Chicken casseroles are pot-luck and family favorites. But, they're not quick and easy because they generally require cooked and cubed chicken.
Why not spend a little time on a weekend afternoon preparing a big batch of chicken, divide it into freezer bags and stick it in the freezer to use for recipes like today's Chicken Broccoli Supper?
Over the next five weeks, I'll give you two more recipes that will use your "chicken stash" for enjoyable family meals.
Instead of boiling bone-in chicken breasts, I like to oven poach a big six- pound bag of individually quick frozen, boneless, skinless breast halves. The method is simple.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray three large glass baking dishes with nonstick spray and scatter a sliced small onion, some celery leaves and a coarse-cut carrot in each dish. Lay the frozen chicken breasts over the vegetables and cover tightly with tin foil.
Bake for 50 minutes, then check for doneness. The juices should run clear when you insert a knife in the center of a breast. If the chicken isn't quite done, return it to the oven for 10 more minutes.
Keep checking the chicken every 10 minutes or so, to avoid overcooking. The whole baking process can take up to 1 hour, 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts.
Remove the chicken from the dishes and allow it to cool before cutting into cubes or shredding, depending on your preference. Then, pour the juices through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl. Discard the vegetables, and you'll have a rich chicken broth to freeze for another time.
The 6-pound bag of chicken I bought recently contained 10 breast halves, which yielded 11 cups of cubed chicken and 2 1/2 cups of rich chicken stock. Divide the chicken into three freezer bags, and you should have enough for most chicken casseroles.
Today's recipe is based on one from Second Round Tea-Time at the Masters, published by the Junior League of Augusta.
Once the chicken is prepared, assembling this one-dish meal is a snap. To keep it quick, steam the broccoli in the microwave while you boil the pasta in a pot and saute the green onions in a large skillet. This dish freezes very well, if you're trying to plan ahead. Simply thaw the casserole completely before baking.
Serve Chicken Broccoli Supper with some rolls and a salad, if you like. For dessert, have some raspberry sorbet.
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 cups cooked and chopped chicken
1 bunch broccoli, steamed and cut into florets
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
8 ounces of spaghetti, cooked and drained
8 ounces (2 cups) finely grated, sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup whipping cream
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute green onions in butter. Reduce heat to low and add chicken, broccoli, salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes.
Place spaghetti in a greased 3-quart baking dish and cover with 1 cup of the cheese. Pour cream over cheese. Spread chicken mixture over top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.
Bake for 30 minutes. When done, toss or stir mixture to distribute ingredients.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Karin Calloway is a corporate chef and free-lance writer. You can write her in care of The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30913. Or send e-mail to email@example.com.