~ My Cheese-y Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole ~
Every cook, every where, needs at least one, hearty, easy-to-make, go-to casserole recipe that can be counted on to please and feed a crowd. This is mine. There are as many versions of this recipe "out there" as there are den mothers, which is how I came to start making this one over twenty years ago. I'm making it today because I just made my annual vat of chicken stock a few days ago. You can read my recipe for ~ It's National Chicken Stock Day: In Mel's Kitchen! ~ in Categories 15 & 22. I'll be using the chicken from the stock in my casseroles today. Yes, I said casseroles, plural. You see, after assembling my casseroles today, I'm going to bake one and freeze one!
So, what makes is this my favorite "go to" casserole? For starters, it is a super-yummy, one-dish, family-style dinner... I love it served with tomato soup and/or a Caesar salad. It is perfect to serve at a brunch and holds up really well on a buffet table (it even tastes great at room temperature). It travels well too. Men, women and kids all love it, which makes it a great meal to take to tailgate, a pot luck or church supper-type of event. It even gets kids to eat their broccoli. Leftovers? Well, if you have a microwave at your place of work and this casserole leftover in your refrigerator, you'll actually be looking forward to brown baggin' it. Did I mention that from start to finish, all you need is one stockpot in order to prepare it!
You're not allowed to pass judgement on my use of Cheez-Whiz, instead of making a complicated cheese sauce to stir into my wonderful chicken, broccoli and rice (been there, done that) until you have tasted this recipe. Or, just trust me when I tell you, "Cheeze-Whiz is the bomb" and that is that. I have never, not even once, served this casserole that someone didn't ask me for the recipe. Then, when they find out what is in it, I love the "you've got to be kidding me" look, followed by the "Mel, I just assumed that you of all people would be making some sort of fancy cheese sauce!"
3-4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fillets or tenders
2 quarts canned chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli florets
12 ounces butter (3 sticks), total throughout recipe
1 1/2 pounds diced yellow or sweet onion
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
6 cups extra long-grain white rice
3 15-ounce jars Cheeze Whiz Cheese Dip
3 5-ounce jars Old English Cheese Spread
no-stick cooking spray
~ Step 1. Place the chicken in an 8-quart stockpot with enough chicken broth to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Partially cover, reduce heat and simmer, until the chicken is cooked through, 8-12 minutes. This timing will vary depending upon what cut of chicken you are simmering. Using an Asian spider or large slotted spoon, remove the chicken to a platter. Set aside to cool.
~ Step 2. Add the broccoli to the still simmering stock. Cook the broccoli until al dente, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook. Turn the heat off. Drain the broccoli, along with all of the broth, into a colander and set the broccoli aside to cool.
Note: If you are using leftover chicken, like I am today, just simmer the broccoli in some lightly salted water.
~ Step 3. Return stockpot to still warm stovetop. Over low heat, melt 1 1/2 sticks of the butter and stir in the black pepper. Add the onion and increase heat to saute, until the onion softens, about 5-6 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat and transfer sauteed onions to a very large mixing bowl.
~ Step 4. Chop the cooled chicken as directed placing it in the mixing bowl with the onion mixture as you work. Add the broccoli. Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly combine the ingredients.
~ Step 5. Return the stockpot to the stovetop. Add the Cheez-Whiz and the Old English products. Over low heat, stirring almost constantly, mix until the mixture is smooth and drizzly. Remove from heat.
~ Step 6. Add all of the cheese mixture to the bowl. Using the spatula, thoroughly but gently fold and combine the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
~ Step 7. Using a standard 1-cup measure, (not the cup/measure from the rice steamer), place the rice in steamer. Again, using a standard measure, add 6 cups of water to the steamer. Turn on, to steam. When the steamer shuts off, the rice should be firm and just slightly undercooked. Open the lid and add the remaining 1 1/2 sticks of butter. Stir until the butter is completely melted and the rice is evenly coated.
Note: No electric rice steamer? Cook the rice on the stovetop in the 8-quart stockpot. Just do your best to cook it al dente.
~ Step 8. Transfer the hot rice to the chicken mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly fold and incorporate it into the mix, until it is uniform in color and no pockets of white rice remain.
~ Step 9. Transfer the mixture into 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casseroles that have been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.
~ Step 10. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 20-25 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or, until very lightly browned, and bubbly. Serve immediately.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; Asian spider or large slotted spoon; colander; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 1-cup measuring container; electric rice steamer; 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dishes; aluminum foil
Cook's Note: Prior to baking them, the casseroles can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, up to 3 days prior to baking and serving, or, frozen for up to 6 months. In either case, remove casseroles from refrigerator or freezer and return to room temperature prior to baking according to above directions.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)