Every once in a while I catch a show on the Food Network that has an off-the-wall challenge like “Make a main dish using only ingredients you find in these vending machines.” or “Cook for a class of 5th graders using only these utensils while cooking over a fire on the beach.” I personally love those kinds of challenges. This dish came about in very much the same way. It’s dinner time, I don’t want to go back to the store (again) and what can I do with just what is in my pantry, fridge and some chicken that has to be cooked before it goes bad? The results worked really well. In fact, since then, I’ve also done it with tri tip, pork roast and even leftover chicken or steak. This can also be prepared with no meat or cheese to make a delicious vegan dish. If you are a brown rice lover, this is a flavorful way to dress it up for your less accepting of brown rice family members. I think this dish may also work in a slow cooker since I regularly make this dish in a Dutch oven the camp fire. Sure, it’s mostly canned food in this recipe, but you can also use all fresh ingredients in the same proportions (hint: it’s fresher and cheaper that way too). So here is how it all worked out:
Easy Mexican Chicken Rice Casserole
3-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 can corn kernels (undrained)
1 can tomato sauce
1 can stewed tomatoes (undrained)
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (feel free to soak and boil your own beans for this)
2 cups salsa fresca
3 tablespoons oil
1 cup white rice
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup water
Preaheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add oil. Sprinkle chicken with a little taco seasoning on each side and sear for 2 1/2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.
In a large glass baking dish, combine all other ingredients. Put chicken on top and roll to coat.
Cover dish in aluminum foil and bake 40 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from oven, let rest 10-15 minutes, cut chicken into strips and serve on a flour or corn tortilla topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. This dish would also be a good prepare-ahead dish, though if prepared too far in advance, the rice would need to be added closer to cooking time to avoid premature expansion. Like things a little more spicy? Add a diced jalapeno for some heat.
As I think of using all of these canned good stores for one dish, it reminds me to keep stocked up on the basics just in case. If you have a just in case stash at your house, maybe reassess it. Do you have enough food for your whole family? Enough water? Enough medications? Flashlights? Comfortable tennis shoes and first aid kit? Pet food or medications? Toilet paper? Next time you are at the store, maybe spend a couple more dollars and get some more necessities you may need “just in case”. Whenever possible, save canned foods for when they are really needed and savor and be grateful for the flavors of what is in season today.