I’m sure I’m not the only dad with sharks for kids. No matter where they are, as soon as they sense food, they come circling. I step in the door and there’s a rustle and movement from the back of the house. I notice bits of snacks and wrappers around the floor and sofa, evidence they’ve been feeding, like fish scales in the water after a frenzy. And before my keys hit the table, they’ve gathered around my legs and want to know: what’s for dinner?
Dad knows this is a trick question. The correct answer is, ‘What did your mom say we’re having?’ If she’s got something planned, no sense getting in the way.
‘We’re hungry now.’ ‘She said to ask you.’ ‘What’s for dinner?’ ‘Are we gonna get pizza?’
Another trick question. They know that’s what I’m thinking. The twins are reaching for the phone.
‘No,’ I say,’ I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.’ Pizza cheese and dough more than once a month is an experiment we don’t want the results to.
So I end up rooting in the fridge and cupboards. That’s the toughest part about kitchen duty. Having to come up with ideas for meals all the time without doing repeats every three days. Some easy recipe, without a lot of work or time. And something the kids will eat.
Here’s a dish everybody inhales, and it goes together pretty simply.
You’ll need: a 13 x 9 x 2 pyrex dish, and a cast iron fry pan. Set the oven to 350 F / 178 C.
- 8 or so chicken thighs
- onion soup in the box
- 1 onion
- 2 cups rice
- 1 Tbs butter
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 cups cranberry juice
- 1 tsp paprika (smoked is best)
- 2 shakes majoram
- 2 shakes pepper
- 2 cups water
- Start with the fry pan. Chop the onion into large bits, set the skillet over medium heat, add butter. Cook and stir til the onion starts to get transparent, then take the onion out and put aside.
- Now, you can skip this next step if you want, but I like to crisp the chicken skin, and think it’s worth it. Add olive oil to the fry pan, turn up the heat to 7 or 8 (out of ten) and when it starts to sizzle a bit, put the chicken thighs in skin side down. We’re just going to brown off the chicken so the skin gets a bit crispy, which takes four or five minutes. Check by lifting each piece – you want to see nice golden brown crispy, not limp skin. Keep it going longer if needed. Remember, we’re not cooking the chicken, just browning the skin.
- When browned, turn off the heat, remove the chicken. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan. This will loosen and let you scrape up the cooked bits left in the pan. Keep this for later.
- Take the pyrex dish and put in 1 and 1/2 cups of water and two cups of cranberry juice. Add one half packet of onion dip to that and mix it in – if you like it strong, add more, but it’s pretty salty, so the whole packet is probably too much. I usually also add a couple good shakes of paprika (smoked paprika is the best), a couple shakes of marjoram.
- Now add two cups of rice to the liquid, mix it in, then spread it evenly.
- Next, put the chicken thighs, skin up, on top of the rice, around the pan. Add the onions in around the chicken on top of the rice. Now, pour the water from the fry pan over the chicken and onion.
- Cover with foil and bake for an hour. If you check and the chicken isn’t done through (no pink) or the rice isn’t done, pop it back in for 15 – 20 mins more.
This is one of those dishes you can add things to each time you make it (mushrooms, white wine, etc) but it’s a savory / sweet pleasure the way it is. The rice absorbs the chicken and onion flavors with the cranberry, the chicken falls off the bone, and everything stays moist.
This recipe works for kids because it’s one of the “Real Food Groups“, which you can check for more ideas.