If I had to get out a recipe and make a supper dish following the instructions, and having to measure this or that, and cook something for eight and a half minutes, then simmer for ten, and add five things, well, this time of year, it just won’t happen. I’m saving that kind of energy for my holiday baking.
Neither do I want to rely entirely on prepared foods, though a fresh pizza from the store is a welcome fast supper. And I have some homemade “prepared” foods in the freezer, like baked beans, spaghetti sauce, chili—those kinds of things I can easily make more of than we will eat in any one meal, and so set a portion aside for exactly this kind of situation. As long as I remember to thaw it.
The other evening, though, I gazed at the package of chicken thighs I had pulled out thinking we had not had chicken for a while, and perhaps Toby would enjoy some, and recalled a chicken and rice dish I had observed a friend make a few years ago, and thought, I bet that would taste really good. It is brainlessly simple. I used barley instead of rice, but you could also use orzo, or couscous to the same effect.
All I did, and all you have to do, too, is slice up a large onion, or some leeks, and put them with a mere smear of oil in a heavy skillet, then plop the chicken pieces on top, sprinkle the rice, or barley or whatever, in the spaces in between the chicken, add some salt and pepper, then pour in water until the grain is covered. Put it over a medium heat and slap a lid on it. Come back in fifteen minutes to check it, add more water if needed, and give it another fifteen, and supper ought to be ready.
You can cook this in the oven, if you want, at 350 degrees. I prefer to do it on top of the stove so I will smell it, and remember I am making supper.
To keep it from being hopelessly boring, add chutney. That is, after all, why I make bucket loads of the stuff out of peaches, rhubarb, green tomatoes, etc. Or add your favorite condiment, whatever it may be, like barbecue sauce, or salsa, or even salad dressing.
Steam up a couple of vegetables for the green side of the meal, salad, if you have the energy, and before long you’ll have a relatively wholesome supper done with, and you can get on out of the house for the concert or meeting, or back to trimming your tree.
Here is the non-recipe.
A large onion, sliced
Cut up chicken pieces
Barley, rice, or small pasta
Put a mere dribble of oil in a heavy skillet and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Distribute the onion slices over the bottom, and set the chicken in a single layer on top of the onions. Sprinkle rice or barley in between the chicken pieces about a half inch deep. Add water to cover the grain, sprinkle on salt and pepper. Cover with a lid, and cook over a moderate heat for fifteen minutes. Check, sampling the grain, and add a little more water if necessary. Cover again, and cook for another fifteen minutes.
Top with a condiment and serve.
Makes as many servings as pieces of chicken allow.