste to see if you need more salt and pepper and adjust seasoning if necessary.
While the soup comes to a boil, grease a 9X13 pan. Pour 1 1/2 cups of rice into the pan and spread evenly. I usually use a good quality white rice, but brown rice works well, too. Or mix the two. Layer sliced mushrooms over the top of the dry rice.
When the soup is boiling, carefully pour over the rice in the pan. You don’t need to stir it.
Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice and soup in the pan. Place the pieces carefully, because you don’t want them submerged. Large pieces, like bone-in thighs or breasts work best. I’ve done this lots of times with chicken legs, too, and it works well. Sprinkle the tops of the chicken pieces liberally with lemon pepper.
Place uncovered on a middle rack in a 350 degree oven. Bake for one hour, or until the chicken pieces are cooked to 180 degrees on a meat thermometer.The rice should be soft and the mushrooms cooked.
I love when a gluten-free alternative is actually better tasting than the original. After tasting baked chicken and rice this way, I would never go back to the canned mushroom soup variety. This way, I get to know exactly what’s going into the food I’m feeding myself and my family. No mystery flavorings or colorants. Also, starting with hot soup instead of stirring rice into room temperature soup makes a big difference in the end product.
I almost always serve it with sauteed spinach with feta cheese, which is another of my favorite comfort foods.