Feeding a crowd with Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Maybe you are entertaining for New Years Day or planning on having some company to watch football one weekend. No need to fret and stay busy in the kitchen while your guests are having fun. Better yet you may want to make some make ahead meals for when school is in full swing.

This Southern Living Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole recipe can be made up to a month ahead and frozen. You don’t even need to remember to defrost it, only 60 minutes at room temperature before you bake it a little longer than the just made version. You could even refrigerate  it  for a day or several hours if you wanted to make it ahead for a shorter time. I added a layer of parchment paper below the tinfoil.

Horrible Picture does not do it justice!

Have some turkey left over from Christmas or frozen from Thanksgiving, now is the time to use it. This was even quicker for me as I used left over turkey. You could also buy a rotisserie chicken to save time on roasting the chicken. I also toasted the almonds the day I made the casserole and left them out room temperature.

This recipe is made for a crowd so if you want make 2 (11- x 7-inch) baking dishes. Eat one that night and freeze the other for another night. I guess you could also halve the recipe but I think you will like the leftovers.

Add a salad and a simple dessert (chocolate is my suggestion) and you have a complete meal. No fuss dinner and everyone will enjoy the comfort taste of this recipe.

Wishing you a Healthy and Happy 2012.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole adapted from Southern Living

  • (2.25-oz.) package sliced almonds
  • (6.2-oz.) boxes fast-cooking long-grain and wild rice mix
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • celery ribs, chopped
  • medium onions, chopped
  • 5 cups chopped cooked chicken (or turkey)
  • (10 3/4-oz.) cans cream of mushroom soup (healthy request)
  • (8-oz.) cans chopped water chestnuts, drained
  • (8-oz.) container sour cream (light)
  • 1 cup milk (skim)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups (16 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 cups soft, fresh breadcrumbs ( I used Panko)

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan 4 to 6 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
  2. 2. Prepare rice mixes according to package directions.
  3. 3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add celery and onions. Sauté 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, next 6 ingredients, rice, and 3 cups cheese. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 15- x 10-inch baking dish or 2 (11- x 7-inch) baking dishes. Top with breadcrumbs.
  4. 4. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese, and top with toasted almonds. Bake 5 minutes.
  5. To Make Ahead: Prepare as directed in Steps 2 and 3. Cover with aluminum foil, and parchment and freeze up to 1 month. Remove from freezer, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Toast almonds as directed in Step 1. Bake casserole, covered, at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 55 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese and toasted almonds. Bake 5 more minutes.
  6. Shrimp-and-Wild Rice Casserole: Substitute 2 lb. peeled and deveined, medium-size raw shrimp (4 1/50 count) for chicken; 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese and 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese for Cheddar cheese; and 1 cup dry white wine for milk.
  7. Cajun Chicken-and-Wild Rice Casserole: Omit salt and pepper. Reduce chicken to 2 1/2 cups. Prepare as directed, sautéing 1 lb. andouille sausage, chopped, and 1 green bell pepper, diced, with celery in Step 3. Stir 1 (15-oz.) can black-eyed peas, drained, and 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning into rice mixture. Proceed as directed.
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