I love this casserole and have fond memories of eating the leftovers on Saturday afternoons while watching Soul Train. To me, it was almost as delicious as Don Cornelius!
The Best of the Casserole Queen
Ah, the 1970s—when bell bottoms were groovy jeans, shag carpeting was all the rage, "salad" was made from Jello, and canned soup casseroles offered the ultimate in comfort food.
Today, jeans come in many styles, from skater peg-legs to seriously baggy; wood floors are in, and salads are green and organic.
But one thing hasn't changed: There isn't a more comforting meal than the casserole Grandma used to make with Campbell's soup, topped with a buttery cornflake crust or fried onions from a can.
My grandma embraced the casserole movement wholeheartedly, mastering a staggering number of dishes she'd make ahead and freeze. Although all of them were tasty, two were everybody's favorites: eggplant casserole and this chicken and rice casserole. She trotted them out regularly at potlucks and Sunday pitch-in dinners.
Grandma's chicken and rice casserole was my personal favorite, and it was one of the main reasons I crowned her the Casserole Queen (behind her back, of course).
Hope you think it's groovy, too.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
- 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 1 cup or more celery, chopped
- 1/2 cup or more onion, chopped
- 1 small can water chestnuts, sliced
- 1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
- 2 to 3 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups leftover white rice, cooked
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 to 1 cup cornflakes, crushed
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Use butter or Pam to grease an 8x8 casserole dish. Set aside.
- In a pan, saute the celery in 1 tablespoon of butter until softened. Remove from heat.
- To the pan of softened celery, add all of the remaining ingredients (except 2 tablespoons of butter and cornflakes).
- Mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
- Melt the butter in a microwave-safe measuring cup.
- Add cornflakes to melted butter and stir.
- Sprinkle the cornflake mixture over the casserole.
- Bake the casserole at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until the top bubbles and browns.
- Double everything and use a 9x13 baking dish to make a casserole for eight people.
- If you love the crunch of water chestnuts, add two cans instead of one. Not a fan? Leave 'em out entirely and add more celery.
- Substitute undiluted cream of mushroom soup or cream of celery soup for cream of chicken.
- Add chopped almond slivers to the casserole proper and/or the topping.
- Sauté the vegetables in olive oil instead of butter.
- Top the casserole with buttered breadcrumbs or French's fried onion rings instead of cornflakes.
It's Even Better as Leftovers
I once caught my vegetarian niece standing over the kitchen sink in the middle of the night on in her jammies, shoveling down a bowl of leftover chicken and rice casserole.
Even though she'd made our lives unbearable for more than a week with her special lacto-ovo-vegan dishes, I didn't say a word, just tiptoed back to bed without getting a drink of water.
Hey, it was the holidays, a time when just about everybody needs a little comfort food.
Other Easy Ideas for Leftover Chicken
Have you noticed that a small, whole chicken is difficult to find at the grocery store? Even the organic ones. Most tend to weigh four pounds and upwards, so if you cook a whole chicken to make chicken and rice casserole, you'll probably have leftover meat and broth. Here are four easy ways to use the leftovers.
Simple Chicken Salad
Chop or shred 2 cups of chicken and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Add 1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise (enough to enfold the mixture). Adjust seasoning and then add optional ingredients of your choice, such as diced celery, chopped pecans, and halved seedless grapes; or hot banana pepper rings, and minced red onion.
Chicken & Noodle Soup
Sauté 1 chopped onion, 1 sliced celery stalk, and 1 chopped carrot in 2 tbsp. butter or oil for about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp. thyme, 6-8 cups chicken broth, and 2-3 cups chopped chicken. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then adjust seasoning, adding more thyme, black pepper and/or salt as needed. Finally, toss 2 cups egg noodles into the pot and boil for 5 minutes.
Chicken and Dumplings
Sauté a small onion, one stalk chopped celery, and two chopped carrots in 2 tbsp. butter for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 c. flour and cook, stirring, a minute more. While continuing to stir, slowly add three cups of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
While the broth is cooking, mix together 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. salt. Blend in 2 tbsp. butter with a pastry blender, and then stir in 1/2 c. whole milk or light cream.
Add 2 cups chopped chicken, ground black pepper, and salt to taste to the broth. You may also opt to add vegetables, such as cooked green beans, peas or edamame (green soybeans), before dropping the stiff dumpling batter by rounded tbsp. into the broth.
Cover and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes in order to steam the dumplings.
Chicken Pot Pie
Cook the vegetables in butter as for chicken and dumplings, adding flour and broth as described above. As the mixture thickens, roll out Pillsbury's pre-prepared pie crust that has been allowed to soften outside the refrigerator in a 9-inch pie pan. Add chopped chicken as well as frozen peas and leftover cooked carrots and potatoes to the broth, then pour the mixture into the crust. Top with a second crust and seal it at the edges, cutting three or four small vents in the top. Cook at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes or until the crust has browned.
© 2013 Jill Spencer