It was never my intention to take a leave of absence from this space, but it seems that it happened anyway. Oops.
If I’m being perfectly honest, it was kind of nice. Not being tied to a camera or a computer for a little while. I might try it more often.
Not that I don’t enjoy coming here and sharing with you – certainly I do. I just might be doing it a little more sporadically right now (not that I was all that regular about it before). When I make something that I think you’ll particularly appreciate, then I’ll share it with you. That’s what this space is really for, after all.
It’s still January for a few more days. I didn’t really make any earth-shattering resolutions at the start of this New Year. I’ve found that I’m not very good at keeping them. What I did decide with some certainty is that I really need to simplify. Complicated is just…well…too complicated. So, simple it shall be.
I’ve kind of gotten into a routine with my cooking. Another reason posting hasn’t happened much lately – not much new to share. Once a week or so, I make this chicken (or some variation thereon), and we eat about half of it for dinner that same day. Then I cut the rest of the meat off the carcass and tuck it away for use another day and make this lovely dark chicken stock out of the bones.
Then, a day or so later, I make chicken and rice casserole with that leftover meat. I know what you’re thinking – casserole is so passé (does anyone even say passé anymore, or is that passé)? Just hear me out, though.
See – I have a very picky toddler in my house. He’s three, and he’s demanding. And also sometimes unpleasant. And unlike his older, more amenable brother, he doesn’t care much about pleasing anyone but himself. So if he doesn’t like something? He makes life pretty miserable for the rest of us. Thus, rather than making two different dinners every night, I’m trying to come up with things that we can all enjoy (and that don’t involve opening a box of noodles that may also contain a packet of orange cheese-flavored powder – not that I haven’t done that a time or two in desperation). This seems like a good enough compromise.
It’s loosely based on this casserole from the archives of Paula Deen. I say loosely because hers involves opening a bunch of cans (canned chicken, canned soup, canned beans, canned water chestnuts, parboiled rice, etc). My version takes sauteed onions and celery and homemade chicken stock and just the tiniest hint of heavy cream and mixes it all together with hearty brown rice and skillet roasted chicken (and maybe a smidge of extra-sharp cheddar) for a flavorful, tummy pleasing meal. Paired with a salad for the grown-ups and some unsweetened applesauce for the kids, it’s an easy weeknight fix (and disagreeable-toddler-approved).
Chicken and Rice Casserole
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 45 minutes
- 2 Tablespoons oil (I used coconut, but you could use olive oil or butter – whatever you have)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, cubed (optional – this was decidedly not a toddler-approved addition, but I enjoyed it)
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- 6-8 oz. of cooked chicken, diced (I used one breast and one thigh off a pre-roasted chicken)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (this was about 2 1/4 oz. by weight)
- 2 cups brown rice, cooked according to package directions (yields approximately 6 cups cooked)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- In a large oven-proof enameled cast iron pan over medium-high heat, saute your onions and celery in oil until they begin to become translucent (if you don’t have a pan like this, you can do everything in a regular skillet and then transfer it to a casserole dish to bake in the oven).
- Add the mushrooms and let them get good and brown. Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir it around. Let it cook for a few minutes so that it loses the raw flour taste. You’re making a roux.
- Pour the chicken stock in the pan and stir to combine, making sure you dissolve any lumps of flour that might be remaining. Let it come to a boil – it should thicken.
- Add the heavy cream and stir to combine. Turn off the burner.
- Add the chicken and the rice. Carefully stir to combine.
- Add the cheese and stir through.
- Cover and bake in a 350F oven for 45 minutes. Remove the lid during the last 15 minutes to let the top get good and brown.