When it comes to cooking, I rely on recipes more for inspiration than for actual directions. Such was the case with the variation of chicken and rice. I knew I was cooking with chicken breasts, but otherwise had no idea where the meal was going until browsing through several cookbooks. I then turned to my pantry to see what was on hand and came up with this flavorful and satisfying variation of chicken and rice.
1 package boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 9 pieces)
8 oz sliced blanched almonds
8 oz dried apricot
4 C frozen mixed vegetables thawed
3 C brown and wild rice
1 T red pepper flakes
¼ C diced onion
¼ C diced green pepper
2 t minced garlic
1 stick butter
Olive oil or Grapeseed oil (to stir-fry veggies).
4 C water or chicken broth
1 C grated cheese (optional)
¼ C soy sauce
2 T brown mustard
1 T rice vinegar
1 T red pepper flakes
While the vegetables and chicken breasts were thawing, I diced most of the dried apricot slices, reserving a few to garnish the top of the dish. After dicing the apricot, I mixed it with the sliced almond, red pepper flakes, and rice (I put all the ingredients in a large lidded container and shook vigorously until the rice, almonds, and apricot pieces were evenly combined), and set aside.
I prepared the marinade and added the chicken breast pieces, mixing and turning them until they were all completely covered. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
In a deep baking dish or roaster place the stick of butter and put in the oven as it preheats to 350°. Use the middle rack of the oven.
While the oven is preheating, heat up a wok or large skillet.
When the butter is completely melted, remove the roaster from the oven and place the chicken breasts in the pan. Return to the oven.
While the chicken is in the oven, add the onion, pepper, and garlic to the wok or skillet and heat until the onion is translucent. Add salt, pepper (and maybe a dash of powdered cayenne). Add the other mixed vegetables and mix thoroughly. Turn off the heat.
Remove the chicken from the oven and spread about ½ the vegetables over the chicken.
Spread the rice, almond, and apricot mixture over the chicken and vegetables.
Then spread the remaining vegetables on top. I like Monterrey Jack cheese with this dish so spread 1 cup shredded cheese over all. Then garnish with the reserved apricot slices. Finally, pour 4 cups water or chicken broth into the pan.
Cover with foil and bake for 1 ½ hours. Remove the foil and let bake 15 minutes more until the cheese and apricots brown.
The mixture of savory from the red pepper flakes and sweet from the apricot as well as the crunchiness of the almonds gave the dish an appealing flavor profile and texture. The friends who shared in the meal enjoyed it, so in some variation (I rarely cook anything the same way twice) a fruited chicken and rice will make it into my repertoire.