Not sure why I don’t make it more often, but the homemade Rice-A-Roni shown above is one of my favorite side dishes. It looks so plain, but oh, boy, is it ever flavorful!
The boxed version is disproportionately expensive, full of chemicals to keep it shelf stable, and it is no easier to get it from the package to your plate. Plus with your own, you can use your choice in herbs to bring it to just the right taste for your palate. I’m embarrassed to say that when a wave of hunger alerts me to a Snack Attack, it is good cold – right out of the container.
How to produce this delightful dish? Well, I use Cut Fideo pasta and regular white rice. The Mexican-oriented store here carries a variety of shapes in seven-ounce packages. This is a great size, as it provides each of us two meal servings, with usually some left over to pop into a soup later on, or to whip up a bit of mac and cheese as a side dish.
The effort to prepare takes about five minutes, and then twenty minutes to cook – relatively undisturbed. Your choice of herbs and other add-ins – it’s a great way to stretch a bit of meat, or you can sprinkle on some cheese and fresh veggies to give it more oomph for a main luncheon dish.
Here’s what I do. Melt about a tablespoon of the desired fat (butter, olive oil, bacon grease, coconut oil) in about a two-quart saucepan. Add a half cup each of the fideo and white rice, and let it get a little colored. Stir often as the fideo is easily burned if it gets too hot in one spot. When there is a nice, nutty smell to it, add two cups of hot water and let it barely simmer for about twenty minutes. Do not stir it during this time, as the rice will get sticky. Be sure to turn the fire down as low as it will go. I don’t use non-stick pans any more, and if you don’t either, then you must be diligent to keep an eye on it to prevent scorching.
If you are feeling inventive and have some extras on hand, you can add in just about anything that pleases you. I use Montreal Steak Seasoning and oregano on a routine basis, but, depending on what I am serving with it, I might choose additional/different herbs. If your meal has a French flavor, you can use tarragon or dill; more potent herbs if you are making something “curry-ish”.
What you see in the picture above is the result of the Montreal Steak Seasoning, oregano, and a couple of spoons of medium hot fresh salsa. There is usually raw onion in fresh salsa, but it is also easy to add raw onion to your mixture and let it sauté a bit with the rice/fideo as it browns.
Leftovers are excellent as a side dish with a burrito or other Mexican dish – just turn it in Spanish Rice with a bit of ground chili pepper, more salsa, and a topping of grated cheese. This can be done in minutes in a small (8″) frying pan with a cover. Put the cheese on last, cover the pan, and it will melt to perfection. Once you’ve put the rice out onto the plate, top it with a dollop of sour cream – no extra charge on your bill! ;->
Oh, yeah – the cabbage and sauce . . . we love steamed cabbage, but I don’t always think to cook it. Since it keeps so well, I tend to relegate it to the back of the bottom of the refrigerator, and forget about it. But one medium-sized cabbage is less than a dollar most of the year, and I can make steamed cabbage at least twice, with a good-sized bowl of Cole slaw to eat with sandwiches at lunch time for a few days. The rest of it can be shredded into soups to add a nice subtle ambience.
The sauce shown is heavily laden with chicken pieces, sausage balls, a variety of baby peppers, diced tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. The jarred pasta sauce is perfectly adequate as a vehicle for these veggies! I find that the Spicy Red Pepper jarred pasta sauce is really good when jazzed up with my own additions. It makes a nice starting point, as it has big chunks of tomato in it. Any bits of leftover veggies can go into it.
Freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese makes this meal entirely heavenly!