Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chik'n Rice

Today, we’re featuring “a recipe you almost certainly will never make,” unless you are among my ten or so Adventist readers, in which case you probably already know how to make it. “It” is a dish that I think of – complete with misspelling and apostrophe – as “Chik’n Rice.”

It can be frustrating to have grown up in a little-known religious subculture. Lacking Mormons’ sexy polygamy history, Adventists don’t have much pop culture currency. People tend to confuse them with other fringe religious groups.

Yes, I’ve been vaccinated, and I went to the doctor when I was sick as a kid. You’re thinking of Christian Science.

And yes, I did used to go door-to-door passing out religious literature when I was little, but you’re probably thinking of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are more systematic about it. I’ve never needed a blood transfusion, but if I had, it would’ve been okay; the no transfusions thing is also Jehovah’s Witness.

And no, Adventists never practiced “plural marriage.” You’re definitely thinking of the Mormons.

One of the few things people tend to know about Adventists is that they encourage vegetarianism. I was not raised vegetarian, although certain meats, like pork and shellfish, are strictly verboten. Even though my family was okay with actual chicken and beef, however, my diet always included plenty of Adventist-manufactured fake meats.

These are canned or frozen spun gluten and soy protein concoctions manufactured by a handful of Adventist companies in California. I don’t think their recipe formulations have changed since long before my birth. Even though Adventists refer to their fake meats as “health food,” their contents are not congruent with commonly understood definitions of this term – they’re pretty high in fat, calories, and artificial flavor and color.

I haven’t been Adventist in a very long time, but this stuff really is comfort food. You crave, macaroni and cheese and pork chops? I crave Chik’n Rice or that Adventist casserole par excellence, the food substance alternately referred to as “Special K Loaf” or “Cottage Cheese Roast.” You’ve probably guessed the star ingredients. And I totally love it, in a totally non-ironic way.

So Chik’n Rice contains no actual chicken. The “chik’n”

is a canned product called Fri-Chik.

Down south, you can find Fri-Chik in a lot of grocery stores. Here in New England, however, there are something like 5-6 practicing Adventists total, so I have to order it from an ABC (Adventist Book Center) in Buffalo.

Chik’n Rice’s other unfamiliar ingredient is a mysterious yellow powder called McKay’s Chicken Seasoning.

It comes in with-and-without MSG varieties, but they both taste pretty much the same. I’ve never seen McKay’s in a supermarket, though I’ve spotted similar-looking stuff in bulk bins of health food stores. Because a jar of this lasts me well over a year, I tend to pick it up when I visit my family in Florida.

I doubt you’re feeling tempted to rush to your stove to make this, but on the off chance that you are, I can assure you that the other few ingredients are pantry staples. If you can get over the “eww, ick” factor that comes with any new fake meat product, you might actually like it.

Probably. Maybe. Possibly.

Chik’n Rice

¾ cup white rice
1 ¼ cup water

2-3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons corn starch or ¼ cup all-purpose flour (I prefer corn starch)
1 ¾ cups milk
1 Tablespoon McKay’s Chicken Seasoning

1 can Fri-Chik, broth reserved

Make rice: bring water to boil, stir in rice, return to boil, cover, and turn to low. Simmer covered for 20 minutes. You can use more water, but since I bake this dish, I think it’s best when the rice is a bit al dente.

Make gravy: melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add corn starch or flour and stir until incorporated and bubbling. Add milk – my trick for making lump-free gravy is to heat the milk in the microwave before adding it. I’m sure there’s some foodie reason not to do this that I’m unaware of, but it works for me, and it seriously minimizes lumps.

Stir constantly until it bubbles, then turn to low. Stir in McKay’s seasoning. Stir ever so often while you …

Chop the Fri-Chik into 1 cm chunks. Reserve the broth, and pour at least half of it into the gravy – it really enhances, if that’s the word, the flavor.

When the rice is done, stir everything together in the skillet. Now you have one of two choices: you can either dish it up and eat it, or you can bake it for a bit. I prefer to bake my Fri-Chik – as with macaroni, baking gives it that indescribable Midwestern casserole awesomeness that just makes it comfort food heaven. Baking  emphasizes the fabulous giant carb bomb essence of Chik’n Rice.

If you choose to bake it, 20 minutes at 350 should do the trick. Serves 3-4.

I’ve been forcing my Episcopalian-raised husband to eat this for nearly a decade now, and last time I made it, he said – and I quote – “that really hit the spot.”

I felt like I’d won a pony.

Printable recipe here.


  1. Thanks Becky for sharing the FriChik/Rice casserole--I may have to re-activate the Fri-Chik part of my Amazon subscription and try that recipe out! (you might check Amazon--they are a lot cheaper than the Adventist Book Centers and if you sign up/subscribe for regular shipments the shipping is free).
    I came across your blog randomly through today's Google alerts for "Adventist", but I look forward to becoming a reader (then you will have 11 or so Adventist readers. Ha.)--

  2. Thanks for the tip! I welcome Adventist and non-Adventist readers alike. It's funny that it came up on a search already! :)

  3. I'll have you to know that -- inspired by this post -- I just went and dropped $60 on SDA food via

    By the looks of things, it's farmed out to independent vendors/retailers, which is fine -- but it means things don't ship right away. I can wait! I am patient, when it comes to chick'n and rice ...

  4. Thanks for sharing this recipe! It's intriguing.

  5. Thank you for sharing this recipe. It's the only one I could find that doesn't require some form of canned soup, which I don't have on hand & generally don't keep on hand since I'm vegan...

  6. That's really funny, as my mom uses canned soup in just about everything (and this is her recipe, though I don't think she "invented" it). This is perhaps the one recipe that escaped her condensed soup mania. :)

    I know they make a vegan version of fri chik now (the original has some egg protein, I believe), so this would probably be an easy recipe to render vegan (presuming that rice and/or soy milks make good white sauce -- I've never tried, but I imagine they must).