Recipe Review: Chicken and Rice a la Food Lab

Some things…

this is a garbage system.

  1. The threshold on my AC unit between “Why do you hate me” cold and “I want to die” hot is only visible by microscope.
  2. My birthday was last week!
  3. I recently had a bit of a crohn’s flare.

I’ve mentioned it briefly in the past, but to clarify, I have crohn’s disease. And for those unfamiliar with the comings and goings of autoimmune diseases, you deal in ebbs and flows. Flares and remission. Totally fine and not-at-all fine.

Or in the case of my and my Crohnie-colon, totally fine and low-to-medium fine. I’m pretty lucky as crohn’s disease goes, but the flares are there and one struck this week.

When that happens, there is a certain diet I cling to while I wait for my medicine to dole out some talking-tos. The food is as inoffensive as possible, so your system can get back online while you also don’t pass out, and inadvertently pull a hilarious prank on your officemate.

My pranks are really great.

Basically-real thought processes when in dietary recovery mode:

Does this thing I’m eating taste like something?
Well, stop eating it!

Am I enjoying eating this thing?
…I mean, kind of.
What are you thinking?!? (Left hand smacks the Salt & Vinegar chips out of right hand)

How’s that baked chicken and plain rice treating you?
…Tastes like sadness.

For me, take the BRAT diet- bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast- and add plain chicken. BRACT. BARCT. Almost-CRABS!

Sunday through Monday: A banana. Chicken and rice. Applesauce. Another banana. Chicken and more rice. Applesauce. Chicken and noodles, but basically rice. More applesauce. More rice, and also chicken. Three bananas. Rice shaped into a chicken.

On Wednesday, I felt my body gain a little traction. So, I logically deemed it all right to eat a strawberry milkshake, a cheeseburger, cream soda, and roughly 42 cherry Starbursts. (The best Starburst.) The next morning, I woke up with aches radiating out from both hips, a telltale sign I’ve done a bad thing.

It was then I decided, I needed to become a person who doesn’t assume 42 cherry Starbursts are fine. Who doesn’t currently have a deep and meaningful relationship with Flaming Hot Cheetos. Who doesn’t eat bleu cheese and hot sauce on crackers when it was too late to make dinner.

It was time to be a person! I’m 28 now! It’s time to eat vegetables and drink water and make peace with chicken and rice! Optional: Don’t make an art out of “on a cracker” meals.

Like a person-who-makes-delicious-things from above, Kenji Lopez-Alt posted a recipe on The Food Labs Facebook page for, get this, chicken and also rice. More specifically, halal-cart chicken.

It’s sound delicious. Let’s do this thing:

The chicken

I’ve said it before. Raw meat is super gross, you guys, but then it turns into delicious things, and you forget you were once faced with a bird autopsy!

I’ve also become convinced, the way to make killer chicken is a nuclear accident a marinade. And Kenji’s was pretty great.

garlic, olive oil, garlic, garlic, and also oregano

As per usual, I didn’t want to spend the seemingly thousands and thousands of dollars five dollars per spice, so instead I just upped the garlic! Never a bad idea! (Except those times it was a bad idea.)

My paranoia-pro-tip for marinading meat is the protector bowl. My biggest refrigerator-based fear is the Ziploc bag bursting, and the bowl sees to it that you don’t have to worry about that! Now, you can spend all your time worrying about spontaneous-refrigerator-explosion.

Come to think of it, other people might already use the paranoia-bowl. How should I know? I just became a person this week.

Four hours later, and it’s time to cook the chicken.

Kenji’s instructions: “Add the chicken pieces and cook without disturbing until they are lightly browned on the first side, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the center of each thigh registers 165°F. on an instant-read thermometer, about 6 minutes longer.”

Ok. At this point, I’m looking at my three packs of chicken thighs (I grabbed an extra to cook for work lunches), and looking at his estimate of “6 to 8” pieces in his recipe. I count, and I have 20 chicken thighs. Something has gone wrong.

But what do you do with extra raw chicken?* You cook it!

enter: skillet

It very quickly became apparent that the following things were true:

  • This chicken is already disturbed. I’m cooking it. I think jostling it around the pan is the worst of it’s problems.
  • I’m not going to measure the temperature, Kenji. I’m just going to keep flipping it looks e coli-averse.
  • I’m going to die before I cook all of this chicken.

47 years later and two different shirts being treated for oil splashes, the chicken is finally done. On to the rice…

The Rice

I originally set out for this to be a one-pot recipe. It actually worked out that I was wildly inpatient, and pulled out a skillet.

According to the recipe, you melt some butter and toast the rice before cooking it, but I still wanted the good flavor bits still left in the bottom of my skillet.

Recipe-Rogue! Take half a cup of the chicken broth, and while the skillet is still hot, use it to scrape off all the flavor left behind. When the rice is done toasting, pour that into your dutch oven with the rest of your chicken broth.

Recipe-Rogue (AGAIN)! I have a hard time digesting certain vegetables -I’ve essentially written kale out of my life- but when I cook rice or soups, I always like to get some extra vegetables that the recipe doesn’t call for. It allows me to sneak some nutrition and texture in, and because with rice and soups, you’re letting it cook for longer, it doesn’t have quite the same “consequences.” Basically, cook the hopes and dreams out of it, you guys.

