Steven’s Special Recipe (Chicken, Rice, & Queso)

6 people
30 min


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This easy recipe is my take on the famous Steven's Special, a dish that is made up of a bed of rice loaded with chicken and white queso. My version is extra cheesy (I’m talking 12 ounces) and only requires one pot. It could not be any simpler or more indulgent. All you need is tortillas/chips and a margarita!

I went to school in Fayetteville, Arkansas. And as far as restaurants go, there is nothing to write home about (minus one pizza place but I digress).


My friends and I would always go out to a couple of different local mexican restaurants. And I quickly learned that they all had this dish called the Steven’s Special. And the Arkansans raved about it.


Now let’s just set one thing straight: the Mexican food there was subpar. It doesn’t even compare to Tex Mex or authentic Mexican food. But I will say the Steven’s Special is pretty dang good.


It is basically a plate filled with tons of rice, a layer of fajita chicken, and finished with queso poured on top. I mean how could you mess this up? What is your favorite Mexican dish to order at your local restaurant?


Since there are no Steven’s Specials here in Seattle, I figured it was time to recreate it! And mine is waaay better (unbiased opinion ;)).


Highlights


  • Easy one pot Mexican dinner
  • Ready in 30 minutes or less
  • Kid friendly
  • Extra cheesy
  • Loaded with Mexican rice, chicken, peppers, and queso blanco
  • Great in taco shells, with chips, or on its own


Ingredients

Skillet

  • Chicken Thighs: Swap for chicken breasts. However, chicken breasts dry out easier.
  • Yellow Onion: Swap for white or red onion.
  • Green Chiles: Use hot green chiles for extra spice.
  • White Rice: Do not substitute for brown rice. It requires more liquid and cooking time.
  • Chicken Broth: Swap for vegetable broth.
  • Colby Jack Cheese: Swap for cheddar, monterey jack, or pepper jack cheese. But be sure to buy a block and grate it yourself for the best taste and melting. 2 ounces (½ cup) is used for the queso and the rest goes on top.


Queso Blanco

  • White American Cheese: This processed cheese from the deli makes the smoothest cheese sauce. I do not recommend substituting it for any other cheese.
  • Half and half: Do not substitute for milk. It will be too thin and watery.


Complete list of ingredients and amounts is located on the .


Instructions

before you start . . .


  • Prep the cheese. I normally just tear the american cheese slices into pieces as I add them to the half and half. As for the colby jack cheese, be sure to buy a block and shred it at home. It tastes and melts much better.
  • Remove the jalapeño seeds & membranes. Be sure to remove the seeds and membrane with a spoon from the jalapeño before you dice it. Unless you like a little extra spice, then leave them.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.


Step 1: On a small plate or in a bowl, mix together the cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic, salt, and pepper.


Step 2: In a large (3.6 quart) oven safe skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high. As the oil heats, cut chicken thighs into large chunks. Add the chicken and half of the spice blend to the skillet. Brown chicken for 2-3 minutes or until brown bits form on the bottom of the skillet.

TIP - The chicken does not need to be cooked through because it will be cooked with rice.


Step 3: Add the onion, jalapeño, green chiles, tomato paste, rice, and the remainder of the seasoning blend. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.


Step 4: Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth, scraping any brown bits off the bottom.

Step 5: Bring the mixture to boil. Cover and turn the heat to low. Cook covered for 15 minutes.


Step 6: While the rice cooks, bring the half and half to a light boil in a small saucepan. Add the american cheese and 2 ounces (heaping ½ cup) of the colby jack. Stir continuously until melted and smooth. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and set aside until the rice is done.

TIP - Be sure to turn the heat down as much as possible so the rice doesn't burn.


TIP - Don’t open the lid while the rice cooks.


NOTE - The queso will continue to thicken as it cools.


Step 7: Pour the queso on top of the rice and chicken. Top with the reaiming colby jack cheese.


Step 8: Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Expert Tips & Recipe Notes


  • Brown the chicken. Use high heat so the chicken develops some color and brown bits form in the bottom of the skillet. These add so much flavor and depth to the dish.
  • Do not uncover the skillet. If you open the lid, all of the steam will be released and the rice will not cook properly. Set your timer and leave the skillet alone.
  • The queso blanco is thin. As the queso is simmering, you will notice it does not thicken up too much. This is okay. It will ensure the dish is moist.
  • Always shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese has anti-caking agents which make it harder to melt. I also think it has less flavor.
  • American cheese is key. Processed deli style american cheese is the best base for a queso or cheese sauce. It melts so well and makes the sauce extra smooth.
  • Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. The skillet will be extremely hot when it comes out of the oven. As it cools, it will set and firm up slightly.

