Monday, January 30, 2012

Recipe: Indulgent Broccoli Chicken Casserole

I grew up in the Midwest, so it's no surprise that when I crave comfort food, casseroles are at the top of my list. When my husband and I were first dating, he made fun of my style of cooking as "Irish one-pot, one-flavor" and nearly banned my Crockpot, casserole dish, and stew pot. We have both changed a bit since then, but I still love one-pot dishes.

The problem with casseroles, though, is that I loathe condensed soup. Luckily Campbell's makes a lower-sodium "healthy choice" cream of mushroom and cream of chicken, so at least I can get condensed soup without MSG and with a little less sodium.

I was really excited when I saw a recipe for broccoli chicken casserole without the condensed soup on "Get Off Your Butt and Bake." I don't usually cook with this much butter and cheese, but I thought I'd give it a try. The lactose-intolerant husband is usually good with cheddar cheese and thought he would be able to tolerate a little bit of milk with all the other ingredients. And he was right. In place of the cooked chicken breasts, I used shredded rotisserie chicken, which worked really well. 

The first night we thought the casserole was good but too rich, and the second night we thought it was delicious. I would like to try it again with a little tweaking. I would put less butter and cheese on top (the sauce has plenty of both), and maybe substitute half butter, half Smart Balance (my favorite alterna-butter) whenever the recipe calls for butter. The husband suggested adding some macaroni to cut the richness of the sauce. At any rate, this casserole is comforting and indulgent, and I thought it was well worth sharing.

Broccoli Chicken Casserole
Recipe courtesy Get Off Your Butt and Bake!

1 lb. fresh broccoli, cut in pieces
3 cups cooked chicken breasts, chopped or shredded
3 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
2 tubes Ritz crackers (I used wheat)
1 stick melted butter
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)

1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water
1/3 cup chicken broth (I used low-sodium)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups of the above cheddar cheese

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Steam or boil the broccoli for 2-3 minutes.
3. In greased 13×9 pan, layer the broccoli and chicken. Set aside. In saucepan over medium heat, combine the melted butter, cornstarch dissolved in water, chicken broth, seasonings, and milk. Stir well and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. Turn heat down to low, and add 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over the chicken and broccoli. Top with 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese.
4. Melt the butter, and add the poppy seeds, and stir well. Crush Ritz crackers in large zip-lock bag with a rolling pin. Don’t crush too small. Add crumbs to the melted butter. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the grated cheese.
5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. 

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