Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken and Rice

One way to save time and make your life easier with a busy schedule is to use a slow cooker. The meal can be prepared hours ahead of time and served with little effort during the busy dinner hour. Using a ready-made product (seasoned rice from a box), makes it even easier, with very little measuring or searching for spices and other flavorings.

  • 1 to 2 pounds chicken thighs (depending on how many people you're trying to serve)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 box seasoned rice (such as Rice-A-Roni)
  • water
  • salt and fresh ground pepper

Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat and add the chicken. You are not cooking it through, just browning the surface. Work in batches, if necessary, to ensure the chicken cooks in a single layer on the bottom of the pan with plenty of space around each piece. Move each to the slow cooker as they finish browning. When all chicken is browned and removed to the slow cooker, add remaining tablespoon of oil and vegetables. Saute until the onion and celery start to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add chicken broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits. Pour vegetables and broth into the slow cooker with the chicken. Add the seasoning packet from the rice mix. Make sure there is enough liquid in the slow cooker to keep everything moist by adding a little water or broth if necessary (do not cover or submerge everything in the water - you probably won't add more than 1/2 cup depending on the size of your slow cooker). Put the lid on the slow cooker and turn on low. Cook for 6-8 hours or until the carrots are tender and the chicken has an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Remove the cooked chicken from the pot and put on a clean cutting board, loosely tented with aluminum foil. Turn the slow cooker to high and add the boxed rice and as much water as the instructions say to use for standard stovetop cooking. Stir the rice into the vegetables and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. When there is about 5 minutes left, debone the chicken with your fingers (use clean latex or vinyl gloves if it's still to hot to handle). Stir the chicken meat back into the rice mixture, cover and cook until the chicken is hot and the rice is tender, about 3 more minutes.

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