A few nights ago I dreamt that I was holding a large white rat. Later I mentioned it to my husband, who looked it up in our dream book that was written by the Jewish sages of past generations. It said that if you see a white rat, you will have a good year. I have never heard of any other traditions where the rat is central to a good luck theme, but I’m certain they exist. Why, you say, mention a rat and then follow-up with a recipe? Who wants to hear about rats, albeit beautiful white ones, before thinking about what they are going to make for dinner? Things are not always as they seem.
Like, for example, casserole.
If you grew up anywhere near mainstream USA you have eaten or cooked a casserole that went on to be eaten by hungry children and/or lumberjacks. I recently learned that the term casserole is French, and describes the saucepan that can go from oven to tabletop. How chic. So really when you are making your Grandma’s recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole that involves mixing a can of tuna and a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, you are contributing to a long line of delicate and world renowned French culinary experiences.
Don’t knock the casserole my friend. This is no boxed dinner.
This dish is the ultimate comfort food, and it’s a one-pot meal to boot. Remember how we cooked up a bunch of chicken breast and peppers earlier this week? Ohhh yeah! How nice. I first made this when I was about 8 months pregnant and craving the delightful combination of creamy rice and chicken. I allowed my husband to eat a small portion. I devoured the rest.
So go ahead. Make that casserole and feed your hungry troops. And don’t worry if it’s not the prettiest dish at the potluck. It’s all about the experience. Let’s have a good year, filled with friends, food and white rats.
Chicken and Rice Casserole
Adapted from Linda Larsen, About.Com
Serves 2 ravenously hungry monsters, or 4 normal people
1/3 of your cooked and cubed chicken breast, peppers and onions (If making this alone, this is about 1 chicken breast, cubed and sautéed, 1/4 cup chopped onion and 1 large chopped pepper sautéed together until cooked and tender)
1 1/2 cups rice, almond or soy milk, divided (Soy milk achieves the best result, but I’ve also used rice milk and we ate the entire dish in one sitting)
3 tbsp margarine
3 tbsp flour
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup water or chicken broth
1 cup rice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt (I ended up adding a bit more S+P at the end, but we are salt-aholics in the Harris household. Salt as you wish, my friend)
1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Heat an oven proof pot* or dutch oven over medium high heat. Melt the margarine. Saute mushrooms until a bit browned and they give up some liquid. Sprinkle flour over the mixture and then add 1/2 cup rice or other vegan milk, stirring until combined. Cook until thickened, about 2-5 minutes. Remove from heat. In the same pot, add all other ingredients to the mushroom mixture. Cover tightly with a lid or tin foil and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 30-40 minutes, then remove cover and continue cooking for another 20 or so minutes until the top of the casserole is browned and the rice has cooked.
*Note: Not all casserole dishes can be used on the stove top and the oven. If you have a glass casserole dish, saute the mushrooms in a separate pan and transfer all ingredients to the dish before baking.