I could never understand those who turned up their noses at casseroles. I love them! It’s the easiest way to get your protein, vegetables, and starches all in one dish with little fuss. This chicken mushroom rice casserole uses an easy homemade sauce, so no cream-or-anything soups that are loaded with ingredients you can’t pronounce. It’s hearty and filling, even though it goes easy on the starch. Prep your ingredients before you begin, because this goes together fast. As usual, read my Notes before you begin.
Chicken Mushroom Rice Casserole Recipe
3 (2 to 2-1/2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken breasts (see Notes)
Salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper to taste
4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup or half a stick) butter
8 ounces white button mushrooms, brushed clean, larger ones halved and/or quartered
1 cup (3 to 4 stalks) diced celery
1 cup (2 to 3 carrots) diced carrots
1 cup diced sweet onion
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1-1/4 cups long-grain white rice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups strong chicken broth
1 cup milk or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup frozen peas, green beans, or broccoli (do not thaw)
1 cup shredded Asiago, Gouda, Havarti, or Swiss cheese (tested with Emmi LeGruyere)
1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Sprinkle lightly with salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper. Toss to cover with the spices. Set aside.
In a 3-quart saucepan, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms, celery, carrots, and onions to the butter and sprinkle with the salt. Saute until slightly softened and mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice until coated with the butter.
Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes to cook out the rawness. Carefully stir in the chicken broth, poultry seasoning, and nutmeg. Continue to stir until the sauce begins to thicken, then stir in the milk. Simmer until thickened. Add the green veggies and cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a 9- x 13-inch glass or ceramic casserole dish with butter-flavored vegetable oil.
Pour the sauce and vegetable mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the chicken chunks evenly over the top and press into the mixture.Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese on top.
Melt 1 teaspoon butter and stir into the panko bread crumbs. Sprinkle the buttered panko evenly over the top of the chicken, then top with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Place the casserole dish on a low-rimmed baking pan, to catch any boil-overs.
Bake for 45 minutes, until rice is al dente. Let the chicken mushroom rice casserole rest for 10 minutes. Serve with a side salad.
Yield: 8 generous servings
• Most generic chicken in grocery stores is enhanced, meaning it is injected with a brine solution to preserve, plump up, and tenderize. (The label should clearly say this, so look for the fine print.) It exudes this liquid as it cooks. If you use organic, unenhanced chicken, reduce the amount of rice to 1 cup.
• Boneless, skinless chicken thighs may be substituted for chicken breasts and will give the casserole a stronger chicken flavor. Or use half of each.
• Substitute your favorite white rice, such as arborio or basmati.
• Substitute your favorite mushrooms for the button mushrooms.
• The nutmeg just rounds out the sauce. You won’t taste it, so please use it.
• When I buy carrots, I always seek out the skinniest ones, which are sweeter. The big, fat ones have a larger core, which is bitter.
• You may substitute frozen mixed vegetables for the carrots, celery, and peas. If so, do not thaw them. Add them to the sauce after the cheese has melted.