Why casseroles matter

Published 1:34 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Genesis 1:29—And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
There’s no occasion a casserole won’t serve, mainly because a casserole provides more than just a meal. Yes, a casserole tastes delicious by definition. Topping off your favorite foods, in any combination, with a heaping helping of fried onions or buttery crackers or drop biscuits makes sure of that. A casserole feeds a crowd without much fuss. When you think of the times you’ve given or received one, though, it’s likely not the taste you remember. It’s the occasion that was marked, the milestone moment, good or bad, you spent with the people you love — and who love you right back — the most. You were really with them too. You weren’t running around the kitchen, measuring flour and sprinkling salt or stirring risotto. All you had to do was make sure that the aluminum foil was on tight, the oven was set to 350 degrees, and the time was ticking down an hour. It’s that hour that makes a casserole special. It’s an extra hour of fellowship, of laughter, of solace, of joy. It’s an extra hour alone, if that’s what you need or an extra hour talking on the phone, holding a newborn baby, or hugging relatives instead of worrying about what’s for dinner. What a casserole really gives is the gift of time well spent.

3 cups instant brown rice
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 pound chicken breast, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, whipped or regular cut into chunks
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9 x 12 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread rice on top. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, salt, thyme and pepper, and cook stirring often until the vegetables are just starting to brown. Scrape vegetable mixture out onto the rice, covering evenly. Add broth to the skillet, increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and whisk in cream cheese until melted. Top rice and vegetables with chicken and peas. Pour in broth mixture, gently so as not to disturb the chicken and rice too much.

Cover with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the rice has absorbed the liquid, about 45 minutes. Remove the foil, top with cheese and return to the oven until melted. Let rest uncovered for 10 minutes and serve hot.

About Alice Russell


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