FAQs

How do you store leftovers?Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The rice will be a bit mushy when reheated but it is still very tasty leftover.

What do you serve with this skillet?I love to serve this dish with crispy taco shells for some added texture. Tortillas chips, corn, or flour tortillas are also great options. Don’t forget some cilantro, onion, or jalapeño for some freshness.

What is the Steven’s special?The Steven’s Special is a popular Mexican dish in Fayetteville, Arkansas. While it is not very authentic, it is loved by all of the locals. It is a bed of red Mexican rice, topped with fajita chicken, and lots of white queso.

What does queso mean?Directly translated, queso means cheese. In America, queso is used to refer to Mexican cheese dip. It is made up of ingredients other than cheese, like milk, tomatoes, onion, and sometimes meat.


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Skinny Spicy Margarita Recipe (Jalapeño)

Steven’s Special Recipe (Chicken, Rice, & Queso)

Recipe details

  • 6  people
  • Prep time: 5 Minutes Cook time: 25 Minutes Total time: 30 min
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Ingredients

Spice Blend

  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Skillet

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs*
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced*
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds & membranes removed, diced*
  • 1 4 ounce can mild green chiles*
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup white rice*
  • 2 cups chicken broth*

Queso Blanco

  • 1 cup of half and half*
  • 8 ounces deli sliced white american cheese*
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ 6 ounces colby jack cheese, divided*

Optional Garnish

  • cilantro, jalapeño, or red onion

Instructions


Review all recipe notes and instructions before beginning.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
On a small plate or in a bowl, mix together the cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic, salt, and pepper.
In a large (3.6 quart) oven safe skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high. As the oil heats, cut chicken thighs into large chunks. Add the chicken and half of the spice blend to the skillet. Brown chicken for 2-3 minutes or until brown bits form on the bottom of the skillet.
Add the onion, jalapeño, green chiles, tomato paste, rice, and the remainder of the seasoning blend. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth, scraping any brown bits off the bottom.
Bring the mixture to boil. Cover and turn the heat to low. Cook covered for 15 minutes.
While the rice cooks, bring the half and half to a light boil in a small saucepan. Add the american cheese and 2 ounces (heaping ½ cup) of the colby jack. Stir continuously until melted and smooth. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from the heat and set aside until the rice is done.
Pour the queso on top of the rice and chicken. Top with the reaiming colby jack cheese.
Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Tips

  • Chicken Thighs: Swap for chicken breasts. However, chicken breasts dry out easier.
  • Yellow Onion: Swap for white or red onion.
  • Green Chiles: Use hot green chiles for extra spice. White Rice: Do not substitute for brown rice. It requires more liquid and cooking time. Chicken Broth: Swap for vegetable broth.
  • Half and half: Do not substitute for milk. It will be too thin and watery.
  • White American Cheese: This processed cheese from the deli makes the smoothest cheese sauce. I do not recommend substituting it for any other cheese.
  • Colby Jack Cheese: Swap for cheddar, monterey jack, or pepper jack cheese. But be sure to buy a block and grate it yourself for the best taste and melting. 2 ounces (½ cup) is used for the queso and the rest goes on top.
  • Brown the chicken. Use high heat so the chicken develops some color and brown bits form in the bottom of the skillet. These add so much flavor and depth to the dish.
  • Do not uncover the skillet. If you open the lid, all of the steam will be released and the rice will not cook properly. Set your timer and leave the skillet alone.
  • The queso blanco is thin. As the queso is simmering, you will notice it does not thicken up too much. This is okay. It will ensure the dish is moist.
  • Always shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese has anti-caking agents which make it harder to melt. I also think it has less flavor.
  • American cheese is key. Processed deli style american cheese is the best base for a queso or cheese sauce. It melts so well and makes the sauce extra smooth.
  • Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. The skillet will be extremely hot when it comes out of the oven. As it cools, it will set and firm up slightly.
Brianna May
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Comments

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  • Cinbtown Cinbtown on Jul 02, 2021

    Wow, how many years ago did you grow up in Fayetteville? They have so many good restaurants representing several cuisines. I only visited a dozen times before the pandemic and found at least that many restaurants above par.

    • Brianna May Brianna May on Jul 05, 2021

      I actually went to college at the University of Arkansas! There are some good ones for sure.

  • Gen27643213 Gen27643213 on Jul 03, 2021

    Why are all of your recipes formatted to print on 3 or 4 pages. Couldn't you format it to print on 1 page? I usually cut and past the recipe to a word doc so I can reformat it to 1 page.

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