This is an oldie but goodie, as the saying goes. I have wanted to put this on my blog for a long time, but have felt that maybe there are those who would scoff at its lack of sophistication. Then I got to thinking about the number of households that I know where this is considered a fun family meal. Family friendly food is my favorite kind of food post. I get all happy and peaceful. But then I got to thinking about how territorial people in said households get about the chicken “gravy”. Everyone likes their momma’s version best. And then I got intimidated about posting a different gravy. What if no one liked it? And THEN, as I worked my way through experimenting with the slow cooker roasted chicken, I found a slightly different take on an old favorite by putting a Thai-style spin on the Hawaiian haystacks.
I first had Hawaiian Haystacks at girl’s camp when I was a teenager. Everyone at camp was familiar with them except me. My mom was pretty straight forward about her cooking, which was delicious by the way, but she stuck with a dozen or so regular meals and did not often venture outside of those meals. I was okay with that because my mom’s cooking was unquestionably wonderful. However, when I went out in public and found that other people did things differently, I felt shy…like with Hawaiian Haystacks at girl’s camp.
I didn’t know what to do–how to put the ingredients together–what would taste good together or whether I was doing things ‘right’. Teen angst over girl’s camp food. (Shaking head, rolling eyes at the memory.) Then again, I have angst a lot. It’s just the way of things with me. It would be so nice to be one of those people who make a decision and then charge ahead with their decision, never looking back because they know they have made the right decision in the first place AND they don’t really care what someone else’s opinion may be. Wait. No, I changed my mind. I don’t want to be that person. Sigh. My life is so complicated.
Although a gravy consisting of cream of chicken soup is very common, I have always used a ‘skinny’ gravy made from chicken stock, seasonings, and chicken and thickened with cornstarch. This time around I used the chicken and amazing chicken stock from this Slow Cooker “Roasted” Chicken. It was incredibly flavorful; reminiscent of Thai flavors. Fresh basil and cilantro are perfect additions to keep the flavor profile going in a Thai direction. However, the chicken gravy can be seasoned with whatever herbs and spices you choose.
The rest of the ingredients are completely up to personal preference. Rice is standard; white is the most common, but brown works well, too. (I used this very easy Coconut Rice–so good!) The array of other toppings include the following: coconut, celery, blanched fresh peas or defrosted frozen peas, sunflower seeds, diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, pineapple chunks (fresh or canned), grated cheese, and crispy Chinese noodles. Some families like to add mandarin oranges and others also add sliced black olives.
Because I was choosing to keep this particular batch of Hawaiian Haystacks with a Thai-based theme, I used jasmine rice cooked with coconut milk. In the words of the great Ina Garten, “how good is that?” If you wanted to increase the coconut milk flavor, coconut milk could be added to the gravy. Oh, sheesh. So good.
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