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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Chicken, Broccoli, And Rice Casserole

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What a great weeknight meal!  Casseroles are a magical thing. Everything baking together in one dish. Hot and bubbly, with a golden brown cheesy top. What’s not to love about that?  My cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole will set you on the path to “Comfort Town”.

Not as traditional as most of the chicken, broccoli, and rice casseroles you may have encountered, I like adding mushrooms and a combination of a yellow and English white cheddar to this dish.

Why an English white cheddar you’re wondering? I’ve compared all kinds of white cheddar cheeses in the past, English white cheddar is the best.

I’m fortifying the flavor of my poached chicken for this dish. All that means is that the poaching liquid I’m using is an unsalted chicken broth to enhance the chicken flavor.

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Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Yields: 6-8 servings
Equipment:  9 x 11 x 2 baking dish

Ingredients:
1 quart of unsalted chicken broth (poaching liquid)
4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon of good olive oil
1 cup diced onions
1 pint of cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon of a Fresno chili (approx. 1/2 a Fresno chili, seeded and minced)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups of cooked white rice (Success, boil-n-bag rice, 2 packets, now available in brown rice)
2 1/2 cups of thawed frozen broccoli florets, roughly chopped
3 cups of cooked diced chicken (4 boneless skinless chicken breasts)

Cheese Sauce:
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the topping
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup (8-ounces) Philadelphia Whipped original cream cheese, room temperature (or substitute 1 cup sour cream)
2 1/2 cups of whole milk, heated
1 3/4 cups of grated English white cheddar
1/4 cup of grated yellow cheddar
2/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, plus 4 tablespoons

Directions:
Spray a 9 x 11 x 2 baking dish with cooking spray.

Note: Make sure the frozen broccoli florets are completely thawed. Transfer the broccoli florets to a large plate lined with paper towel and pat dry as much as possible. Transfer the florets to a cutting board and give them a rough chop. Place into a bowl and set aside.

In a large sauce pot, on medium heat, add 4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts (in a single layer), dried thyme, Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Pour 1 quart of unsalted chicken broth, enough to cover the chicken. Once the liquid comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover. This process should take anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken is poaching, start with the boil-in-a-bag rice. Follow the instructions on the box. Once the rice and water are brought to a boil, boil for 8-10 minutes, remove the rice from the bag and transfer to a large bowl, set aside.

The chicken should be opaque in color and have an internal temperature of 165-degrees. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and transfer to a plate. Next, dice the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Transfer the diced chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Next, in a large sautè pan on medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the diced onions, cook 3-4 minutes, until soft and translucent. To the onions add the sliced mushrooms, minced Fresno chili, and dried thyme, cook for another 4-6 minutes. Continue sautèeing until all the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are nice and brown. This is the time to add the Kosher salt to the pan, stir through. Finally, add the broccoli florets and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the broccoli, mushroom, and onion mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add to that the cooked rice and diced (cooked) chicken. Toss all the ingredients together and set aside for the time being.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

Directions For Cheese Sauce:
In a 3-quart saucepan,  over medium heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter. Add 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt and whisk. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture turns blonde in color. Start by slowly whisking the hot milk in about 3 tablespoons at a time, until smooth and combined. Continue by slowly adding the remaining hot milk and whisking until the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to low, switch to a wooden spoon and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

First, add the cream cheese, stir until smooth and combined. Next, add the grated Parmesan, white, and yellow cheddar, again stir to combine. Transfer the cheese sauce to the large bowl containing the chicken and vegetables, mix together.

Pour into a 9 x 11 x 2 greased baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle 4 tablespoon of the grated Parmesan cheese over the top. Dice 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into tiny cubes. Take the tiny cubes of butter and *DOT the top of the casserole.

Bake for 25 minutes or until completely heated through. Turn broiler to the ON position and cook another 3-5 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

*DOT: a food process involving the placement of small bits (butter) and/or pieces of food to evenly distribute particles over the top that are to be melted or absorbed.

