Skillet Chicken and Rice with Mushrooms and Spinach
if this is your “phoning it in”, then you are doing great
things you’ll need: chicken, lemon, salt, pepper, the herbs you like with chicken, wild or basmati rice (or whatever you have), onions or other alliums, mushrooms, (or veggies you need to use like zucchini, corn, peppers, or whatever, you get it), any kind of greens (typically spinach though occasionally chard or kale), a creamy dairy (cream, cream cheese, mascarpone, maybe something like Havarti?), optional parm for topping.
When I am out of spoons and don’t want a challenge, I typically do a frittata or one of these chicken bakes (using the cold-pan method) with reference to this Spinach and Artichoke Chicken with Much Dairy, from whatever I have around. Most often it is spinach and mushroom with wild rice and cream cheese because I usually have those things, but I have used mascarpone and cream as well as dairy-less versions. It’s like a skillet casserole, but with crispy chicken.
Incidentally gluten-free. It’s just a rice bake, basically. Leave out the chicken and add beans to make it veggie, puree half the beans and leave out the dairy for vegan.
You try very hard, every day, to come across as a completely Normal Person. Funny thing is: you aren’t. No one is. “Normal” is a construct too. Maybe this is exacerbated by your own personal brand of Neurodiversity, which you like to call Neurodivergence because it sounds like a superpower.
Maybe you are one of those people for which work will always be hard. Not because you lack anything. In fact, the opposite. If you don’t feel challenged by a job, you just make the job bigger and then kick-ass. However, kicking ass all the time is exhausting and sometimes you just want to have an easy job but then you remember that your brain doesn’t work like that and would not tolerate an easy job for long before you’d get a brilliant idea and then execute it while the world stands back and marvels at you (even though you are not wearing matching socks because you don’t own any of those).
Maybe you are one of those people that everyone comes to for advice or solutions to their crises because you have such a level head and empathic spirit. You find this odd because your feelings are often a roiling hellscape full of fireworks and deep shadows even though everyone else finds you so comforting. You think your feelings must just be bigger than “normal”, which can be paralyzing when your hefty griefs decide to squat on your chest but also exhilarating because your joy is a mighty thing to get lost in too.
Maybe the whole world is too loud for you, so you lose your phone on purpose and wear your socks inside out because the seams rub your toes weird. Having to walk around in all the noise of everyone else is exhausting and sometimes you turn off all the lights and retreat inside of yourself where it is quiet because that’s where you find your peace.
It’s hard to manage. You are better at it on some days than on others. There is nothing wrong with you. Even on those days when you are completely out of spoons and seem incapable of making toast without somehow burning the butter, there is nothing wrong with you. A lot of superpowers come with vulnerabilities. Otherwise, we would be gods and that seems like too much.
Not all your dinners are brilliant because you don’t always have the spoons for your typical brand of genius or the desire to constantly try new things. Sometimes you go with what you know and what you can execute on auto-pilot. Guess what? It’ll be good enough. In fact, it’ll be great.
Make rice however you make rice. You can use leftover rice or make rice earlier in the day and come back to it or make it right now. Spend your spoons however you choose, but don’t forget to rinse your rice before you cook it.
When you are ready, preheat your oven to 375-425.
Place your chicken thighs, skin side down, on a tray. Sprinkle the meat side generously with salt and then squeeze about a quarter of a lemon on each thigh. Sprinkle with thyme, because that’s your aromatic of choice. Let the chicken sit while you do other things that may or may not be part of making dinner.
Put on a pot of water to blanch some greens and then chop some stuff, stopping occasionally to get lost in TikTok when you meant to put on some music, but now you have “oh no. oh no. oh no no no no no” stuck in your head. Dice an onion. Dice some mushrooms. Maybe dice some zucchini or whatever you need to get rid of.
Your water is probably boiling now so blanch 1-2 bags of spinach until just wilted (seconds to maybe a minute+). Drain and squeeze out the extra water. Chop it up and set it aside.
Now that your thighs are room temperature, oil up a pan and place the seasoned chicken (skin-side down) in the cold skillet. Then turn up the heat to medium-high and let the skins slowly crisp, giving the pan an occasional shake to make sure they don’t stick. Once the skins are delightfully browned. Flip them and cook on the meat side for a few minutes and then set them aside, they will finish cooking in the oven. (This is the go-to cold-pan method of chicken cooking, so no spoons were used).
See all that delicious, rendered chicken schmaltz and pre-seasoned browned bits? You made all that flavor stuff while barely trying. Now, sauté your onions in that yum until translucent, then add your mushrooms and cook until they release their water and begin to brown. If you are adding garlic, add it now. Toss in a few globs of cream cheese or glugs of cream. Toss in the chopped spinach. Mix until the cream cheese melts itself and then fold in the rice (you can do this in a bowl and put it back in the pan if it seems easier or less messy).
Taste. Adjust salt and pepper, maybe add in or top with a little grated parmesan. Put the chicken on top of the rice and then bake until the chicken temps at 165.
You may not be “normal”, but you are the best at being you. No one else can do it as well as you do. Even when you phone it in, you are the only one who is judging you. In fact, everyone is still impressed by you. Even when you forget or your feelings get so big that you think you will never make it to the other side, go back to what you know. Ground yourself there. Make the dinner you know how to make and skip the part where you make it harder and then maybe do something crazy like ask for help.
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