Though our thermometers don’t show it, Fall has definitely arrived in our town. School is in full swing, football season has started, the leaves are beginning to drop, and it’s time to cook up a little comfort food. Chicken and Rice is a favorite in most homes, as it is a simple, delicious one-dish meal. I wanted to try a new twist on this classic, so I decided to add an array of colorful, fresh vegetables. Not only do the veggies add color and texture, but they provide a powerful punch of nutrients not found in this typically protein-and-starch meal.
Since GArden Chicken and Rice is made in stages, it requires a little time. The good news is that none of the stages are terribly complicated, and much of the prep work can be done ahead of time. When meal time approaches, just stick it in the oven and you’ll soon be ready with a delicious family dinner.
A few tips:
- I typically cook my chicken overnight in the crockpot. It is an easy way to knock out that step.
- You can use most any veggies you like. In addition to the ones listed in the recipe, try frozen green peas or whole kernel corn
- Since this recipe makes a lot of casserole, I usually divide it into two containers. I cook one and freeze one for another day.
For the body of the casserole:
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
3 cups wild rice, cooked (Feel free to substitute white rice or a combination of the two)
1 small onion, diced
1 cup baby carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 can chicken broth
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
For the topping:
1 sleeve Ritz or Town House crackers, crushed
1/2 stick butter
In a dutch oven or large braising pot, sautee chopped vegetables in olive oil over medium heat until they are just beginning to get tender. Add rice and chicken and mix well.
In a separate heavy pot, melt butter for sauce. When it is melted and bubbly, whisk in the flour. When flour is fully incorporated, slowly whisk in chicken broth. Continue stirring until mixture thickens. When sauce begins to thicken, add in cheese and stir until melted. Allow to cook a minute or two while stirring to reach proper thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add cheese mixture to chicken/rice mixture and mix well. If your cooking pan isn’t oven-safe, transfer to a baking dish coated in cooking spray. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Spread cracker crumbs over the top and add pats of butter evenly.
Return to oven for 15 more minutes to brown the topping.
Garden Chicken and Rice is great for Sunday lunch with the family or even for a weeknight dinner. It is a crowd-pleaser, so try it for your next potluck or get-together.