Chicken and Rice Casserole with Lemon and Parmesan

I had planned for a 6:30 dinner, but took a short siesta. When I awoke at 5pm, I realized that I should have begun brining the chicken before my nap. In the end, we ate at 8pm; that in itself was not a big problem during these summer months. However, the recipe does have fundamental problems: it made a huge mess, was too much work, and yielded too little reward.  I am certain that I will never make this recipe again, but not because my family didn’t like it. It was quite similar to chicken risotto or arroz con pollo, both of which I love. There are simply better ways to arrive at a 3-1/2 stars meal.

Long process for average results; not recommended

While I do have a lot of complains about this recipe, it was delicious. My boys gave the results four stars, but I had to reduce it to 3-1/2 because of the issues below.

Issues:

  1. My biggest issue with this recipe is the huge mess it made of my kitchen. Two skillets (one regular another non-stick), two Pyrex casserole dishes, three bowls, two cutting boards, and the food processor. Come on Chris; I love cooking for 3 hours, but the last thing I want to do afterwards is clean up a disaster area.
  2. The recipe calls for 3 whole chicken breasts; totaling 4-1/2 pounds. Of course, my grocery store sells split breasts, so I used 6 split breasts.
  3. The recipe is extremely inefficient, using only 2 of the 6 breast halves. It would have been better to pare the recipe down, because I don’t always want 3-pounds of leftover chicken.
  4. Unless you have super lemons, it takes two lemons to yield 3 tablespoons of juice.

Cost: $8.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess?  Huge mess!
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinnertime: 8:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe requires two recipes;  here and here. Actually, there is a third recipe for crunchy bread crumbs, but instead I used Ritz Crackers. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1/2 cup table salt with 4 cups of water
6 split, bone-in, skin-on chicken breast
Ground black pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium shallot
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 fresh sprig fresh thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Trim away attached ribs, which have very little meat but take up a lot of space in your skillet.
  2. To brine chicken, use a very large bowl or container. Mix together 2 quarts of cold water and 1/2 cup table salt. Place chicken in brine, cover with plastic wrap and and refrigerate for 1 hour. Line large 13”x9” Pyrex casserole dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  3. Throw away brine, and rinse chicken. Pat dry using paper towels, and sprinkle skin-side with pepper.
  4. While cooking the chicken on the stovetop, preheat oven to 450-degrees, adjusting the oven rack to the middle position.  Also mince your shallot (about 3 tablespoons)
  5. Place 12” regular skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil until hot. Place 3 pieces of chicken in skillet, skin-side down, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove chicken and place, skin-side up, into your prepared 13″x9″ casserole dish. Cook the remaining chicken using the remaining 2 teaspoons oil.
  6. Bake chicken in your 450-degree oven for 20 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken is 160-degrees.
  7. While the chicken bakes, reduce stovetop heat to medium. Saute the shallot in the fat remaining in the skillet for 1 minutes.
  8. Add broth, bay leaves, and thyme to skillet. Deglaze the  skillet and simmer for 15 minutes. It should reduce to 3 cups, then set aside until needed.
  9. When the chicken reaches 160-degrees, place it to a serving platter. Allow to rest, uncovered.
  10. Reserve 4 chicken breast halves, as the casserole recipe only uses 2 of your 6 pieces. Also reserve 1-1/2 cups of jus.

Preparing the Casserole:

2 tablespoons unsalted
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
3 medium garlic cloves
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups chicken jus (from above)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cooked chicken breasts (from above)
8-oz asparagus (about 1/2 bunch)
1-1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
25 Ritz crackers

  1. After removing chicken from oven, reduce temperature to 400-degrees.
  2. Peel 2 medium carrots and slice thin. Peel 3 garlic cloves. Dice 1 medium onion. Trim away the tough ends of the asparagus and cut into 1″ lengths. Shred chicken in a clean bowl using two forks. Using a food processor, crush 25 Ritz crackers into coarse crumbs. Grate your Parmesan cheese, which should yield about 3/4-cup.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 12” nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the foaming has subsided, saute the sliced carrots and diced onion and cook for 6 minutes.
  4. Press garlic cloves directly into skillet and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the rice and stir for another 30 seconds. Add the water, chicken jus, heavy cream, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring up to a simmer, then reduce to low heat, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Stir often. It will be ready when the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and is barely tender.
  6. Add shredded chicken, asparagus, Parmesan, lemon juice, and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.
  7. Put entire mixture into an 8″ square baking dish. Evenly top with Ritz crumbs, and bake for 10 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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