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Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole


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I find it extremely difficult to take "good" or pretty photos of casseroles, especially once they're dished onto the plate.  Of course, my food photography is novice at best anyway... but I always want the presentation to at least look appealing!  Rest assured that while this looks like a pile of goop, it was incredibly delicious and so convenient to pull out of the freezer on a busy weeknight. A flavorful "comfort food" kind of meal. I promise to try and get a better photo next time I make it...

I used an entire rotisserie chicken, pulled from the carcass and shredded (I love how appealing that sounds... sorry...) and I divided the whole thing between 2 large square foil pans to freeze for later (this was on a "freezer meal" prep day.)  The recipe makes 10-12 servings itself so, unless you plan to feed a crowd, I would divide it.  It was plenty for us to have for 2 nights worth of dinner.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole 
1 (2.25-oz) package sliced almonds
2 (6.2-oz) boxes fast cooking long grain and wild rice mix (I used 3 boxes of Rice-a-Roni brand)
2 tablespoons butter
4 celery ribs, chopped
5 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
2 (8 oz) cans water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt (could be omitted, there is plenty of flavor without)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese divided (I think I used about 3, total)
2 cups soft fresh breadcrumbs

Prepare rice mixes according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add celery and onions.  Saute 10 minutes or until tender.  In a large bowl mix together celery/onion mixture, chicken, next 6 ingredients and 3 cups of the cheese.  Spoon mixture into a lightly greased large baking dish or 2 smaller (11x7) baking dishes. Top with breadcrumbs.

To make tonight: Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Top with remaining cheese and almonds and bake an additional 5 minutes.

To freeze and make later: cover with plastic wrap, place cheese and almonds in a resealable freezer bag, place on top of plastic wrap and cover dish with foil.  Label, date and freeze.  Thaw and cook as directed above. OR Remove from freezer and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.  Bake, COVERED, at 350 for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 55-75 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with cheese and almonds and heat 5 minutes longer.


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