The boy’s family is a casserole family. They have traditional casseroles of various flavors for the holidays and make the easier ones throughout the year, since it’s easy to whip up a big one after a day at work and have leftovers for the rest of the week. My family… not so much. My mother stayed at home, so time wasn’t always as much of an issue — she’d do a different selection of dishes over the stove each night if she was on a streak. So when the boy asked for a casserole to take for lunch, I was left at a bit of a loss and had to go pilfering through online recipe archives once again. I came upon this one, which is a bit more time intensive than most so should probably be attempted only on the weekends. However, what attracted me to it the most, aside from a tasty-sounding dish, was the fact that it also provided you with a pot full of quality chicken stock at the end for use in future recipes. Multi-tasking for the win!
Chicken casserole with a buttery cracker crust, which ends up making the whole thing taste like a creamy dinner version of fried chicken. Except without the icky mess and health concerns of frying chicken. Oddly appealing and unexpected. Definitely a keeper. My version below has modified amounts in many areas from the original link above.
This is going to be a fairly long pictorial because there’s quite a few steps involved in making the various parts going into the casserole. We are starting by preparing the chicken stock. The recipe calls for 2 stalks of celery, cut into thirds and tossed in the stock pot. I chopped up an entire celery bunch, since I was going to be adding more of the other ingredients as well.
The original recipe calls for a mere 4 skinless, bone-in chicken breast halves. I personally felt that was way too little chicken for a dish that was going to last through several servings, so chucked in a whole raw chicken, recently defrosted.
Covered the chicken and celery with water and set to boil. In went 2 cubes of chicken bouillon to help out the chicken flavor, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. After this boiled, I covered the pot and reduced the heat to medium low, letting it simmer for 35 minutes.
While you are waiting, you might as well occupy yourself by making up 2-3 cups of cooked white rice. I just stick it into the automatic rice cooker and press “cook”, but you could conceivably boil it on the stove if you’re not as big on the rice as our family is.
Our awesome chicken broth! Of course, this recipe is more concerned with the chicken part than the broth, but don’t you dare toss that liquid out. It’s better than the canned stuff at the supermarket by far, and my mom would rarely use anything else if she had a choice. The original recipe actually says you can drain it, though they use some of the broth for flavoring the casserole. The original recipe is on crack in this regard.
Fish out the cooked chicken and let it cool a bit. Pick the meat off the bones, shred or cube according to your preferences. I like my chicken chunky, as you can see. Also, notice that a package of “whole chicken” had three legs included in it. Do I want to know? Probably not.
Now, go preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). It’ll probably take 10 minutes or so anyways and we’ll be done with the rest of the steps by then.
While the chicken is cooling, you can also start assembling the other parts of the casserole. In a large bowl, dump out your two 10.5 ounce cans of condensed cream of chicken soup, the solid base for many a fine casserole.
Stir that together with 8 ounces of sour cream to keep that soup base from being too bland.
Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth that you made in that big stock pot.
Add a rounded 1/4 teaspoon of celery salt. From past experience, I find it’s hard to overseason a casserole, since there’s usually so much liquid and starch in there to suck up flavors. If anything, I fear the bland casserole that ate all the spices without even registering them. So I go with the suggested portions of seasonings, but usually make them just a bit “fatter”.
A rounded 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
A rounded 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
A rounded 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Also, a smaller 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Completely not in the original recipe, but I can’t imagine making this without it — a normal 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Stir all those spices together into the mixture and make sure they’re blended.
Mix in 2-3 cups of cooked rice. The original recipe only uses 1 cup, but several of the comments noted that it didn’t seem like enough. I would agree with this assessment. Pile on the rice, my friends, the soup base can easily handle it.
Mix in your chicken meat. See how much better that goes with all the other stuff? This would be a skinny little casserole if we’d gone with the original portions, and would have been overwhelmingly saucy with no bulk. Spoon this mixture into a 9×13-ish casserole dish and smooth it out evenly. I used one that was slightly bigger (11×15) but I had a much bulkier casserole.
Now, the fun part! The buttery cracker crust. In a typical box of crackers, there are about 4-5 wrapped rolls. Each roll makes a little over a cup, and we need 2 cups of crushed buttery cracker crumbs. Grab two rolls of buttery crackers but do not open the wrappers. Instead, crush the crackers inside those sturdy wrappers to save yourself a mess. I roll them around on a hard surface, then go at it with a
beatstick rolling pin to pulverize it further. Get out your aggressions!
See how nicely that works?
Two rolls = 2 cups. Mission accomplished 🙂
In another bowl, mix together those two cups of buttery cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup of melted butter or margarine.
Sprinkle the crumb topping mix evenly over the top of your casserole. and stick the whole thing into the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. The result will look like my introductory photo.
Remember that pot of chicken stock? The best way to store it is to wait until it’s cooled and pour it into gallon-sized freezer bags. Don’t fill the bags all the way, just about a third to a half. I ended up with three bags this way. Press out all the air before you close the bags. Making sure they’re totally sealed and lay them flat in your freezer. You’ll end up with nice, stackable sheets of frozen broth to use whenever you need it!