CREAMY CHICKEN & RICE CASSEROLE W/ PEAS, CARROTS, AND CHEDDAR
TOASTED BREAD CRUMB TOPPING:
4 slices white sandwich bread, quartered
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbs minced fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 Tbs.)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 breasts), trimmed
1½ cups long-grain white rice
1 lb bag frozen pea and carrot medley (about 3 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 Tbs juice from 1 lemons
ground black pepper
1. Prepare crumb topping: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300°F. Pulse the bread and butter in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 6 pulses. Spread the crumbs out over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and dry, 20 to 30 minutes. Let the crumbs cool, then toss with the parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and 1 tsp. salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and cream.
3. Add chicken breasts, partially cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover completely, and cook until the thickest part of the chicken breast registers 160°F. on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Stir the rice into the pot, cover and continue to cook over low heat, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed much of the liquid and is just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the shredded chicken, peas and carrots, cheddar, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into a 13×9-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the crumb topping.
6. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 400°F. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and hot throughout, about 1 hour. Remove foil and continue to bake until the crumbs are crisp, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
*To make ahead: Wrap prepared dish tightly with plastic wrap and then foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. (If frozen, the casserole must be thawed completely in the refrigerator before baking). Don’t forget to remove plastic wrap before baking.
**Bake half and freeze half: Divide between two 8×8-inch baking pans. Cover one dish with plastic wrap and foil to freeze.
Recipe Source: The Best Make-Ahead Recipe
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“Made this one for my sister who had just had a baby. I split it into two pans and she ate one and froze the other for later. She gave it the thumbs up!”
-San Diego, CA