December 02, 2009

Chicken & Mushrooms with Rice

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
12 oz evaporated milk
8 oz diced crimini mushrooms
2 cups cooked long grain rice
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup diced green onion
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 shallots, minced
2 eggs
1 stalk celery, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat the oil. Add the shallot, chicken and mushroom and saute until the chicken starts brown and the shallots, celery and mushrooms are soft. Pour into a bowl and add rice, cheese, green onion. In a small bowl, whisk together the spices, egg and evaporated milk. Pour over the rice mixture. Stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Pour into the casserole dish. Cover and bake for about 45 minutes or until the the chicken is fully cooked and the dish looks "set".

Note: If the dish is still runny looking but looks otherwise fully cooked, remove the cover and cook until some of the excess liquid evaporates. This is mostly an issue if the lid of your dish is very tight fitting.

My thoughts:
Recently a reader emailed me asking if I had a chicken and rice casserole recipe that that didn't use condensed cream of mushroom soup. Now, I didn't grow up in a casserole eating family so I actually haven't eaten too many casseroles much less made them but I had a good idea what I was up against. My husband is just getting over a bout of illness so I thought it would be the perfect time to make this comforting dish. I used undiluted evaporated milk because it tastes much creamier than milk but isn't nearly as high in fat as cream or half and half or even whole milk. I sauteed the chicken, shallots and celery to add a depth of flavor that canned soup just can't deliver. Using cooked rice (you can even leave leftover rice from another meal) eliminates the "will this dry out before it is finished cooking" issue that baking raw rice often runs into and gives the dish a creamy, more risotto-like texture.