I volunteered to make a casserole to feed a family of four, which had to pass a great deal of criteria.
The day I promised to deliver, my schedule was booked, therefore said dish must be made a day in advance, baked off the following evening, and delivered hot at supper-time. It had to be a complete meal in one dish — protein, starch and vegetables — and satisfy palates that preferred spicy to run-of-the-mill, yet it must also be teenage,fast-food-palate friendly.
Not done yet. This dish must be no-bones hassle and scoopable — lap-friendly, if required. I also wanted a colorful, festive plate, with enough food so there would be leftovers the next day for the microwave.
You’d think I’d have the perfect recipe up my sleeve. In fact, I did not. It’s clear there’s a deficit in my arsenal, so I developed the following, deciding a Tex-Mex chicken dish would be perfect. To me, Tex-Mex implies food that’s not authentic to Mexican traditional cooking, but certainly more authentic than what you’d receive at a talking chihuahua chain. And — vegetarians aside — who can take issue with skinless, boneless chicken breasts? I had some ideas.
I worried chicken minus skin and bones would dry out in the casserole, so I purchased air-chilled chicken breasts. To me, this chicken is always worth the extra cash. According to meatpoultry.com, “Air-chilling or water-chilling chicken refers to the method used to cool the birds down after they are slaughtered…Water-chilled birds are dipped into ice cold water containing chlorine. Air-chilled chickens are cooled down by being moved through a cold air process.”
Since air-chilled chickens don’t depend on ice-water for chilling, they don’t absorb so much excess water, which may contain chlorine. As well, the chicken is juicier and more tender.To my palate, air-chilled chicken, especially the breasts, provide the best eating experience.
The pre-spiced canned tomatoes are a work horse in the recipe. I used two cans of Rotel, one with jalapeno and the other spiked with lime. Check out the Latin section of local groceries and let your palate be your guide.You may certainly use unadulterated diced tomatoes, but the rice will need additional punch; instinct is required to add your signature.
Don’t let the lengthy directions throw you off; it’s not difficult to make. Keep in mind the hoops this casserole had to jump through to please.
(Easter’s this weekend; here’s a link to my favorite holiday recipes.)
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