Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Casserole

  Today’s recipe may very well be the only one you ever see from me that’s from Martha Stewart.  Typically I find her recipes to be too much work for too little return.  This one is an exception.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
1 1/3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 large)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, rinsed well and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
10 ounces mushrooms, chopped
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp dry sherry
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3/4 cup whole milk
1 dried bay leaf
8 slices dense multigrain bread, crusts removed, slices cut into triangles*
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
*I find that this is way too much bread
  You will need your oven preheated to 350 degrees.  If it heats quickly, start it preheating after you cook your chicken.
  Start by cooking your chicken.  Martha wants you to season it and then saute it whole, let it cool and chop it up.  I find that takes too long for my low cooking-patience threshold so I chop mine and cook it already in small pieces.  Much quicker.  Either way, use around 2 Tbsp of your olive oil for the process.  Set your chicken aside.
  Next, add the remaining 3 Tbsp of oil to the same pan, and when heated, add your vegetables.  In about 8 minutes, when your vegetables are golden brown, add your flour.  Cook, stirring, for around 2 minutes.  Next add the sherry, stock, milk and bay leaf and cook it for around 5 minutes.  Scrape up any browned bits that show up on the bottom of the pan.  Those are flavor folks.  After 5 minutes your sauce should be nice and thick.  Season it with salt and pepper and toss your bay leaf.
  Now, cover the bottom of your casserole dish with a layer of bread.  Martha suggests a 2 quart oval baking dish.  I don’t have a 2 quart oval baking dish, so I use a plain ol’ 9×12 rectangular one.  Whatever you use, you want a single layer of bread.  Any more and the dish winds up dry.
  Cover the bread evenly in the mixture of vegetables, sauce and chopped chicken.  Top with grated Parmesan.  Bake for around half an hour and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
  If the proportion of bread to juices is right, you get a wonderful, creamy casserole without the cream of mushroom soup.  The flavor of the vegetables is a little more subtle than most casseroles, so it’s wonderful for spring as the weather changes!
  What have you been cooking lately?

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