Saturday, November 3, 2012

Creamy Chicken and Biscuits Casserole

I don't often make one-dish meals.  But as the cool weather is upon us and my travel schedule schedule is heating up, I'm making this simple but satisfying dish which will be just as good left-over as it was originally.

Creamy Chicken and Biscuits Casserole
In 1866, a French Canadian immigrant is said to have invented the precursor of the modern casserole.  Early casserole recipes consisted of rice that was pounded, pressed, and filled with a savory mixture of meats. With the advent of lightweight metal and glass cookware in the 1950's, the rice bowl was replaced and the idea of casserole cooking as a one-dish meal became popular in America.  The word casserole, from the French word for "saucepan", is a large, deep dish used both in the oven and as a serving dish. The word casserole is also used for the food cooked and served in such a dish. If you are more accustomed to the British English, this type of dish is frequently called a "bake" or if you are like my friends from Minnesota, you call this type of dish a "hotdish."  Casseroles are a staple at potlucks and family gatherings, so if you need dinner for six to eight people, this is dish is ideal.  Of course it can be easily doubled when made in a larger casserole dish.

This casserole is similar in ingredients and flavor to chicken pot pie.  But instead of pie dough on top and bottom, you simply put biscuits on the top during the final minutes of baking.  I also provide you with an alternative below which excludes the biscuits but includes noodles.

As most of the ingredients are pretty well cooked on the stove top before assembly, baking time is short and can be done later when you need a quick after-dinner meal that warms the family on a cold November evening.

Servings:  Most people will need only one biscuit for their dinner, although a hungry man or teen boy will likely want a double serving.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 raw boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3/4 cup white wine
2 cups baby carrots, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup or more of frozen peas
salt and pepper
8 biscuits (Pillsbury Grands or make your own)

Sauce
Note:  You can make the cream sauce as shown below, or your can use one can of Campbell's creamy chicken condensed soup mixed with 1 1/2 cans of milk or buttermilk.

2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk or buttermilk
salt and pepper to taste

Served with Biscuits on Bottom
Chicken and Vegetables Spooned over the Top
Directions
Prepare your baking dish by spraying with food release or coating with butter.  Chop all of the vegetables as noted.  Place the oil and butter into a skillet and heat moderately high.  When the butter is sizzling, add the chicken breast and cook until brown, then turn and brown on the other side.  Note the chicken will not be cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the skillet and saute the onion for 2-3 minutes then add the celery and cook another 2-3 minutes.  While this is cooking, place the carrots into a microwave safe dish, sprinkle with a little olive oil and cook on high for 6-8 minutes, until tender.  Add the white wine to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes until it is reduced by half while scraping up any brown bits in the pan.

Reduce the skillet temperature to low and cut the chicken breasts into bit sized pieces and saute in the wine and vegetable mixture for 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  While this is cooking, prepare the sauce.

Sauce:  Add the chicken stock to a pot and bring to a low boil.  Mix together flour and milk until all lumps are gone.  Slowly add the milk mixture to the hot stock stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the carrots and peas to the chicken mixture and toss gently to combine.   Place in your prepared casserole dish and cover with the sauce, gently stirring it until well mixed.  At this point you may refrigerate for up to 3 days.

When you are ready to proceed, place the dish in a 350F degree oven and bake for 30 minutes if it has not been refrigerated or 45 minutes if it had been refrigerated prior to baking.  Remove from oven and add the biscuits to the top.  Return to the oven and bake for 17 minutes or until the biscuits are browned.  Remove and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Chicken and Vegetables Spooned into the Dish
with Biscuits served on Top
No-Biscuit Alternative
If you don't like a doughy biscuit on top of your meal, consider this option instead.  While you are preparing the chicken mixture, boil water and cook 8 ounces of curly egg noodles until they are just barely al dente (i.e., a bit under cooked.)  Add these to the casserole when you mix all of the other ingredients together before the first baking.  Bake for 15 minutes and while this is in the oven, make a topping.  The topping should consist of any good quality crushed cracker (saltines, Ritz or other favorite), mixed with a little melted butter to help with browning.  To that add some salt, pepper and a tablespoon of grated parmesean cheese.  When the first 15 minutes of baking have completed, increase the oven temperature to 400F and then top the casserole with the cracker crumb topping and return to the oven for 15 minutes more to brown the topping.  Let cool for five minutes and serve.

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