Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old School Chicken and Rice casserole revamped and canless

If you live in the US of A you have probably consumed your fair share of the classic Campbell's soup chicken and rice casserole.  I have fond memories of this dish from back in the day when I couldn't reach the kitchen counter and my Mom cooked every once in a blue moon.  This was one of the dishes I remember her making.  It was also the only reason we kept paprika on our spice rack, and cream of mushroom soup in our pantry.  Long gone are those days, now we use paprika liberally like salt and pepper, and condensed cream of mushroom soup has been banned from our home...due to a decree from me.

I searched for a "can less" version of this recipe and had no luck.  So I went to work and came up with this version which turned out far better then I expected.  My version is healthier, less cream, no cheese, and lots of added veggies.

While we are on topic I just have to say, I really hate the word "casserole."  The only thing that comes to mind when I hear that word is fatty, over cheesed, greasy food, and cats.  It is actually the French word for "saucepan".  How could such a lovely French word make my stomach queasy? On the other hand, the word "casserole" also carries with it a degree of comfort, caring, and home.  Casserole is the natural response to so many things in life...if someone is sick, someone had a baby, someone passed away, someone lost a job, someone just moved in to the neighborhood... you bring a casserole...it is the right thing to do. 

Do I sound heartless?  This is why nobody likes to cook for me.  I am a snob, I won't deny it.  I am high maintenance when it comes to the food I eat, sorry, that is how I am.  Next time I get sick, or loose my job I will completely understand why nobody brings me a casserole.You are forgiven, I understand, really I do. : )

Chicken and Rice Casserole
from my kitchen to your bellies

I used chicken thighs, but really you can use any part of the chicken that you prefer.  I know the white meat is apparently "healthier" for you, but I really enjoy the flavor of dark meat better...so I am not changing my mind on this one.

6 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup flour

  Mix together the dry ingredients.  Dredge (dip and coat) eat side of the chicken with the flour mixture.  Heat a large frying pan to medium high heat, coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Once hot throw (well don't really throw...it is more like a placing motion) the coated chicken into the hot pan.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown.  We aren't trying to cook the chicken through at this point, just trying to get a nice golden crusty sear on each side.  Remove chicken from pan and put into a casserole dish...you know the classic white ones with clear glass tops...yeah, one of those.

In same frying pan...don't wash it or remove the juices the chicken left behind.  Add the following and saute 4-5 minutes over medium high heat until slightly caramelized:

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

After the onions and garlic are cooked add:

1 cup short grain brown rice to pan, stir, cook 3 minutes while stirring.  

Then Add:

1/4 cup wine to pan (white is better, but I used red and it worked just fine), this will help De-glaze the pan.  

Then add: 

one box frozen spinach, defrosted and squeeze as much liquid out as you can
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Continue to stir and over high heat boil for 3-4 minutes (we are trying to jump start the cooking process of the rice here.  Turn down heat to medium and add the following:

1 1/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt

Stir until combined and pour over chicken in casserole dish, cover with lid.  Bake in 375 degree oven for about an hour until rice is tender.  Check half way through and make sure there is enough liquid, if there isn't just add a little water.  Taste the rice and spinach mixture, if it is not salty enough for your taste add a little more and stir.  Enjoy!

A few notes about substitutions:
Rice:  I used short grain brown rice, you can use white, or any kind of rice you like, you just have to adjust the water and time a little since brown rice usually requires more liquid and time to cook.

Spinach:  I used a box of frozen spinach because we had it, but I think you could use fresh if you wanted...just not too sure how much...cook it down first and remove the liquid it leaves behind.  Also, if you don't have spinach try broccoli or another vegetable.  I added this for nutritional value, so be creative and use what green veggies you have on hand.

Flour:  If you are gluten free try using a gluten free flour instead.  I breaded the chicken for flavor and also to help thicken the liquids.

Milk, cream, and sour cream:  I used these to create a creamy base, if you are dairy free try using coconut milk and see what happens.

Chicken:  I used bone in, skin on because it enhances the flavor of the dish.  You can use boneless skinless chicken if you want to make it healthier.

Don't forget to take my coffee survey in the previous post, only 5 days left to enter and possibly win some delicious espresso shortbread!


  1. I am really eager to try this. I just bought a huge discounted package of chicken thighs (my favorite!). Thanks for posting!

  2. No problem Brigid, thanks for reading! Let me know how it turns out...and be sure to invite me over for dinner when you do make it : )