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Slow Cooker Pot Roast

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I have to believe that one of the most beloved dishes ever made is Pot Roast. I’ve never come across anyone who didn’t adore this one pot meal until now. That’s right until now! Steve doesn’t like stews of any kind. I thought… how can I turn him around? This challenge is one I’m up for! One things for sure, you won’t need a knife for this Pot Roast.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
Yields: 4-6 servings
Equipment: Cast iron skillet, Slow Cooker
Ingredients:
3 pound chuck roast
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
2 onions chopped in quarters
5 cloves of sliced garlic
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 quarts of unsalted beef stock (reserve 1/2 cup for slurry)(Note: the liquid may vary depending on the size of the slow cooker. You want the liquid to come up 3/4’s of the way up the sides of the meat)
2-6 ounce packages of chopped organic baby colored carrots (cut into thirds)
5 medium size quartered Yukon gold potatoes
2 pints of cleaned whole Cremini mushrooms
Slurry: 1/2 cup of unsalted beef stock whisked together with 3 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch

Directions:
I needed to start with a pan that could take this 3 pound piece of chuck roast over the top. Yes, an affordable yet so forgiving piece of chuck roast. I compare this piece of meat to the Boston pork butt of the beef family. Lots of marbling and fat running through it. Cooking low and slow, this fat will melt and add so much flavor to the finished chuck roast. I’m not a fan of meat having a lot of fat, but for this dish it’s necessary. Later in this post I show you how I get rid of a majority of it before the dish is ready to serve.

First, I start with a cast iron skillet. I like to take a piece of paper towel, pour a few drops of Canola oil on it, then wipe the pan with the oiled towel. Place the pan on the burner and turn it up to a med high heat. Just as it starts to smoke, lay the meat right on it. Now matter what, don’t fuss with it. The meat will let you know when it’s ready to flip. How can you tell? Well after about 4-5 minutes, take you tongs, and try to lift the piece of meat up. If it gives you no resistance, then it’s ready to flip. Repeat this process for the other side. Once both side are beautifully caramelized, set the chuck roast onto a plate and set aside for a minute. Note: while the meat is searing, cut up the onions and garlic.

The next phase is the slow cooker. Start by layering the quartered onions at the bottom of the pot, along with sliced garlic. To the slow cooker pot  I add in the meat, nestled just right on top,  with tomato paste and two sprigs of fresh rosemary. Then for the liquid, I add unsalted beef stock to the meat and onions. Just enough to where it comes up 3/4’s up the sides of the chuck roast.  Place the lid on, and set the time for 4 hours.

Three and a half hours in, I start chopping up the vegetables that I’ll be adding to the pot. Yukon gold potatoes that I’ve quartered, organic colored baby carrots cut into thirds, and whole Cremini mushrooms that have been cleaned. At this point, I remove the chuck roast and place it on a cutting board. Place all the potatoes in first, then carrots and mushrooms into the slow cooker. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.

What I like to do at this point is… the meat is starting to get somewhat tender. I’ts easy enough at this point to remove any connective fatty pieces. I trim those all off and cut the meat into large chunks. Place the meat back in over the veggies and continue cooking for another 2 hours.

During this part of the cooking process, the veggies will release their water and the meat will submerge back into the juices.

After the six hours is up, the slow cooker is at a nice slow boil. This is when I make a slurry. This is a thickening agent.  This is when you mix cornstarch together with liquid. In this case I whisk it together with unsalted beef broth. Remember, my goal is to make the most delicious pot roast ever and to get Steve to agree. Thickening the broth will make the sauce a little thicker than just an Au jus style broth.

Add the slurry right in, give a gentle stir to combine, and let the cornstarch work it’s magic. Another 10 minutes is all it takes. Turn the slow cooker to the warm setting until your ready to serve.

To serve, I like add the potatoes and vegetables in the bottom of the bowl first. Place the meat on top and ladle that delicious sauce over everything. This dish does not require a knife. The meat is so tender that it will break apart using only a fork. After Steve took his first bite, he said, “This is the best pot roast I’ve ever had!”

