Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chicken Cheddar Bacon Ranch Rice Bake

People, can we get a HALLELUJAH that the election is finally over? Can we all breathe a collective sigh of relief? Ahhhh. No matter who you voted for, I think we're all happy that we'll no longer be subjected to the phone calls, mailings, and television and radio ads. I am ready to move on with my life, that's for sure.

My son's preschool class also voted on Tuesday, but they voted in a food election: spaghetti vs. macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese won by a 3 to 1 margin. I hear that mac and cheese had an irresistible platform: a promise to always be creamy, cheesy, comforting and delicious. I don't think spaghetti stood a chance.

If mac and cheese went up against this rice, though? Well, the results might have been very different. Not only is this casserole creamy, cheesy, comforting, and delicious, it's also ranch-y and loaded with bacon. It's simple to make and innovative, too, with the rice cooking directly in the cheese sauce (the rice absorbs the sauce's flavor and thickens it, so there's no need for cream soups in this recipe). It's adaptable, and would be delicious with pimientos and/or broccoli stirred in. It would be very, very hard to beat, in any type of election or at dinner time. Our whole family loved it, especially Andrew, who ate two huge helpings. Chicken Cheddar Bacon Ranch Rice for President! Stay tuned for 2016.

Chicken Cheddar Bacon Ranch Rice Bake

4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 1/2 cups milk
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
1 cup sour cream
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup cooked crumbled bacon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions until translucent and softened. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and cook and stir for 30 seconds.

3. Add flour and mix well for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is bubbling. Stir stock, milk, and ranch seasoning into flour mixture.Turn heat to medium high and add one cup cheese and continue to whisk as mixture comes to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Add rice and lower heat to medium low. Cook until the rice absorbs most of the liquid and is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, then stir in the chicken and bacon.

5. Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch casserole. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese evenly over the rice. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbling.