Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Yes, I know we have a lot of chicken and broccoli casserole recipes on this blog. I can't help but share this one, though! It has a great, light flavor. It doesn't have any condensed soup in it (I've been minimizing my use of condensed soup lately). And it's just a bit different than any that I've tried before now. I very much enjoyed it. James even liked it (he loves pasta and broccoli :) )!

I found this recipe at Lillian's Food. It's the same blog where I found the recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara. The flavors of her recipes are sophisticated and light. I like them a lot.

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
adapted from Lillian's Food

1 lb. uncooked pasta (I used bowtie, but penne or rotini would work well, too)
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
2 broccoli heads, cut into small florets*
vegetable oil
1/2 red onion, diced (other types of onions work, too)
3 T. butter
3 T. flour
3 c. milk
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 c. panko (or other bread crumbs)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 T. minced fresh flat leaf parsley

*Lillian said that this casserole can be made with almost any vegetable. She listed asparagus and zucchini as good options.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions on package.

Steam broccoli for a couple minutes (longer if you like your broccoli very tender). This casserole doesn't cook in the oven for very long, so you want your broccoli to be almost the way you like it before putting it with everything else.

Heat a little bit of oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned on all sides and fully cooked in the middle. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute for a few minutes. Add flour, stirring constantly, and cook for a minute or two. Slowly add milk, whisking continuously. Whisk frequently until sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Once pasta is finished cooking, drain and return to pot. Add chicken, broccoli, and white sauce to the pot and combine. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish. Turn oven on to broil.

In a small bowl or ziploc bag (I prefer ziploc bags since it's so easy to shake up all the ingredients), combine panko, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. Sprinkle evenly over pasta mixture. Place casserole under the broiler until bread crumbs are golden brown and casserole is bubbling around the edges. Check frequently so that it doesn't burn (it goes fast). Mine took about 5 minutes.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this casserole because it's slightly different from others out there. Be sure to season it with enough salt and pepper so that it isn't too bland. Here's a link to the original recipe: Chicken and Broccoli Casserole.

Chicken Milanese

I got this recipe from my friend, Claudia. I've tried several different breaded chicken recipes, but she said this one was really good, so I thought I would give it a try. I'm so glad I did! The mixture of the spices with the Parmesan cheese makes the breading just packed with flavor. And the breading seals in the juices of the chicken, so it's nice and tender. Paul and I both loved it. It will be making repeat appearances at our dinner table in the future for sure!

Chicken Milanese
1/3 c. flour
2 eggs
1 1/4 c. plain bread crumbs (I used panko, but any style will work)
2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 t. dried basil
1 t. dried thyme
4 (6 to 8 oz) chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1/3 c. vegetable oil

Prepare your assembly line by getting out three wide and shallow bowls (I use metal pie pans, and they work great). Place flour in the first one. Place eggs in the second one and beat them slightly with a fork. In a small bowl or ziploc bag (I like to use a bag because I can just shake it up to mix it), combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, basil, and thyme. Pour mixture into your third pan.

Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound to about 1/2 inch thick. I actually just sliced my fat chicken breasts in half to make them thinner instead of pounding them, but you'll get more for your money if you pound them. :)

Pat chicken dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour first, then eggs, and then coat in breading mixture, pressing lightly to adhere as much of the topping to the chicken as possible.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once oil is hot, place breaded chicken pieces in the skillet and cook until chicken is done, about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil. If you can't fit all your chicken in the pan at once, cook it in batches and keep finished pieces warm in the oven (heated to 150 degrees) on a baking sheet.

Serve with rice or pasta. You can top it with any kind of sauce if you like, but it really stands on it's own legs very well.

I highly recommend this chicken! It is SO flavorful and pretty easy. I also like that I usually have all the ingredients on hand. :)