Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Classic Chicken and Mushroom Casserole

My take on the classic casserole. I start the dish on the stove top and finish it in the oven. It takes a good hour and a half total prep and cook time, but can be prepared in advance and frozen for later. You can use white or dark meat, use your preference, or what was on sale at the market. What I consider 4-6 servings would equal 3 or 4 large breasts or up to 6 thighs.

Classic Chicken and Mushroom Casserole

2 cups water
1 cup brown rice
Chicken, enough for 4-6 servings
approx 4 Tbs EVOO
1 large onion, diced
1-2 stalks of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
(1/2 cup white wine, optional)
2 cups white button mushrooms, roughly diced
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
about 1 cup of milk or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

First, preheat the oven to 350* F, then start the water for the rice and add rice when it comes to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, undisturbed for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot or dutch oven, brown seasoned (salt and pepper, both sides) chicken pieces in a little bit of olive oil over medium high heat. Your pot should be able to go from stove top to oven; if the handles are not heat proof, cover them with aluminum foil before transfer it to the oven. The aim is to sear the chicken and get a nice yummy brown crust going. They may stick a little at first, but should come loose as the crust begins to develop. When they have browned on both side, pull the pieces out and set aside on a plate. (Use the cook time of the chicken to dice up your veggies)

Next into the pot should be your onion, celery, and carrot, all diced. (This trio is also know as trinity, and is considered to be a good all around aromatic addition to many dishes) Reduce the heat to medium and season the veggies and allow them to sweat, stirring often. You may need to add another Tbs of olive oil. As the vegetables sweat they should pick up the flavor left in the pot from the browned chicken. If they need help to pick up the color, deglaze the pan with white wine. The wine will dissolve the residue left from the chicken, and add a subtle layer of flavor in the dish.

When the first three vegetables have cooked down, add in the chopped mushrooms. Season these lightly and allow to cook down as well. Once the vegetables have become soft, you can add the seared chicken pieces back into the pot, along with any juices they have leaked onto the plate.

Add in the two cans of cream of mushroom soup and about 1 cup of milk or chicken stock, however much you need to loosen the soup into a thick sauce, and mix well. Put on the lid to your pot and put the whole kit and kaboodle in the oven.

When the rice is al dente pull it off the heat and add the entire contents of the pot to the casserole in the oven. Stir well to combine, and continue to bake, checking every 30 minutes or so for doneness. The chicken should be done when the juices run clear, or when it hits 165* F internal temperature.

When the casserole is done, pull from the oven and allow it to cool a bit before eating to avoid any burn tongues. However, it will smell so good, you won't want to wait. Don't say I didn't warn you!

N.B. If you are making this ahead, proceed through the recipe up until the point you put the whole thing in the oven. at this point you will want to transfer the mixture into a pan or casserole dish that can transition from the freezer to the oven. Stir in the rice when it is ready and wrap the dish in tinfoil, cool to room temp and then freeze for later. (Do not put the dish in the freezer while it is still hot, that would only raise the temperature in your freezer and potentially cause food born illness due to the other frozen items thawing and re-freezing)

To re-heat the meal, bake in 350*F oven until warmed through.

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