It's a Keeper: Chicken and Vegetable Casserole

Casseroles were not served in my house when I was a kid. I blame it on my Dad (who did most of the cooking). He's from Minnesota and I think his Midwestern upbringing made him pretty sick of the good old casserole (or hot dish, as my Grandma called it). It's probably the same way I feel about Shake 'N Bake chicken and Stove Top Stuffing.

So, I decided to mix things up a bit and try a casserole I recently saw on Rachael Ray's talk show. The idea for Rachael’s "Fixed-Up" Chicken & Vegetable Casserole is to take a classic Chicken Casserole and make it healthier by avoiding the usual sodium-rich cream of chicken soup. It worked for me! Although, this recipe made so much food, I would probably only do half of it next time.

Here's the recipe with my comments in brackets:

1 pound egg noodles
Salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces [Tenders were on sale, so I used those and got the added benefit of less chopping.]
2 cups shredded or grated carrots [They sell them pre-shredded by the packaged salads in my grocery store. Why get your grater dirty unnecessarily?]
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely grated or chopped
1 fresh or dry bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine (eyeball it)
2 cups chicken stock (eyeball it)
2 cups milk (eyeball it)
1 10-ounce box frozen peas
20 leaves basil, roughly chopped or torn
1/4 cup (about a handful) flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup (2 handfuls) shredded Italian 3-cheese mix [They only have 5-cheese mix in my store. I have never felt that the two extra cheeses were a liability.]

Preheat oven 375°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the egg noodles. Once boiling, add some salt and the noodles and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain thoroughly.

While the water is coming up to a boil for the egg noodles, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle the pan with two turns of the pan with EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken pieces and brown on both side for about 4-5 minutes and remove to a plate. [It always takes longer than that for chicken to brown for me. The chicken seems to give off water - any suggestions for me?]

To the same large skillet over medium-high heat, add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic and bay leaf, season with some salt and pepper and cook, stirring every now and then for 3-4 minutes, until the veggies start to get tender. Scoot the veggies to the sides of the skillet and add the butter to the center of the skillet. [Scoot is an official culinary term.] Once the butter melts, add the flour, stir to combine and cook about 1 minute.

Add the white wine, chicken stock and milk and whisk together. Stir in the veggies, bring up to a bubble and simmer for 3-4 minutes until thick. [It usually takes between 5-10 minutes to bring it up to a boil.] Remove the bay leaf and then add the peas [no need to defrost first], reserved chicken pieces, basil, parsley and drained noodles, and toss to combine.

Transfer everything to a baking dish. In a bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and shredded Italian 3 cheese mix, sprinkle over the casserole and transfer to the oven. [I think you could just put the bread crumbs on, then the cheese, and avoid making another dish dirty.] Bake for 15 minutes, until the top is brown. Serve with a simple green salad alongside.

Yields 4 servings.

2 comments:

  1. I love casseroles now that I can control what goes into them, especially when I can take the leftovers for lunch, but when I was a kid I definitely had my fill of "Tuna Pea Wiggle" etc... Blah! Count yourself lucky that you weren't forced to partake in this meal time torture.

    Anyway, this looks yummy!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The only problem is that now I feel the need to try casserole recipes whenever I see them!

    ReplyDelete

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