OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Substitute beef in roast to get Mississippi Chicken

Mississippi Chicken isn't much to look at, but what it lacks in visual appeal it more than makes up for in flavor. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

You likely know Mississippi Roast — known at my house as The Roast — made with chuck roast, ranch dressing mix, au jus gravy mix, butter and pepperoncini peppers.

Now meet Mississippi Chicken. It comprises the same flavors, but with chicken in place of beef. Another difference, Mississippi Chicken can be on the table in under an hour, unlike the roast, which cooks all day in a slow cooker.

At the urging of a friend who shares my love of Mississippi Roast, I recently gave Mississippi Chicken a test run.

As usual, I upped the pepperoncini and cut back a bit on the butter and the results were delicious — but a bit of a salt bomb. Next time I make it I’ll definitely cut back on the au jus mix and the ranch dressing. I’ve written the recipe below with my future adjustments.

The ranch and au jus combine with the butter to form a bit of a crust on the chicken, sealing in flavor and juices (all that butter doesn’t hurt). Unfortunately, the pepperoncini got way too brown while the chicken cooked. I know many people use them just for flavor, but I like to eat them, too. So I recommend adding them during the last 15 minutes or so, if you don’t want them blackened. Or you could put them under the chicken. You get the same flavor, but they’re protected from the intense heat of the oven.

I served it with a spinach-romaine salad and mashed potatoes.

It didn’t dethrone the roast, but the recipe is definitely going in my keeper file.

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Baked Mississippi Chicken

  • ¼ cup butter, divided use
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • ½ (1-ounce) packet ranch dressing mix (about 2 tablespoons)
  • ¼ to ½ (1-ounce) packet au jus gravy mix
  • Jarred pepperoncini peppers or banana peppers, sliced

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Lightly coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the chicken with butter.

Place chicken in the baking dish. Sprinkle with ranch seasoning and au jus gravy mix. Thinly slice the remaining butter and scatter it over the chicken. Bake 15 minutes, add the pepperoncini and bake 15 minutes more or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.