This time, I went with cabbage. I mixed it in with the rice when toasting it, and it was perfectly cooked by the time the rice was ready.

The Sauce

Truth be told, I didn’t go with Kenji’s sauce. It’s probably delicious, but in an effort to keep this meal as stomach-friendly as possible, I steered clear of the mayo.

I ended up crafting a homegrown tzatziki. I highly recommend Ina Garten’s tzatziki, but if you’re feeling a little more slapdash (and I will admit, nothing about this is authentic), here’s my version:

  • 2 cups of plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Dill till your heart’s content.

Here’s how…

  1. Realize you bought vanilla yogurt. Walk back to the grocery store. Double check that you got plain yogurt.
  2. Seed and chop the cucumbers.
  3. Dump all of it in a bowl.
  4. Eat with everything.

I added some radishes and some shredded carrots, and all in all, I really like this dinner plate. It’s got flavor, but nothing that would rock the boat. Would I recommend this recipe? Yes!

Do I still want to eat 42 cherry starbursts? Yes.

Growth is a process, guys.

*You freeze it. I’m realizing now that you freeze it. Bad call, self.

“You Do What You Want” Stew

It’s Sunday. I am most my adult self on Sunday. Mostly because the work week hasn’t started and I still have the energy to try. As such, I spend most of my Sunday balancing checkbooks, checking my stocks, doing laundry and cooking. Today we’re making what I call, “You Do What You Want” stew.

I started making this stew last winter. Between sobbing sessions about “just how cold it is” and how “I’ll never see green again” (this is 57% a joke), I was craving my mother’s lentil soup. The kind with the big honking’ ham bone in it. You know the one.

Then I learned how much a ham costs. Time to improvise! I used Giada’s recipe for lentil soup as a jumping point because A) it seemed easy and B) I’m always looking for an excuse for parmesan cheese.

Off the bat, I made some edits. Before I get into those, you should know something about me. For two decades*, I’ve made most of my food choices based around the fact I have Crohn’s Disease. I am very fortunate in the sense that it mainly manifests itself as a colon with an attitude problem**, but it does affect my decision making.

Edit #1: As I usually am always in want of protein, I got some turkey brats to sauté up and throw in there.

Edit #2: I love vegetables, but anything that is the color green tends to rock the boat- if you know what I mean. I’ve basically written kale out of my life completely which is a shame because according to 90% of the Internet, if you eat enough kale, you will basically gain the power of flight and your hair will be so shiny, if you turn out the lights, you can see it in the dark. Then I came up with the patented Meredith cooking technique to avoid distress: cook the snot out of it. Cook those greens within an inch of their fiber-loving lives. I’m sure by doing so, you cook away a lot of the good stuff, but you know my motto: Still better than a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetoes!

Edit #3: The original recipe calls for pasta. I like to use quinoa. I could tell you (after a quick Google search) that quinoa is rich in vitamins like magnesium, iron, calcium, vitamin E, and the B ones. I could tell you that quinoa is chock full of flavonoids. Mostly, I will just tell you, I used quinoa because I had quinoa.

So, for your future use, the “You do what you want” stew. 

I’m basically Magritte.


– 1 onion (Eh- big. Or small? We’ll all probably be fine.)

– 2 carrots (if they’re measly, go for 3. If you don’t like carrots, don’t add any. You do what you want.)

– 3 cups chopped celery

– One bunch of your favorite greens (I usually go for swiss chard)

– Garlic (Go bonkers.)

– 4 brats of your choosing (though I’m sure any protein could jump in)

– Canned diced tomatoes (14 oz can)

-one of the big boxes of chicken broth

– 1/4 cup Lentils

– 1/4 cup Quinoa

– Olive Oil

– grated parmesean cheese

Step 1: Chop the things. You know…just chop them, you guys. Keep in mind you will be eating this with a spoon. The first few times I made this, I realized big pretty onion slices don’t like spoons. Those renegades.

Step 2: Sauté the things. I usually start with the sausage, and then when you add the veggies they pick up some of their flavor. The beautiful thing is, you can do it all in the same pot. Less dirty dishes, which let’s be honest, is what we’re all shooting for.

Step 2: Once the things are sautéed, add the tomatoes with all the juices and cook them till they start to break apart. Dump in the broth after that. (Giada never says “dump”. Maybe I should say, “mix in the broth.” Yes, that sounds better.)

Step 3: Add the rest of the things. Stir in the lentils and quinoa till all are coated.

This is the part where I cover the pot and go do something else for an hour.

When you come back, 1) you’re apartment smells awesome, and 2) you have a big hearty pot of things for dinners this week.

One of Giada’s instructions that I loved was to top off your serving with some olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese. I love that extra layer of flavor, but I think the soup certainly stands without it. But you know, do what you want.

All right, Food Network. I’ll just wait here for my show deal.


*To the month! No big deal, it’s just my 20th anniversary of having colon problems. It’s basically the biggest anniversary in the world of having organ disorders, you guys.

**Are you guys knocking on wood? Because I sure am.