I first started making this dish for my parents and siblings when I was in high school. As the eldest girl, I claimed free reign over the kitchen. Over the years I transitioned the recipe from using Cornish hens and boxed rice mix to easier-to-wield chicken pieces and a homemade blend of rice and seasonings.
I've only used long-grain rice in this dish, but my new Costco find of short-grain brown rice has me eager to make this again soon.
Don't be intimidated by the long cooking time; this is to accommodate the hands-off aspect of cooking the brown rice and the chicken together. Drippings from the chicken blend with the rice and seasonings to make a delicious sauce.
Be patient and curl up with a good book while you wait. You really do get to put your feet up with this meal, and the results will have your diners licking their plates.
I confess the simplicity of this recipe made me a bit nervous. Could I really throw brown rice and chicken in the oven together? Would they be ready at the same time? The answer is a resounding yes.
As Jessica mentions, this does bake for nearly two hours, and into the second hour I was still nervous, as the rice didn't appear to be soaking up the liquid. But then, around 1 hour 50 minutes, boom — the rice was moist, fluffy, and ready, seemingly all at once.
The long baking time does lead us to recommend bone-in chicken thighs instead of breasts, however. I also added a small amount of smoked paprika for flavor and color.
All in all, this is an incredibly easy and quick freezer meal to assemble — just a bit of chopping and mixing and it's ready to freeze. On the other end, it bakes up delicious, savory, and comforting. A great family meal.
— Faith, February 2015
Serve This With
Chicken and Wild Rice Bake
Serves 4 to 6
sliced fresh mushrooms
bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4 large)
vinaigrette of choice
long-grain brown rice
freshly ground black peppper
low-sodium chicken broth
Prep your bags: Label a 2-gallon freezer bag “Chicken and Wild Rice Bake” and include baking instructions. You will also need a gallon-sized bag, a quart-sized bag, and a sandwich bag. (If you prefer not to use bags you can use glass freezer containers instead.)
Prep the vegetables: Spread the onion, mushrooms, and celery in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for about 20 minutes. After they are frozen, remove them from the freezer, place them in the sandwich bag, and seal.
Prep the chicken: Combine the chicken thighs and vinaigrette in a gallon-size freezer bag. Seal and massage the bag to coat the chicken.
Prep the rice: Combine the brown rice, wild rice, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper in the quart-size freezer bag.
Place all 3 bags in the labeled 2-gallon bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Remove the bag containing the marinade and chicken from the larger bag. Place the bag of chicken in a dish and thaw overnight in the refrigerator or until completely thawed. The remaining ingredients can stay in the freezer.
When ready to cook, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Combine the rice mixture and the vegetables in the baking dish. Stir in the broth. Remove the thawed chicken pieces from the marinade and place them atop the rice. Discard the marinade left in the bag.
Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake until the rice absorbs most of the liquid and the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear, 45 minutes to 1 hour more. Serve immediately.
Vinaiagrette: Use your favorite vinaigrette here, or whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar, 1 teaspoon mustard, and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Reprinted with permission from Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook by Jessica Fisher, copyright © 2012. Published by Harvard Common Press.