10.7.14 Chicken, Leek, and Wild Rice Casserole
This past weekend was an awesome weekend. Mostly. Let me explain. We set out Friday night, laden down with enough snacks and beer to feed a small army for a weekend with friends in Evanston IL. Lots of good food, friends, tailgating, Cards against Humanity, not enough sleep, and too much beer. As I said, awesome. In fact, the weekend would have been entirely perfect, if you discounted the 3+ hours we spent in the freezing cold rain watching our beloved Badgers lose to Northwestern. Sad face.
We returned home, exhausted, happy, but still smarting a little. The obvious thing to do was whip up some good old fashioned comfort food. And not just any comfort food - chicken and wild rice casserole. Like a lot of casseroles, this version consists of a delicious saucy filling topped with a layer of crunchy crumbs, which become a lovely golden brown crust when baked. But unlike most casseroles, this version isn’t held together with lots of processed things from cans. Just lovely homemade goodness. Also, leeks, mushrooms, wild rice, sharp cheddar, and roasted chicken. And some buttery oyster crackers on top, because, well, they’re just the best. Comfort food at its finest.
Chicken, Leek, and Wild Rice Casserole
serves about 6
Don’t forget to give your leeks a good rinse before chopping. I mean, really get in there and rinse in between the layers - those suckers can be mighty dirty. And no one likes dirt flavored casserole.
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large leek, white and light green part only, chopped
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 tsp fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 ½ cups cooked wild rice*
- 1 ½ cups roasted chicken, chopped**
- 1 ½ Tbsp butter, melted
- 1 cup oyster crackers, crushed
- Tabasco or other hot sauce for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, and butter is melted, add the leeks, mushrooms, celery, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables, then continue to cook, stirring, so that the flour coats the vegetables. Once veggies are coated, cook for about 1 minute, then add the milk and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the cheese and sour cream until well combined. Once cheese is melted in, stir in the cooked wild rice and chicken. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired.
5. Pour 1 ½ Tbsp melted butter into a small bowl. Add the crushed oyster crackers and mix together.
6. Pour wild rice mixture into a medium sized (1.5 quart) baking dish or casserole dish. Top evenly with the crushed cracker mixture. Place in the oven and bake at 350 until topping is golden brown and filling is hot and bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.
7. Cool slightly, then serve with a generous splash of hot sauce.
*To cook wild rice, combine ½ cup dried rice with 2 cups broth or water and ½ tsp salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid.
**If you don’t happen to have leftover roasted chicken lying around awaiting use in this most delicious casserole, never fear - you can easily roast some up. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, place your chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet, and rub the chicken all over with a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pop it in the oven, and let it roast until cooked through - about 25-35 minutes for breasts, 35-40 minutes for thighs. In fact, you can roast your chicken while your rice cooks, and they’ll both be ready for casserole cookery at about the same time.