Party Chicken and Rice – Easter Main Dish

Is “dinner” the evening meal or is it the mid-day meal?  Or is the BIG meal, regardless of what time the meal is served?  At our house, dinner is the evening meal, and although it is not formal, it is the larger, hot meal of the day.  I guess you can call that supper.  Though we never do.  Some people talk about “coming over for Sunday Dinner” and they mean the mid-day meal.  When we have a holiday meal, we tend to call it dinner regardless of the time at which it is served.  At Christmas and Thanksgiving, that is oftentimes 12, or 1, or 2 in the afternoon.  I prefer to have Easter dinner at lunchtime so that friends can linger into the afternoon, we can hunt eggs in the yard and the work of the meal and dishes are done by afternoon.  It is tricky, though, when you are trying to race from an Easter Sunday church service, to get home, and get things cranking for the meal.   And if you are the guest at someone else’s home where you are bringing a dish, you have to swing by your house to pick up your items, or have them in the car, in a cooler, or a keeper to have them ready for the meal.  This is all complicated.

For many, many years, Dave has had responsibilities at church on Easter morning, helping with the music for the services.  Which means we don’t travel on this holiday to visit family.  Instead, we stay in town and it has become a friend holiday.  We started a tradition years ago to ask around to see if there are people without a table to join for the holiday, and invite them to ours.  It has been interesting to see who comes and what the mix of people is.  It is sometimes full of college students, sometimes not.  Some years, people know each other, other years it is a mish-mash of our worlds colliding.  But the food is always yummy and it feels like a special celebration.


We usually provide the main dish and cold coconut cake (our favorite Easter dessert) and then people bring the rest (depending on how many people come – sometimes we do more of the providing, if there are less guests.)  One of our favorite main dishes for this meal is Party Chicken.  This was the “special occasion main dish” at my house growing up.  After all, the name is party chicken!  Mom said she got this recipe 40 years ago.  It was printed on the Georgia Power and Light (utility company) bill, of all places.  They had a recipe printed each month on the bill and she remembers keeping it and trying it, because the list of ingredients looked so tasty to her.  Never underestimate the source of a good recipe!
Water chestnut rice

It is a great dish, and you can alter it as you like.  I remember her often serving it with Water Chestnut Rice – which could be called Party Rice, in my opinion.  The Rice is actually my very favorite part of the dish! It’s a savory, moist, highly flavorful rice pilaf with a crunch of water chestnuts.  My mom got the rice recipe from a friend during the same era in which she got the Party Chicken recipe.  She said she had it at a friend’s house for dinner one night.  The host gave a disclaimer that the first time her husband had it, he said, “he liked it, but the potatoes in it weren’t cooked!” There are no potatoes in this dish…. it was the water chestnuts.  Mom wrote down the recipe and has been making it ever since. She even made large quantities of it for groups when she was doing food service for her church, altering it a little to simplify it.

The Rice dish would also be good on a non-holiday with a piece of grilled meat.
So now that Easter is 2 weeks away, we are starting to think about what to eat and who needs a table to join.  I tend to revert to the same menu repeatedly.   
My favorite Easter menu is:
An appetizer (so people can lightly munch while the meal is being put together – maybe nice cheese and crackers)
Party Chicken
Water Chestnut Rice
Fresh Green Beans (or Asparagus)
Dessert: Cold Coconut Cake and any other goodies people want to bring!
My friend Melissa and her family usually share this meal with us.  She and I split what’s left on the menu after our other guests have signed up.  She also oftentimes brings a dessert: sugar cookies, M & M cookies or tea cakes for the kids to enjoy…and she sometimes brings beautiful flowers for the tables!  It is a beloved tradition in our home!

Party Chicken

6 chicken breasts (pounded until uniform thickness)
12 slices dried beef (canned)
3 slices of bacon (to be cut in half)
1 (10 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream

the can of dried beef and the cool jar
you get to keep- see above as a vase
for a daisy!

A handful of slivered almonds

Place individual slices of dried beef side by side in baking pan.  

Flatten chicken breast, place a slice of dried beef in “rough” side of chicken and roll up.  

Place 1/2 slice bacon around outside of roll and place seam side down in pan.  

Place a rolled breast on each piece 
of dried beef. (All of this can be prepared ahead and refrigerated or frozen). When ready to bake, add combined soup and sour cream and pour over each breast.  

This will seem thick, but the juices from the chicken will dilute it.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour OR 250 for 3 hours (if you want to slow-cook it). Add almonds on top and bake an additional 10 minutes or until toasted.  

Water Chestnut Rice

5 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped finely
1/2 cup canned mushrooms, drained and sliced
8 oz. can water chestnuts, chopped
1 cup white rice, uncooked
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
Melt butter in casserole.  Add all other ingredients.  Gently stir together. Cover and cook 1 hour at 350 degrees, or until rice is completely cooked.  (I have made this with brown rice and it works, it just takes much more time!
Also, it easily doubles or triples!)

Dinner time!

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