Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

| January 28, 2010 | 10 Comments
  • 10 Comments

creamy chicken and rice casserole

The casserole is undergoing a resurgence in popularity. After years of being maligned as a tasteless and gloppy suburban dish made with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, it is finally coming into its own. Blame it on the economy and the rising cost of food, but high-end cuts of meat seared faultlessly and served with the perfect wine are passé in this environment: extravagant and unseemly amidst layoffs and foreclosures. Comfort foods are the new at-home gourmet chic, and there’s nothing more heartening and reassuring than a chicken casserole.

Now if you’re someone who still thinks a casserole is a jumble of congealed leftovers, than think again. This may have been the case a decade or two (or three) ago, back in the day when Campbell’s soup had a best-selling cookbook featuring dishes like Green Bean Bake and Vegetable Beef and Biscuit Casserole. But although they have a new book called Campbell’s Casseroles, One-Dish Meals and more (Plastic Comb) – okay, what the hell is “(Plastic Comb)”? — I’m happy to see that it’s ranked # 416,157 on Amazon. No. Modern casseroles are not your mama’s 1970s dinner.

Casseroles can take many shapes and forms. And while some may use leftovers, this doesn’t mean they should be avoided. After all, chicken enchiladas — which are often made with leftover chicken — is a type of casserole. And don’t forget about ooey gooey macaroni and cheese (which often uses leftover pasta) and cassoulets (which can be made out of leftover duck, sausage and beans with stellar results). Fresh ingredients that are baked together in a sauce are some of the most satisfying and affordable types of dishes you can make for a family dinner.

My Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole is a good example for how this type of dish can really stretch your food dollar. Whether you use leftovers from a previous night’s dinner or start from scratch, you only need to use about half the meat you would normally serve your family because the rice adds substantially to the dish. And, with some local onions and mushrooms added into the mix, it is ample enough to feed a family of 4-6 people while costing less than $15 to make. Truly the perfect savory mid-winter meal.

Following is my recipe. Made with a rich onion and mushroom gravy that undergoes a velvety transformation when sour cream is added, I like to think of it as a type of chicken stroganoff. But no matter how you classify it, when it comes out of the oven all bubbly and creamy and warm, it is the ultimate in comfort food.

creamy chicken and rice casserole

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Makes: 1 large casserole

This is a great dish to make if you have leftover baked chicken (and be sure to use the juices from the baking process). But if you are starting from scratch with uncooked chicken, just poach it in some water. This keeps the meat moist and also provides a nice broth that you will use to help develop the gravy. I’ll provide steps for both methods below.

mixing the mushrooms into the chicken

Ingredients with Pre-Baked Chicken:

2 cups already-cooked chicken plus pan drippings
1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 large onion halved and then sliced thinly
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I like to just chop up the ends of some sliced bread in a cuisinart).

Preparation with Pre-Baked Chicken:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Shred leftover chicken and set aside in a bowl.
3. Add oil to a hot pan and add the onions. Cook on medium heat for two minutes.
4. Add the shredded chicken along with the pan drippings from the previous night’s baking of said chicken (including about a tablespoon of that glorious chicken fat if you have some).
5. When drippings are incorporated into the chicken and onions, add the butter, flour, thyme, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until everything is fully incorporated.
6. Add chicken stock and mushrooms and mix thoroughly.
7. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat with the cover on.
8. Incorporate sour cream and then add the rice, mixing fully. If the mixture seems thick, add in another 1/2 cup chicken stock.
9. If baking in a separate dish, this is the time to butter the inside and then set the mixture inside, topping with the breadcrumbs. If baking in the same pan you used to cook the ingredients, (which is my preference) then just top with the bread crumbs and set in the oven.
10. Bake for 20 minutes and then serve with a nice salad or steamed vegetable.

cooking the chicken

Ingredients Using Fresh Chicken:

2 chicken breasts or 4 thighs raw and on the bone
1 cup water
1/2 – 1 cup chicken broth
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 large onion halved and then sliced thinly
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I like to just chop up the ends of some sliced bread in a cuisinart).

Preparation Using Fresh Chicken:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place oil in a hot pan and then lay the chicken inside. Season with a smattering of salt and pepper.
3. When chicken is slightly browned on the outside, add in the water and cover so everything steams. Cook for five minutes on medium heat.
4. Remove chicken and broth from the pan and then add in the onions. Add in a little more oil and then cook on medium heat for two minutes.
5. While the onions cook, strip the chicken from the bone and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. It’s okay if the chicken isn’t fully cooked.
6. Mix the chicken into the onions and add in the butter, flour, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir until everything is fully incorporated.
7. Add chicken broth you just created while steaming the chicken plus 1/2 cup chicken stock plus the mushrooms and mix thoroughly.
8. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat with the cover on.
9. Incorporate sour cream and then add the rice, mixing fully. If the mixture seems thick, add in another 1/2 cup chicken stock.
10. If baking in a separate dish, this is the time to butter the inside and then set the mixture inside, topping with the breadcrumbs. If baking in the same pan you used to cook the ingredients, (which is my preference) then just top with the bread crumbs and set in the oven.
11. Bake for 20 minutes and then serve with a nice salad or steamed vegetable.

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, economy and food costs, recipes

About the Author ()

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise's Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.
  • Jan Desnder

    You say cut a large onion in 1/2 & slice.
    Does that mean slice 1/2 of a large onion?
    In the ingredients list, you call for chicken “broth.”
    In the recipe, you cal for chicken “stock.”
    Which is it?
    Will this recipe freeze? If so, what are your directions.

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Jan — You cut the onion in half so it’s easier to slice, but you use the whole thing. Also, I use the terms broth and stock interchangeably in this recipe. Sorry for the confusion. I’ve never frozen this recipe, but I don’t see why you couldn’t. I would probably place it in a ziplock freezer bag so you could reduce the amount of air in the container, which will help prevent freezer burn. Good luck!

  • http://chicken-casserole-recipes.net Mary West

    I love the large pictures and it’s nice that brown rice and be substituted. This looks very appetizing and I would love to try it.

  • dani

    can i use tin of tomatoes instead of sour cream ?

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Dani – I think tomatoes would be fine, but cut the water in half and add the tomatoes in Step 6. Also, if the mixture looks too liquidy add less chix stock.

  • Barbara Wachtler

    What can I use for bread crumbs if it needs to be gluten free?

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Barbara — Any bread crumbs will do; they don’t need to be wheat. Just take whatever gluten-free bread you have and place some in a food processor to make bread crumbs. You can also use gluten-free crackers if you have those on hand.

  • Denise

    Dear Denise – I am excited to make this recipe as it sounds delicious! Thanks for posting. Denise

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Denise — I hope you like it. Let me know what you think :-)

  • Dave Blanton

    Awesome canvas you have given us here to build on. I used baby bella and shitake mushrooms that I get at the farmers market along with local raised free range chicken. I also subbed mushroom stock that I make from scratch. I added a tsp of herb de provence to the spices. This turned out awesome but the idea totally belongs to you. Thanks so much for putting this out there for us foodies from the south (Charlotte NC) to have fun with!