The Chicken Cheese Broccoli. Of course.
A tidbit on the casserole you can impress people at parties with: In France, according to the Larousse Gastronomique, "a casserole is a preparation generally made with rice, which, after cooking, is fashioned in the shape of a casserole." (Which is sort of funny to picture - fashioning rice)
In the US, "a casserole is a dish with two or more elements, the basis of which can be rice in combination with meat or fish, plus a sauce or gravy, and often a variety of vegetables. This one-dish-meal can be prepared in advance and cooked in a decorative casserole. (Here comes my favorite part) - Such a dish is very popular in homes where there are no servants to help prepare or serve meals."
|My one-dish-meal, prepared in advance, in my terra cotta Goodwill score|
So there it is - a precise definition of where we're headed:
- A one-dish-meal (perhaps in a terra cotta)
- Containing two or more elements (rice + broccoli + chicken + cheese + soup)
- Prepared in advance (which I did)
- Which we especially enjoy because we don't have servants or sous chefs. (which I don't)
With that in mind, a note on the elements:
We are being guided by the principle (as Robert would say) that each element needs to taste good on its own. We can't rely on a pinch of salt in the final moments of the whole mixture to magically blend a bunch of individual mediocrity into a marriage of pure delight. That's like assuming that two bland, boring people you'd just as soon avoid (even if your Mennonite roots prevent you from admitting that) are going to make a sparkly, exciting couple simply because they are together. It just doesn't work that way. Sooo...
- Try not to overcook the broccoli till it's mushy and gray.
- Don't make the chicken taste like nothing by not giving it any salt.
- Coax the flavor out of that soup till it dances on your tongue.
- Do use a good cheese that you'd also enjoy a slice of.
A very quick note on this dish's yield: I have adapted the recipe to serve 4 people. Or 2 with generous portions and a bit of leftovers. Because I'm cooking for 2, not 8, and I don't need a 9 x13 pan of anything hanging out in my frig.
Also, giving your neighbors leftover casserole is decidedly uncool. But if you're into that sort of thing, feel free to double the recipe.
|The finished product! I think Ryan Gosling would feel the love. I sure did!|
Chicken Cheese Broccoli Rice Casserole
Adapted from my mother, Teresa, who adapted it from a magazine whose name I'm working on getting.
Elements (aka Ingredients):
1 ½ cups rice, cooked (about ½ cup uncooked)
1 ½ cups chicken, (about 3 chicken breasts)
12 to 15 ounces cream of mushroom soup
1 ½ to 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups broccoli
½ to ¾ cup milk
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. RICE: Steam your rice and set aside.
3. CHICKEN: In a medium sauté pan, heat up enough olive oil to coat the pan over medium heat.
4. Place chicken breasts in pan, seasoning each side with salt and cook, uncovered, till no longer pink in the thickest part. Turn the heat to low if oil is sputtering. When finished, remove from heat and set aside. Cut into bite sized chunks after at least 15 minutes.
5. CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP: See recipe for that (and the Gosling reference) here. It can made well in advance.
6. BROCCOLI: Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously, and add the broccoli. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, and strain immediately. Run cold water over the broccoli to stop them from cooking any further. Set aside.
7. MARRY THE ELEMENTS: In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice, broccoli, chicken, and cheese. Make sure to keep enough cheese aside for the top layer. Add the soup and stir till everything is coated evenly. Now add the milk 1/2 cup at a time until the casserole is creamy and of light thickness. If you like your casserole pretty, well, juicy use a full cup. Taste and salt if need be.
8. Place the mixture in a casserole dish such as an 8x8. Top with a layer of cheese, cover with foil, and place in the preheated oven.
9. Allow to bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. Take the cover off, turn the heat up to 400 degrees and let the cheese brown.
10. EAT: Remove from oven and allow to cool till you think it won't scald your mouth. I served it up with a slice of oatmeal bread from More-with-Less and a green salad. Enjoy!!
One Last Tip: Let's not lie, casseroles are not aesthetically pleasing. So if you don't want it to look like you vomited on your plate, just bake it in individual ramekins.