I’ll be the first to admit that any time I see a recipe for a casserole, I roll my eyes and move on. Most versions I see contain ingredients such as “canned soup” (yuck) and “leftover chicken.” Who has leftover chicken lying around? Casseroles, to me, seemed like a hodgepodge of foods that you throw in a baking dish, cover with condensed soup, top with cheese, and call it it a dinner. Plus, is there anything that screams “I’m a mom in America” more than a casserole?
But the other night, I was craving something comforting and hearty but with enough good stuff in it to make it a healthy dinner, and I fell weakly into casserole territory. No sooner did I make this that I became a casserole convert. This version, which I update to call a “bake,” (I still can’t bring myself to say “Honey, how did you like tonight’s casserole?) is made entirely from scratch (read: no soup) and with ingredients that are simple enough for the whole family to get on board. It’s comfort food at its very best. And because it contains all the elements of a meal: protein, complex carbs, and veggies, there’s no need to serve side dishes. Cheers for a one-dish dinner!
I love meals that work for my entire family, and this one definitely is it. With chicken and broccoli that you can chop as little as you want, it’s friendly enough for BLW all the way up the family chain. And because this recipe makes A LOT, you could even divide it in two and freeze half for dinner another time.
My husband, 4 year old, and 1 year old ate this right up, while my 6 year old picked around the broccoli (insert eye roll). Overall, I would call it a huge success and a family dinner I will make again.
CHICKEN, RICE, AND BROCCOLI BAKE
makes 8 servings
1 1/2 cups organic brown rice
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 pound broccoli crowns, chopped small
1 pound crimini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons flour (sub GF flour to make this dish gluten free)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups whole milk or 2 percent milk
8 ounce block of cheese, shredded, divided*
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (sub GF to make this dish gluten free)
In a 3-quart lidded saute pan over medium-high heat, add rice. Let rice toast for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Slowly pour in stock and stir. Add chicken to the rice mix. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook until rice and chicken are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, saute mushrooms in 1 tablespoon butter. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
Transfer cooked chicken to a cutting board. Add chopped broccoli to the rice mix, stir, and put the lid back on the pan to soften the broccoli a bit. Chop chicken into pieces and return it to the pan along with the mushrooms. Stir until ingredients are evenly combined.
In the same saucepan you used to cook the mushrooms, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Add onion powder and garlic powder, and whisk to combine. Add flour and whisk for three minutes more. Slowly stream in milk, increase the heat, and whisk until mixture is thick, around 5 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from the heat and whisk in all but 1/2 cup cheese until melted.
Pour cheese sauce evenly over the chicken and rice mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs, then transfer to a 400 degree oven and cook for 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
*While more work, buying a block of cheese and shredding it yourself with result in a creamier dish. Preshredded cheese contains anti-clump agents that will make the dish chalky.