Dinner

Baked Chicken Over Rice & Why I’m Mad At Campbell’s Soup

I am not always the best at accepting change. Weirdly, especially when it comes to recipes and food. A trait I picked up from my mother and already see creeping its way into my 12-year-old son’s brain. The truth is the world of food is constantly evolving because innovation is the key to success in a late-stage capitalist society where every company is afraid its obsolescence is just around the corner. I get it. You’ve got to come up with the next thing. Just selling the thing you’ve done well for the past 75 years isn’t good enough. We’re also always looking for the next craze – remember the Arugula Insanity of the mid-2000s? People thought of it as new but the vintage cookbooks I have are filled with Arugula recipes. Every time I type Arugula I hear my mom saying “Arugula?!?” whenever she saw it on a menu for about five years straight.

Truth be told, the innovation and evolution of food is a good thing that I wholeheartedly support. It’s important that we continue to widen our scope. And all of this is just a product of the world we live in. And normally I’m in for the ride. I’m about the next thing. I’m buying the thing with the new label that looks prettier in my pantry.

But.

I’m mad as hell as Campbell’s Soup. They did something. They did it. They know they did it. I know they did it. And yet I see no explanation of what was done roaming the internet cafes of consumer gossip. Their soups are not the same consistency anymore. That is a hard, cold, depressing fact. And one that is making me have to rework the beloved heirloom recipes that require that soupy assistance.

This Baked Chicken Recipe is the first one I noticed the change on. This is why I’ve used this particular blog post to make my strong feelings known. There’s nothing to be done. Except maybe cook this dish perfectly and laugh into the sky because I figured you out, Campbell’s! You thought you could destroy it, but you’ve only made it stronger. Haha!

Sorry.

This dish does take some considerable prep time, but most of it is downtime so plan to make it on a day when you can do some initial dinner work earlier. The pay off is a really savory, warm, earthy dish that remains one of the top ten dinners of my youth. I like to serve it with green beans and cranberries (however you prefer them).

Where Have All The Boned Chicken Breast Gone?

Remember when you had the option of boneless chicken or bone-in, skin-on chicken breast? I certainly do because this recipe calls the latter. The answer to their disappearance isn’t super clear cut. Essentially it boils down to the decreasing popularity of bone-in meats in general. Most larger chains can’t justify the cost of producing them with the return. Which sucks because a nice bone-in, skin-on chicken breast is a delicious treat. Crispy, tender, and honestly most of the time more flavorful than its boneless sister.

If you’re lucky you might be able to find a local butcher or smaller grocer that still sells these or, even luckier still, that might be willing to do the cut for you per order. Here in Omaha, we have the perfect little gem knowns as Fareway Meat Market, and they are generally pretty helpful about any cut of meat I might be searching for. I’ve also had some luck finding them occasionally at Whole Foods. But the price is considerable (what a shocker). The thing is, this recipe needs the bone-in and it really benefits from the skin on. The skin helps keep the juices in and crisps up beautifully and the bone helps keep the chicken structurally sturdy through the cooking process.

Of course, we can’t always spend 6 hours searching for 4 chicken breasts. So, sometimes, if I’m short on budget or time or, you know, in the middle of a pandemic, I’ll just substitute bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs which are much easier to find. Obviously, this changes the flavor of the dish, dark meat vs. white meat. But, it is still really delicious. If you have the time, money, and fortitude go all in for the chicken breasts and you’ll be happy you did. But, don’t fret if you settle for the thighs. They are an unsung hero of cuts of chicken that, I think, deserve more action at the dinner table. The important part is that, whatever chicken parts you get, they have the bone and the skin. They are crucial parts of what makes this dish so special.

Baked Chicken Over Rice

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1/4 C unsalted butter
  • 1 C brown rice
  • 1 T salt
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or approx. 6-8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Instruments

  • Can opener
  • Various measuring cups and spoons
  • Medium saucepan
  • 9 x 13 baking dish
  • Wooden spoon

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, bring to a boil 2 to 3 cups of water and salt. Add rice and boil for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain.
  2. In a medium saucepan, over medium high-ish heat, combine the 3 soups and butter and heat thoroughly.
  3. Reserve 1 C of the liquid.
  4. Add the brown rice and let the mixture sit for two hours, covered. The liquid isn’t necessarily going to absorb, but the process will soften the parboiled rice a bit before cooking.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325 F/165 C/Gas Mark 3.
  6. Pour the mixture into your baking dish and spread evenly. Place the chicken breasts on top of the rice mixture, evenly dispersed in the pan.
  7. Drizzle the reserved soup mixture over the chicken.
  8. Bake for 2 to 3 hours until the rice is fully cooked, the chicken skin is a deep golden brown, and the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 165 F.

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