Sunday, May 10, 2015

Peace and Comfort, a.k.a. Death and Disaster, a.k.a.Joy and Celebration - Chicken and Uncle Bens Long Grain and Wild Rice Casserole

This is one of those family recipes that came from my mother.  Where she got it from, I suspect a Better Homes and Garden cookbook from the 60's.  It has that vibe - you know when beans and wienies with bottle bbq sauce was fine living.  It is the opposite of fine cooking ala Mark Bittman.  It is full of sodium and fat.  It has no fresh vegetables.  But for when it is needed - it is just the thing. My mom always called it Death and Disaster - for when there was a death or disaster in the neighborhood, this is what she made to take over.

I think the habit of making food for your neighbors in time of trouble has become a lost art.  First - do you even know your neighbors?  I don't, not really. Not like when I grew up.  Today we live in a neighborhood, but we don't live life together.  Xbox and Cable, a dozen different churches (or none), with schools so big you will never know your classmates - we don't live life together.  Shame on us.

Later, my sister in law renamed it Joy and Celebration - because it is a fine dish to bring over in time of  Joy and Celebration, and perhaps she is just a little less fatalistic than my mother (and I).  So it became Joy and Celebration.  I made it when we went to visit our new granddaughter.  And visit our daughter and son in law, but lets face it, its all about the bebe.  Joy and Celebration it was.

Recently I had the occasion to make it for a family where the mother of two young children had died. Well, I really did not want to call it death and disaster (although the situation is both), but Joy and Celebration really did not fit.  So what to call it....

In all the events this is shared, it really is about sharing life together.  Sadness and Joy.  Death and Life.  So I have renamed this dish - it shall now and forever more be called Peace and Comfort. Because that is what it is.  It is that family dish that binds together all who share it.  It is, and always has been food made of love.

The recipe is my mothers - with my edits in parenthesis.  This makes a lot of food - it comes from a time when 3 kids was a small family.  Cut the recipe in half or make it in two dishes - one to share and one for your family to eat.

  • 2 chickens, cut up (or just a bunch of chicken thighs - boneless or not, but I do remove the skin.  I think thighs handle the cooking time better than the breasts)
  • 2 packages Uncle Ben's Rice-Wild Rice Mix, but only one of the seasoning mixes.  Mom thinks it is too salty with both. (I agree)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1/2 cup french dressing
  • 2 cans each cream of celery, cream of mushroom, and cream of chicken soup (so that's six cans of soup)- Mom says low fat does not work well - who am I to disagree?
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 soup can water
  • Hazelnuts, a.k.a. filberts (My sister in law omits them - I insist on them)
  • Parmesan cheese (or other)

Mix all ingredients except chicken, nuts and cheese and put 2/3 in bottom of baking pan. Place chicken parts on top. Cover with remaining mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to coat. Add nuts. Bake at 350 for 75-90 minutes. This reheats well.

May it bring peace and comfort to those who you share it with, in times of death and disaster as well as in times of joy and celebration.

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