Cheesy chicken and rice casserole

I had a wicked craving for chicken and rice casserole last week, but it is so difficult to find recipes for casseroles that don’t use canned soups or bouillon cubes. So when I found this one, I was eager to try it. It uses a homemade cheese sauce similar to that which you make for homemade mac and cheese. I opted to bump the flavor up a bit and crossed my fingers as it went into the oven. I was not disappointed; it was exactly what I’d been craving, and my husband ate half the 9×13 pan in one sitting. It’s certainly not health food, but it’s clean comfort food, and that’s precisely what I wanted. This recipe is shooting straight to the top of the regular rotation.

Cheesy chix casserole B

Cheesy chicken and rice casserole
(Original recipe: Brown Eyed Baker)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sage
1 TBSP fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups cubed cooked chicken (I used 3 large chicken breasts)
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 pound), uncooked
2 cups cooked rice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the sliced mushrooms. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked down and all of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the mushrooms to a separate bowl.
In the same pan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown a bit and smells nutty, whisking constantly. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
Once all flour and butter has been incorporated and the sauce has thickened, whisk in the cheddar cheese, adding a handful at a time and whisking until completely melted before adding the next handful. Turn off the heat. Add garlic, sage, and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Gently fold in the chicken, broccoli, rice, and cooked mushrooms. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
Bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

*also excellent with additional shredded cheese or bread crumbs sprinkled on top before baking.

Cheesy chix casserole

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