Chicken and Rice Casserole

Chicken and rice casserole is one of my favorite comfort foods.  There are a million ways to make it, nearly all of them good.  You can make it with leftover chicken and rice or make it and plan to eat the leftovers for a while.  The leftovers are often better than the first go around.  I also find that it’s good when you’re not feeling 100%.

This time around I used uncooked chicken and uncooked rice.  I think they’re better when they cook in the sauce.  I like my casserole to have a little crunch so I always add some celery and onions, sauteed just a little.  If you like a little more crunch than that I find that chopped water chestnuts are a good choice.  They don’t change the flavor much, but the added texture is nice.  The sauce is where you get to be a little creative.  I’ve seen recipes with any combination of soup, sour cream, milk, wine, water, curry powder, worchestershire sauce, yogurt, pimientos, mushrooms, hot pepper, etc.  I decided on cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, white wine, milk, salt, pepper and thyme for this.

When you start with uncooked rice the amount of liquid matters.  You need enough to cook the rice, but too much and your casserole will be soupy.  I had some difficulty with the rice this time.  I cooked the dish covered in foil for about 40 minutes.  Apparently foil, even wrapped tightly, doesn’t seal enough to cook the rice.  The chicken was fantastic, but the rice was grossly raw.  Ugh. So, be sure you use a casserole dish with a real top or cook the rice ahead of time and just mix it in.  I put it back in with the glass top on and the rice cooked beautifully.  Of course then the chicken was a little dry, but totally edible.  Oh, and I overdid it on the thyme a little.  Still, totally edible.

So, what did I learn through this less than perfect cooking experience?  First, you know you have good friends when you serve grossly raw rice in a dish and she tells you how good the chicken part is.  Second, your favorite comfort foods are comforting even when they don’t turn out perfectly.  Both good reminders.  So, if you’re a little intimidated cooking for other people start with making something you really like for people you really like.  It’ll taste good and be fun even if it doesn’t go exactly as you planned.

Good? Yes, in a comfort food kind of way.
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Casseroles are for sharing (and leftovers).
Special shopping? Nope, use what you have.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Ingredients

1 C chopped celery
1 C chopped onion
1 T olive oil
2-3 C chicken, chopped
1 C uncooked rice
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 soup can milk
1/2 soup can white wine
large dollop sour cream
1 t salt
1 t cracked black pepper
1 t thyme
1/2 C bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Saute celery and onions.
In a large bowl whisk together soup, milk, wine, sour cream, salt, pepper and thyme.
Stir in chicken, rice, celery and onions.
Sprinkle bread crumbs on the top.
Pour into a large baking dish with a lid.
Cover and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.
Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.

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