Friday, February 25, 2011

The San Francisco treat

I lived in San Francisco for over seventeen years. I never noticed anyone there who had any more interest in Rice-A-Roni than anyone else I'd encountered before. After doing a little internet research, I discovered that the famous boxed rice and pasta dish was developed by a family-owned pasta company located in San Francisco's Mission District. In the late 1950's, they adapted their family's favorite pilaf recipe and marketed it with the slogan and jingle that became so familiar to people across the entire United States. That's all there is to the San Francisco connection.

The ingredients, clockwise from top left: vermicelles, chicken broth, round rice, minced onion, dried herbs.

Now, I've eaten Rice-A-Roni before. It's not bad. But it's not particularly good for you given that it's an industrial product full of sodium, sugar, MSG, and other things that I don't necessarily want to eat in my rice and pasta dish (salt and sugar are the fourth and fifth most plentiful of a long list of ingredients* on a box of Chicken Rice-A-Roni).

The finished rice and 'roni dish. I like a lot of 'roni so I added more than the recipe called for.

So I decided, after finding a package of vermicelli pasta in the supermarket for 37 cents a pound, to make my own rice and 'roni dish at home. I used the internet again (it's hard to imagine that we once did not have the internet) to find some recipes. They are legion. I picked one from Martha Stewart's web site that seemed simple enough.

The ingredients are rice, vermicelli (or cut up spaghetti in a pinch), olive oil, onion, salt and pepper, chicken broth, and parsley. You make the dish as if you're making a risotto by sauteing the rice and pasta and chopped onions in oil, then adding the broth to finish cooking the rice. Home-made chicken broth is best, but you can use a canned broth or a bullion cube (but watch those ingredients and make adjustments for salt content!). You can also use a vegetable broth if you want a vegetarian version.

I used dried herbs (mostly oregano) and a bay leaf (from our back yard tree) since we're not in the season for fresh garden herbs. The finished rice was delicious and was the perfect accompaniment to our main dish, which was a spicy turkey stir-fry.

*Information from the company's web site: http://www.ricearoni.com

22 comments:

  1. I have never heard of Rice-a-Roni before. It looks delisharoni !!

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  2. That's looks good. I've never like Rice-a-Roni for all the reasons you mentioned but homemade...yum!

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  3. Oops...that was me (Rick) logged in under Chris' account.

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  4. In the 70s in Australia we had a packaged food called Rice-a-Rico or something like that. My first wife cooked it all the time which maybe explains why I remarried to a gourmet cook. Well I think she is.....

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  5. Looks great! I think I'll try making it!!

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  6. It looks tasty, Walt :)

    And now I'll have "...the San Francisco treat" ringing through my head allllll day.

    Judy

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  7. lol @Judy's post...that looks really good and so much better for you. The sodium content of the real thing alone is enough to send a "ahem"- year old like me straight to the doctor!

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  8. For some reason I get an "old fashioned" vibe from Rice-A-Roni, so I stay away from it. I like Zatarain's products instead. Ever try those?

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  9. I'm adding wemicelli and
    round rice to my grocery
    list...think I'll put
    some red/green bell
    peppers in the mix.

    WordVerif. is "rizat"
    Perhaps a new name for
    your version.

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  10. I'm adding wemicelli and
    round rice to my grocery
    list...think I'll put
    some red/green bell
    peppers in the mix.

    WordVerif. is "rizat"
    Perhaps a new name for
    your version.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What other herbs did you use?

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  12. You've noticed the very high salt content in French stock cubes too?!
    Try the Carmargue rice next time.... very tasty and acts like a slightly longer grain round/Arborio rice.
    We'll have a go at that.... got some black [squid ink] pasta that needs using up.... that'll ring the changes!

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  13. Never had a Rice-a-Roni but was curious about it. We do occasionally buy Near East pilaf mixes in boxes. Yours looks great! I remember the jingles when I was growing up.
    "Saute and simmer
    The flavor can't be beat,
    Rice-a-Roni
    The San Francisco treat."

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  14. Rice - A - Roni with tuna was a weekly staple when I was attending college. I agree with everyone else: the homemade version is simple and outweighs the boxed version "ricely".

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  15. jean, it is. The next time you come down I'll make some for you!

    rick, it's worth a try!

    leon, I can't imagine what rice-a-rico might be... and I would say that Sue's a gourmet cook just from the photos on your blog!

    buddy, let me know how you like it.

    judy, I know. Mine too.

    suzanne, true dat!

    cubby, never heard of them. I'll have to google that.

    mark, your kids might like this. Ask Fred to whip some up!

    sheila, that sounds good!

    starman, in addition to the oregano there was parsley, sage, marjoram, and thyme. Almost a song there...

    tim, oh, yes. We use them once in a while, but make adjustments for the salt.

    ginny, I think we used to eat those, too. They're good!

    mary, with tuna? Hmmmm, never thought of that.

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  16. Hi Walt, I made this for supper last night following your method exactly, except with the addition of some red sweet pepper and garlic ....it was just excellent!! I'll certainly make it again.

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  17. buddy, cool! I'm glad it worked out!

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  18. hello everyone

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  19. Thanks for posting this recipe. I grew up with Rice-A-Roni and it's "comfort food" for me. I had no idea that I could actually make it myself from scratch (DUH!).
    My partner and I recently enjoyed a friend's mushroom pilaf - it too was fantastic.
    Love your food pictures.

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  20. mike, thanks! It's really easy to do and so much better than what comes out of the box. And you can doctor it up any way you like. I like the mushroom idea... :)

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