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”
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.
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.