Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chicken & Rice Casserole with Mushrooms & Squash

I debated what to title this recipe. On the way home from work last week, heading to the grocery store, I had an out-of-the-blue craving for squash casserole. I've only had squash casserole a few times in my life-- it's not something we ate regularly as a family, and I've never made it before myself. But I remembered loving the rich flavor the few times I'd had it, totally unlike squash prepared any other way (I detest limp, flavorless boiled/steamed squash). The organic zucchini I spotted piled high on the produce shelves in my swing by the grocery store confirmed the time was right to experiment.

When I excitedly told the hubs I was going to make a squash casserole for dinner, he balked and his eyes grew wide in skepticism. I tried to describe what I was conceptualizing, but the name had ruined it. He was going to have to try it to be convinced. And convinced he was.
chicken & rice casserole with mushrooms & squash @ Southernspoon blog
chicken & rice casserole, with sautéed mushrooms and hidden squash
This is a homely, filling dish packed with flavor, a meal in itself with healthy proportions of carbs, protein, and fresh vegetables. I've basically combined my mom's traditional chicken and rice casserole (always a crowd pleaser, and a regular on our family meal rotation growing up) with a squash casserole = Chicken & Rice Casserole with Mushrooms & Squash. This recipe name will, I hope, be a little more palatable to my fellow diner the next time I feel the urge to make squash casserole for dinner : )

Sautéed mushrooms taste delicious here, and you hardly notice that the recipe contains squash but for the added depth of flavor and creamy texture. The addition of par-steamed broccoli florets, or a few handfuls of fresh spinach leaves stirred through the mixture before baking, would also work well in this casserole and boost the vegetable content. And apologies for the photo-- casseroles like this don't photograph very well (night-time conditions and a measly iphone lens don't help), but don't let that put you off. This is a great option for dinner or a potluck, it's gluten-free, and it's even better the next day as leftovers.
Virginia countryside @ SouthernSpoon blog
The gorgeous property in Virginia where my cousin and his fiancé will be getting hitched tomorrow,
we were lucky to get a personal tour a couple of years ago when driving through the area
My oldest cousin on my dad's side is getting married tomorrow in the rolling hills of Virginia, and tonight there is a big cookout for the rehearsal dinner. (How the hubs and I wish we were in the US to join in the festivities... and sample some of my aunt's family-recipe pies, which will take the place of a traditional wedding cake...yum). My cousin and his bride-to-be have let their guests know that tonight's rehearsal dinner is southern country style, where mac and cheese is a vegetable and the gravy flows like wine. They've asked guests to bring along a dish to add to the table, and if the hubs and I were there, this is just the dish we would bring: hearty, tasty home-cooking at its best.

Chicken & Rice Casserole with Mushrooms & Squash
serves 5

3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth (make sure it's gluten-free if cooking g-f)
4 cups sliced squash (such as zucchini or patty squash), 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 medium onion, coursely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cups cooked rice
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup greek yogurt (or plain yogurt)
1 egg, slightly beaten
pinch of freshly ground pepper
pinch of freshly ground sea salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the chicken or vegetable broth, sliced squash, and chopped onion to a simmer. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until squash and onions are very tender. Remove from heat, mash up slightly with a potato masher or fork, and set aside.  

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, and sauté for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to turn golden brown. Add minced garlic to mushrooms, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.  

To the mashed squash mixture, add the mushrooms and garlic, shredded chicken, cooked rice, shredded cheese, yogurt, egg, pepper, salt, oregano, and parsley. Stir gently to combine. 

Coat a 13x9 inch pyrex dish (or 2 litre capacity casserole dish) with cooking spray. Spread the squash mixture evenly into the pan, roughing up the top a bit with a fork. Sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

Bake at 200C / 390F for about 40 minutes, until hot throughout and bubbly. At the end of baking, turn the broiler (grill) on high, and cook the casserole 4 inches from the heat source for 1-2 minutes, until the top begins to turn golden brown (watch carefully to make sure it doesn't burn). Serve immediately.

Storage Tip: Once baked, this casserole will keep, covered in the fridge, for 3 days. To reheat, microwave till hot, or cover the casserole dish in foil and bake in a 200 C/390 F oven for 20-30 minutes, until hot throughout.

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