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I will admit that the first time I heard about this dish, I openly mocked it.
I saw it in a commercial from Kentucky Fried Chicken, and they called it a “Famous Bowl.” Where I grew up, I told my wife, that was called “leftovers” and there was nothing famous about them. You just dumped everything left over from dinner the previous night, topped it with cheese and said “here.”
But then one Saturday afternoon when my wife and daughter were out shopping, they brought one home, and offered it to me with the qualifier “if you don’t like this we’ll go get you something else.”
Since I was at the time hungry, I ate it. It’s hard to admit, but it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t steak and lobster, but it was good old fashioned comfort food with a touch of salty, sweet, crunchy and creamy.
So the other night, I found myself looking at a few items on sale at the grocery store and realized you could duplicate the dish at home with arguably better ingredients, yet cook everything in under 10 minutes.
It started with a buy one, get one special on Simply Potatoes, which are pre-made mashed potatoes. I got the garlic mashed potatoes flavor, then enhanced them. You’re suppose to cook them in the microwave for 3 minutes, remove the top, then cook 3 more minutes. I do just that, but at halftime, I add sour cream, a little garlic powder and butter. That makes them smoother, creamier, more garlicky and much better tasting than the KFC ones which bear a strikingly similar taste to a glue stick you’d accidentally stuck in your mouth back in second grade.
Right next to the potatoes at the store were a refrigerated chicken nugget product Perdue makes that were also BOGO. I've had them before, and properly cooked in an air fryer, are as good or better than what you can get at fast food restaurants. I realized I could now buy the chicken and potato parts for around $4 and their cooking times are similar. The potatoes cook in about 8 minutes (3 minutes on high, 2 minutes to rest, 3 more minutes on high). The chicken nuggets also take 8 minutes in the air fryer at 390 degrees. They're breaded and crisp just like the KFC chicken strips, only I cut them in half to give it more of a bite size consistency to blend in with the other ingredients.
The remaining ingredients were in the pantry and didn't require a purchase. One was a can of Del Monte corn, and I drained all the liquid from it, got a frying pan very hot by putting the burner on high for a few minutes, then spooned the corn into the pan and roasted the kernels, turning them a shade of brown while making them crisp and sweet. This also took about 8 minutes.
So all the cooked ingredients when done concurrently took 8 minutes start to finish. I then took several deep bowls, laid a layer of mashed potatoes in the bottom, spooned in the corn next, then topped that with the chicken. On top of all that I put a generous layer of shredded sharp cheddar (of which I always have bags of in the refrigerator), then served, advising everyone that you may want to stir all of this together.
When done, the heat of the ingredients will have melted the cheese to create a gooey kind of delicious. If you like yours with a little more moisture, I opened a small jar of Heinz chicken gravy. You don’t need more than a tablespoon or two, and the heat of the ingredients warms it up. I added two tablespoons of gravy, then a generous amount of Old Bay Hot Sauce. Those two ingredients did the trick.
As I said, it’s not steak and lobster. But it’s a tasty, stick to your ribs kind of comfort dish that costs about $5 in ingredients and can be cooked start to finish in under 10 minutes. Which on a Thursday night when you’ve got the midweek blahs and just want to eat something quick and good, is not a bad option.
There really should be some social media law preventing dropping such an article in subscribers' mailboxes at 11 pm, AFTER they have whipped up the final snack of the evening. Any minute I expect to hear my wife shout out:
* "Are you in the pantry?"
* "Are you in the refrigerator?"
* "What are you cooking in the microwave?"
Yessir, thanks, buddy.😀