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Your Favorite Pantry-Based Comfort Meals

Howdy Hounds,

As a blizzard descends on Boston, I am craving that kind of comfort food that speaks of childhood and home and warm things -- especially those meals that can be assembled from a decently stocked freezer and pantry. I've got tonight covered with an adaptation of my mom's classic chicken on rice recipe. What are your favorites? Share, and I'll try a few this weekend!

And in the spirit of sharing, here's the recipe for chicken on rice (one of the few things I'm addicted to that relies on things like cream of mushroom soup and dry onion soup mix!)

Momma Litchick's Chicken on Rice

Preheat oven to 350.

Take your favorite assemblage of skin-on chicken pieces (skinless works too, it's just not as tasty), sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika, and brown them skin-side-down in a hot oven-safe pan, lightly coated with your favorite oil. When browned, remove chicken from pan, and deglaze the pan with a little chicken broth/stock -- just enough to dissolve the fond. Turn off the burner and assemble the rest of the dish.

Into the pan (which still has the small amount of deglazing liquid), pour in one cup of uncooked white rice, making an even layer. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice (skin side up). Spoon (undiluted) cream of mushroom soup evenly around the pan, spreading some on top of the chicken pieces. (It will be gloopy.) Sprinkle the contents of one package (or one-half package, if you prefer) of Lipton's Dry Onion Soup Mix over the contents of the pan. Next, pour 2c of chicken broth/stock into the pan. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the gloopy mushroom soup bits a little. Finish with a generous sprinkle of good paprika (I like Penzey's Spanish Smoked Paprika for this) over the contents of the whole pan. For me, the more paprika the better, but do this to your taste.

Cover the pan (foil will do) and put the whole sh'bang into the over for an hour. After an hour, uncover the pan and cook for another half-hour. Then you're done!

Sometimes I like to include sauteed onions with the rice; or to include cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, or mushroom pieces nestled into the pan next to the chicken. Also, you can get away with this whole dish without browning the chicken first. I find it adds a nice layer of flavor, but it's not necessary if you're pressed for time.

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  1. There is a long thread on the topic of cooking out of the cupboard/pantry that has some really great ideas. Check it out.

    However, I am confused by your use of a chicken. Personally, cream of mushroom soup and onion soup mix are not an option for me, even for desparation dinners. I just do not like those oversalty processed flavors. The one exception is a family crab dip they insist on for Thanksgiving although I have found an alternate I am going to use next time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: coconutz

      different people keep different things in their pantries. i don't have anything like that either.

      but i really like making soup in this kind of weather, and have a nice ginger chicken soup simmering away. for breakfast i will have very soft scrambled eggs and bacon.

      1. re: coconutz

        Although lots of folks on CH might not use prepared soup, I'm not sure why it would be confusing that one person would like it. We all have different tastebuds, and comfort food, especially, is something that is so connected to childhood flavors-some of us love stuff we had as kids that we might never start eating as adults.

      2. I love a good meatloaf on a night like you are describing. My "recipe" is as follows:

        1 # lean ground beef
        1# ground veal
        1 egg
        panko bread crumbs
        freeze-dried onions (the ONLY recipe I ever use them in!)
        1 small can tomato sauce
        salt and pepper to taste

        Bake at 350-375 for about an hour.

        I serve it with baked potatoes and baked squash. I figure if I'm going to heat up the oven, I'll efficiently use the electricity!!!

        Stay warm and enjoy! I'm in Oregon and you probably don't want to know that it was 68 today and I planted primroses...so I won't tell you that! :-)


        1. Thanks for sharing your recipe, LitChick....it's wonderful to have comforting recipes on hand for dreary weather. I've got a few chicken thighs in my freezer and half a envelope of onion soup mix from Super Bowl entertaining...maybe I'll give your mom's recipe a try.

          As refined as the palate can become, some comfort foods (even those based on processed ingredients) never lose their soothing qualities. As long as it tastes good.... :)

          1. Very simple pasta dish, I made it the other night:
            Cook some spaghetti/fettucini/pasta of your choice
            In a pan, heat equal portions of butter and olive oil
            Fry some anchovies in the butter and olive oil
            Add cooked pasta, along with some of the pasta water
            Add parmesan cheese (I use locatelli)
            I like it simple, of course if you had some sundried tomatoes or black olives on hand that wouldn't be bad either, add a dash of worcestershire, etc. etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JCap

              I do a dish like this, but I first *nearly* burn lots of sliced garlic in olive oil, then add and dissolve the anchovies. Add more olive oil, if needed, and toss cooked spaghetti in it. Parsley would be a good idea, but not necessary--just make sure all parties present have some, especially if there's any kissing on the menu.

            2. Continuing the recurring pasta-based theme, my favorite was from my mom, who no doubt simply found it floating around in the Midwestern milieu: cook and drain a pound of elbow macaroni. Brown a pound of ground beef, add chopped onion and green pepper, cook until transparent. Add a can each of chopped tomatoes and red kidney beans plus the macaroni, season to taste, cover and simmer until you can't stand to wait any longer. With grated cheddar cheese added, our school cafeteria called this "Marietta." We had no name for the uncheesed version.

              1. Hi Litchick
                Just wanted you to know that I love this chicken and rice dish. With the cold Wisconsin winter we have had, I've been craving casseroles, etc. My boyfriend is now requesting this on a regular basis. We've added peas one time, mushrooms and onions every time, cauliflower once and broccoli one time. It's awesome. The true definition of comfort food! Thanks!

