In the summer of 2004, I stayed with my aunt Alma. She’s actually my great aunt, because she is my grandfather’s sister, but she is more like a mom to me. (Confusing enough?) I also look a lot like her and I don’t look at all like my mom and dad.
That summer I lived with her was one of the best of my life. I can’t quite put it into words. Was it the fact that we sat around for hours talking? That she taught me how to make so many recipes? That she had more dates than I did? (Still a little jealous about that one! ;)) That she taught me how to work hard and love generously? That a southern woman can have gentleness and charm but still know how to have a sense of humor and a sharp mind?
Maybe it’s because I felt like I had the mother/daughter relationship I’d always wanted.
And all of the above.
This is her chicken and rice recipe.
Aunt Alma almost always (nice alliteration!) has a girls’ night. Her best friends get together every week and they are HILARIOUS. That summer, they would all get together and watch American Idol on Wednesday. We’d record Tuesday night’s show and then we’d sit together on Wednesday and watch the performances and then the results show.
That night, I remember standing in the little kitchen on Nebraska Street and watching her make this chicken. The smell of the onions and celery sauteing filled the whole house. As we sat down with our plates, exclaiming over how delicious this meal was and laughing with each other, it quickly became a favorite night of mine. It didn’t matter that I was a relative kid. I was a woman. I was family. I belonged.
I still miss that little old house and her soft blue couch. (She’s since moved and married.)
Okay, ready to try that chicken now?
Chicken and Rice
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 stick butter
1 chicken, cut up or 3-4 chicken breasts
1 can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
1 cup rice
2 cups water
1 package onion soup mix
First, chop your onion and celery. Saute with butter in a skillet or in the oven. I added a clove of garlic because I had it lying around.
While your veggies are sauteing, add water and rice and begin to precook in the microwave. Approximately 8-10 minutes. If it’s brown rice, it will take closer to 10. I would recommend a larger container than the Pyrex cup… I may or may not have boiled over in my own microwave. Also, season one side of the chicken with salt.
Then, I like to spread a little butter in the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish.
Then, mix your onion soup mix, onions and celery, and your cream of chicken/mushroom soup in your dish.
Add your semi-cooked rice and a little more water, approximately a cup. Place chicken breasts salt side down in the dish. Then, sprinkle pepper or paprika over the top of the chicken breasts. I didn’t have any paprika, so I added pepper.
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 min – 1 hour until done.
The trickiest part is getting the rice done before the chicken gets dry. That’s why I recommend pre-cooking the rice. This particular time the dish would have been PERFECT but I answered the phone and overcooked the chicken just a wee bit. Note: If you cut the chicken up too small, you run a great risk of overcooking the chicken. I’ve learned this lesson by experience.
Hey, we all make mistakes, right?
I’m hungry now.