When I hear the word casserole, it brings me back to crisp, autumn nights spent huddled around a car in the middle of a corn or soybean field. Growing up in a farming family, I got the chance eat dinner other places than the dinner table. During Harvest, my mom and I would drive from field to field feeding the farmers. Most often, my mom would make a big casserole and as I stood in the field, shivering from the chill in the air, surrounded by all the people I love and look up too, that casserole was the best thing I had ever tasted. It tasted like comfort and it tasted like home.
As I’ve mentioned before, Iowa Girl Eats, is the epitome of comfort food recipes. She’s from the Midwest. She understands a good casserole. When I spotted her Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole last Fall, I instantly Pinned it and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I rediscovered it and new that it had to be made pronto.
See that bread up there? It’s from Hy-Vee! A few weeks ago, as they were preparing for their opening (which was TODAY! – more on that soon!), they gave out free bread, so Jerrod picked some up after work. This was their Ciabbata and it was delicious. Perfect to pair with a hearty casserole. (We made this casserole a few weeks ago so I promise you we’re not eating weeks old bread.)
Once again, this recipe is adapted from this Iowa Girl Eats recipe. Feel free to try hers out if you’re interested in something a tad bit different!
Salsa Verde Chicken and Rice Casserole (adapted from Iowa Girl Eats)
Serves 4 humans or 2 humans (dinner & a few lunches!)
- 3 C chicken broth
- 3/4 C salsa verde (as Iowa Girl eats says, go with Herdez!)
- 2 C rice – could easily use any rice you want. I went with Basmati. Jasmine, brown, white – all would be good!
- 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 chicken breasts
- 2 tomatillos (don’t know what that is? read about it here)
- salt & pepper
Cheese Sauce Ingredients
- 5 tsp. all-purpose flour (if gluten free, Iowa Girl Eats used white rice flour)
- 2 C milk
- 8 oz cheese – I used a fiesta blend
- 1/3 C sour cream (IGE suggested light but not fat free)
- ALLL the cilantro in the world. All of it. Bunches and bunches!
- Use non-stick spray to spray the heck out of a 8×8 pan. Set aside.
- Combine the chicken broth and the salsa verde in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in your rice, put on a lid, and reduce the heat so it gently simmers (my stove is unlike anyone else’s stove and I have to turn mine to the lowest of the low for it to “gently simmer”.) How long you cook the rice will depend upon the type of rice you choose and how you like the texture. Follow the directions on the back of the package for best results! Once it has cooked, remove it from the heat, fluff it with a fork and put the lid back on. Set aside.
- While the rice is cooking, get to work on your chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. We used a wok because we don’t have a large skillet (#kitchenproblems). It works splendidly. If you bought as big of chicken breasts as we did, you may want to pound them a bit (there’s a tool out there that can do this for you, but when you don’t have that tool, throw some parchment or wax paper on top of your chicken and use a hammer.) POUND IT.
And then chop it into bite-sized chunks. Chicken chunks.
After the pounding and butcher knife chopping, slide the chickie into your heated, oiled skillet. Generously add salt & pepper to your liking. For me – more pepper and hardly any salt.
Jerrod can really make raw chicken look pretty, can’t he?
4. As the chicken is saute-ing, prep your tomatillos! As you’ll read here, you’ll peel the husk off and then rinse them because they’re very sticky. Not fly trap sticky though. You’re probably grossed out now. They’re just a little sticky.
Chop them up in small pieces. Make a Q. Take a picture because you’re cooking with something new (maybe).
Toss them in with the chicken and continue to sauté. Add more salt & pepper if desired.
Once cooked, remove skillet from heat and put chicken/tomatillo mixture in a bowl. Set aside.
5. Carefully wipe out the cooling skillet with paper towels – it’s time for the cheese sauce.
6. Whisk the flour and 1/2 C milk. Add the skillet back to medium high heat and add in the flour/milk mixture. Then add the rest of the milk. Add more salt & pepper if desired.
The goal is to bring the mixture to a bubble. You will want the heat higher or else it will never turn to a sauce. Also, you will want to STIR constantly. STIR STIR STIR. Cheese sauces are ridiculously difficult for me to make (I just can’t get it to work), so Jerrod took over from here. He is the Cheese Sauce Master. Works everytime for him. KEEP STIRRING. Be the judge if you think you need to add in a little more flour, but not too much – you don’t want a paste.
7. Once bubbly, remove from heat and add in the cheese and the sour cream. Stir it all together and ooh and ahh at how delicious it looks.
8. Add the chicken/tomatillo mix and the rice to the sauce. You’re going to think there is waaaay too much rice. Trust me, add it all. Don’t leave anything behind! Combine it all and plop it in that 8×8. Also trust me – it will fit perfectly. Top it with cheese. Gawk at the beauty of this casserole.
9. Stick the pan under your broiler to toast the cheese for a few minutes. Keep an eye on it so the cheese doesn’t burn, but just gets really melty and a tad crunchy. Mmm.
10. Serve immediately with a loaf of Hy-Vee Ciabatta (because delicious!) but don’t forget the cilantro. DON’T FORGET ALLLL THE CILANTRO. Cilantro is like chocolate to me. I could just face dive into a bowl and devour it.
A margarita on the rocks would really be the cilantro on top of the casserole, but we only had a bottle of pinot grigio. It paired surprisingly well!