Monday, May 14, 2012

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Perfect Pairing:  Rotisserie Chicken and Ready Rice
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While I am not a huge fan of casseroles, there are times where they definitely fit the bill.  Usually that is when you need a one-dish meal of comfort food.  One of my all-time favorite recipes, which is famous in my family, is corn casserole.  We literally have it at every family function.  It is ridiculously easy and delicious.  I can’t believe I have not posted about it yet.  It is on my to-do list…
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I had a hankering for a good ole’ casserole.  I didn’t really consult a recipe because I was pretty sure I knew that I wanted it to include chicken, broccoli, rice, and mushrooms.  So, I just went to the store, got all of those tasty items and took it from there.
I was so pleased with this recipe.  It was absolutely delicious and comforting.  I made the sauce from scratch using a basic white sauce with seasonings and sharp cheddar cheese.  It took just moments and was a lot healthier than using a can of soup, and it tasted great.
So to recap we have a healthy base of chicken, whole grain brown rice, broccoli, mushrooms, and a from-scratch sauce made with skim milk.  Health food, right?  Well, so far.  Now add a sleeve of Ritz crackers to the top.  I’m going with the 80/20 rule here.  These little suckers are what make this casserole really good.  You could definitely use breadcrumbs or Panko, if desired.  I added some poppy seeds for a little visual appeal and texture.
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The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is rotisserie chicken and Ready Rice.   When I need to use chicken in a recipe like this I almost always buy the rotisserie variety at my grocery store.  It is perfectly cooked and juicy, and most importantly, a huge time saver.  The Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice is a fantastic invention.  Don’t get me wrong, cooking rice is easy, but when you are trying to get dinner on the table after a long day at work any shortcut is appreciated.  I used the Whole Grain Brown Rice variety and it was perfect in this recipe.

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
Lindsay at Perfecting the Pairing

Ingredients:
·         2 tsp olive oil
·         2 shallots, chopped
·         8 oz. sliced mushrooms (preferably crimini)
·         4 sprigs of thyme
·         1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
·         3 cups of cooked chicken, shredded
·         8.5 oz package of pre-cooked rice (Brown and Whole Grain variety)
·         3 Tb butter
·         4 Tb flour
·         2 cups milk
·         ½ tsp pepper
·         1 tsp dry mustard
·         ¾ tsp salt
·         4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
·         1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
·         1 tsp poppy seeds
·         4 Tb butter, melted
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 11x7 baking dish with cooking spray.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and sauté until they begin to soften.  Add the mushrooms and thyme sprigs.  Continue to sauté, stirring often, until the mushrooms are soft and browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove the thyme stems.  Add the mushrooms to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, steam the broccoli florets over simmering water using a silicone steamer for 4-6 minutes, or until they are just tender.  If you don’t have a silicone steamer, you can steam them in the microwave with a small amount of water.  Add the steamed broccoli to the large bowl with the mushrooms.  Next, add the chicken and package of rice to the bowl.  Stir to combine.
In a medium saucepan melt the butter and add the flour.  Whisk until completely combined and it begins to brown and form a paste.  Add the milk in batches, whisking often, mixing in the paste until it completely dissolves in the milk.  Cook over low heat until it begins to thicken to a sauce consistency.  Add the pepper, dry mustard, and salt.  Taste for seasoning and adjust according to taste.  Add the shredded cheese and stir until completely melted and combined. 
Pour the cheese mixture over the bowl of chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, and rice.  Fold gently until evenly distributed.  Pour into the greased dish.
In a small bowl, combine the crushed crackers, poppy seeds, and melted butter.  Stir with a fork until the butter is evenly distributed in the crackers.  Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the baking dish.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbly.

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