Is there anything more adaptable than a casserole? A new baby. A death in the family. A potluck. These recipes are truly one-dish wonders. Their portable, can be made ahead (even frozen) and save time on clean-up, can satisfy the hungriest of crowds, and in many ways represent comfort food at its finest. Every Southern cook that I know has a go-to casserole recipe that they use for these occasions, many of them being new versions of time-tested classics. Yet, we never get tired of seeing them on the table or eating the left overs the next day.
Chicken and Rice casserole is a perfect example of this. A quick Google search will give you access to countless versions of this classic, each different from the other in one way or another. Below is the version I chose to use this weekend, as we needed a dinner that would be ready whenever each of us were able to eat. And we were not too upset about the leftovers either!
Chicken Rice Bake with Cheesy Sauce
1 ¼ cup uncooked long-grain white rice
5 chicken breasts, diced in bite-sized pieces
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chopped celery
¾ cup water
1 10 ½ ounce can condensed beef broth
½ tsp salt (plus extra for dredging flour)
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast rice about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Coat chicken with mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Brown outsides in hot skillet with a little vegetable oil. Remove chicken from skillet. Add onion and garlic, cook until tender.
In a large bowl, Combine remaining ingredients, plus the chicken, rice, and onion and garlic. Mix together. Transfer to a suitable baking dish. Cover tightly with foil, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until chicken is done and rice is tender. Check that the rice does not need a little more water added, and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes.
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 ¼ cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Blend in 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and a dash of pepper. Add in 1 ¼ cup milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and bubbles. Stir in 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded. Keep over heat until cheese melts.
*These recipes were adapted from the 1968 Better Homes and Gardens Casserole Cook Book