 

 

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Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata

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Strata just mean a layered casserole. They can be sweet or savory. I guess you could say it’s almost like a type of bread pudding. Anytime I’m looking for a recipe that will feed at least six people my Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom And Asparagus Strata is perfect. Not to mention, it’s comfort food in every sense of the word. Let’s start from the beginning…

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I like spinach to keep its beautiful green color, so I immediately remove the pan from the heat. Once the spinach wilts, toss in the chopped thawed asparagus. Remember this dish still has to go into the oven.

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Prep Time: 30 to 40 minutes (time includes the cooking of all the ingredients going into the Strata)
Cook Time: 45 to 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 12-inch sauté pan, 9 x 13 baking dish, 2 rimmed baking sheet pans,  1 medium-size mixing bowl, 1 large mixing bowl, Chef’s knife

Ingredients:
unsalted butter for greasing the dish
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 Fresno chili, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
1 pint of sliced button mushrooms
1 tablespoon plus teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage
1 sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 package of fresh spinach leaves
1 package of thawed frozen asparagus cut into 2-inch pieces
1 loaf of Ciabatta bread, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes and toasted
Dozen large eggs, room temperature
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup of half-and-half, room temperature
4-ounces grated Gruyere cheese (2 tablespoons for the top)
4-ounces grated Fontina cheese (2 tablespoons for the top)
1/2 cup of Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for the top)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300-degrees F.
Butter casserole dish for the Strata. Next cut the Ciabatta cubes up into 2-inch cubes, spread them out on sheet pans and bake for 20 minutes or until dry at 300 degrees. While the bread is in the oven start the filling.

On medium heat, add the olive oil to a large sautépan. Next, add the Fresno chili and garlic, sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Next, add the sliced mushrooms and thyme leaves. Sauté mushrooms for 5 minutes or until browned. Season with Kosher salt and pepper to taste.

To the pan, add the sweet Italian sausage. Using a wooden spoon, break the sausage up with a wooden spoon. Add the rosemary, fennel seeds, dried oregano, dried thyme, Kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Sauté until all the sausage is brown and cooked through, around 10 minutes. Next, add the fresh spinach leaves. Toss the leaves through until just wilted. Remove the pan from the heat. Add in the thawed chopped asparagus pieces and toss those through. Set the filling aside.

For the bread, I used a Ciabatta. Slice the Ciabatta then cut into 2-inch cubes. Place the cubes onto two rimmed sheet pans. Spread the cubes out into one even layer. Bake for 20 minutes or until bread cubes become dry and style-like. Let the bread cubes cool for 10 minutes.

Adjust oven temperature to 350-degrees F.

Start the custard by adding to the medium-size mixing bowl the eggs, milk, grated cheeses, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, whisk until combined.

In another large mixing bowl add the sausage mixture and cooled bread cubes. Gently toss to combine. Pour the custard over the sausage and bread cubes.

Gently fold the ingredients with the custard. Allow the mixture to sit for around 10 minutes giving the bread cubes a chance to absorb the custard, or at least most of it. In the meantime, butter the baking dish really well. This will make it easier for the strata to come out later.

Mix this all through really well and let sit for around 10 minutes so the bread can absorb all that liquid, or at least most of it. In the meantime butter, a 9 x 13 baking dish really well. This will make it easier for the strata to come out later.

Mix this all through really well and let sit for around 10 minutes so the bread can absorb all that liquid, or at least most of it. In the meantime get a deep casserole dish and lightly butter it all over. This will make it easier for the strata to come out later.

After the 10 minutes, pour the mixture into the buttered baking dish and sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top. Drizzle (around a 1/4 cup) of olive oil all over the top to ensure the bread browns evenly.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until you can see no more liquid coming up on the sides or up through the center. Once a wooden skewer comes out clean, the dish is done. The Strata should be nice and golden brown on the top.

Allow the Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata to rest for 20 minutes before cutting.

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