                3 Replies
                1. re: sophia519

                  Mine would be salmon patties with rice or grits, and a mixed green salad. I always have a can of salmon in the pantry. I use either panko, crushed croutons or saltines, an egg, some chopped onion, sometimes fresh corn if available or even black beans. And I always coat them with leftover crumbs before frying in olive oil.

                  Will, my Mom made something with a pound of browned groud beef, macaroni and a can of tomato juice. That was it, and we called it goulash. I loved it!

                  1. re: riverwood

                    In our house, we like spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chili. It's addictive!

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I'm oging to try the chicken recipe! I've posted this one before, but it's a family favorite, and so simple....

                      Mom's Jambalaya:
                      Saute coarsely chopped onion, red or green (or both) bell peppers, and some celery until soft and browned, in a splash of whatever oil you have handy.
                      Add canned chopped tomatoes and juice - again, any kind you have handy: mexican style, whole tomatoes, home-canned, whatever. It should be kinda soupy.
                      Add some sliced smoked sausage - hot or mild, whatever you like and have available; a couple spoons of brown sugar, and as much Tabasco Sauce as you can stand.
                      Simmer for 10-15 minutes, add some fresh parsley if you have it, and serve over hot rice (or french bread if you don't feel like cooking rice). I don't have measurements, because I vary it depending on how many folks show up for supper. At times, I have added chicken, shrimp, or okra. If you feel like using two pans, you can slice and boil some of the grease out of the sausage before adding it. I keep sliced peppers in the freezer, and they're fine for this.

                      I love salmon patties, too! I'll have to try the black bean addition. I usually serve 'em with a chile sauce (mix up sour cream and canned chipotles in adobo sauce, a staple in my pantry!)

                      Another pantry favorite is a sort of Basque garlic soup - saute loads of chopped garlic in quite a bit of good olive oil (maybe one head garlic plus a 1/4 + cup oil), add a spoonful of smoked spanish paprika. Add in a 2-4 slices of stale bread, and mix well and let the bread brown a little. Then add some good stock/broth (I've used both chicken and beef, maybe 2-3 cups). Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes add salt to taste, and then break a couple of eggs into it and let them poach. It looks terrible, but it is soooo good. It will cure anything but a broken heart....

                2. Pantry comfort meal... pasta with a drizzle of EVOO and Ragu - traditional flavor. If time and/or the freezer allows, some ground beef seasoned will with s&p and sauteed with onions and garlic.

                  1. Eggs poached in doctored-up* canned refried beans. For breakfast this morning.

                    *quick saute of green onions, garlic and toasted ground cumin with a dash of hot sauce. Thinned with chicken broth or water.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: toodie jane

                      I've done that in my microwave oven: Pork and beans in a glass bowl, stirred with chopped jalapeƱo, whatever cheese I've got lying around the fridge sliced and poked into the mixture, and two eggs broken on top, yolks and whites poked with the tip of a sharp knife. Microwave, covered tightly, until eggs are done to my liking (rare) and the cheese is melty. The perfect lunch.

                    2. Pantry meals have tended to be thoughtless for me in the past: adobo, pasta with a quick sauce, roasted joints. Lately I've been trying to give it a little more thought. Last week I had plenty of filling left over from the boureki I made for Easter so I bought some eggplants and used canned tomatoes to make musaqa. This week chicken legs were on sale, so I stewed them in tomato sauce I spiced with aleppo pepper, sambal oelek and chorizo picante. Next week, whatever protein's on sale will lead to something entirely new.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JungMann

                        I like your style, JungMann! That's exactly how I cook for the most part--whatever's on sale, seasoned with whatever I've got! They usually turn out pretty well, too, although we're not too picky either in this household...

                        Just put in the oven a tray of chicken drums laid on a bed of thick-sliced onions, and seasoned with hoisin sauce, dark soy sauce, garlic, a splash of cooking wine, sweet chili sauce, and just a sprinkling of cornstarch for the sauce to come together. When it's done I'll add a bit of sesame oil and serve it over rice. Or pasta. Or maybe some potato.

                        Definitely a warming meal for this last blast of below-zero weather we got today, as well as leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

                      2. Mac'n'cheese- cheese sauce and whatever pasta I've got the most of, either on its own or with added chipotles, ham, peas, spinach, sriracha.

                        Black beans on rice. One can of diced tomatoes, two cans of black beans, chili powder. Simmer for half an hour and serve on rice. Very simple, and also cheap.

                        Grilled cheese, with or without extras.

                        1. this sounds yummy.Thanks!

                          1. I love mac and cheese, most especially the CI recipe from the old edition of The Best Recipe for stovetop mac'n'cheese, that uses eggs and evaporated milk and part American cheese. I used to make mac'n'cheese with caramelized onions and wine and aged sharp cheddar-have to admit I love this other recipe so much more....

                            1. My favorite pantry comfort food is taking two packages of a dry chicken noodle soup mix. I use Knorr's Fideo or Lipton's oodles of noodles. Make using about only 3/4 of the water it calls for. (I like things salty) then I make bisquick dumplings and add to the boiling soup. Serve with butter on top of the dumplings. Mmmmm. Cures whatever ails me.