My mom used to make a tasty chicken and rice casserole when I was a kid. She made it for us when she visited last December and the girls seemed to like it. I thought of the dish last week for some reason while trying to plan some meals. I set out to make my own version using brown rice, green olives, and cheese, all of which were different ingredients than what was in my mom’s version. The chicken itself is different, as I used boneless thigh meat instead of whole pieces. I was frankly surprised at how well it turned out. When I hear the words “brown rice casserole” I think of the food that Jenna and I sometimes ate at the campus vegetarian restaurant in college (which was not that bad actually). This one tasted rich, hearty, creamy, and very satisfying – perfect for a freezing day in March.
Brown Rice and Chicken Casserole (serves 4-6)
1-1/3 cup brown rice
2-2/3 cups water
1 Tablespoon butter
4 boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
6 ounces grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup roughly chopped green olives
First, cook the brown rice. Bring the water to a boil with the first measure of butter and a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, wash the rice and drain well. Add the rice to the boiling water, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the rice is completely cooked. Set aside.
Next, cut the chicken into large bite-size pieces. Toss with flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the floured chicken pieces and cook for several minutes on each side until they are lightly browned (they do not need to be fully cooked at this point). Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Melt the butter in the same pan. Add the onion and saute for several minutes until lightly browned. Add the garlic, cumin, and the final 1 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
Now, add the carrots, red pepper and stock. Cover and cook over medium heat for several minutes, or until the vegetables just start to soften. Turn off the heat. Mix in the cooked chicken, followed by the cooked brown rice, the grated cheese and the green olives. Mix it all together gently, but thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to a buttered casserole dish, preferably one with a cover. Put the cover on and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.