When I work in my studio, I often put something on to watch while I work. But for some reason, neither Netflix nor Prime want to show me video right now, so it’s all YouTube videos. I somehow stumbled upon Cooking the Books, a channel where the host makes recipes from vintage cookbooks and promotional booklets. (She has made a few jello molds, but she isn’t doing it to gross people out. Mostly she makes family recipes.) As I watched her backlog of videos, she’s made numerous casseroles, and as it’s fully fall, that sounded nice. Plus I have a bunch of kale and parsley to use up…
But so often, every casserole recipe starts with 2 cans of cream-of-whatever soup, then go on to add sour cream, and cheese. I’m lactose intolerant, and hate the taste of sodium filled condensed soups, so I usually skip right past them. I know I can make a basic white sauce to use, but I’m always unsure of proportions. How much white sauce do I need? How much pasta or rice should I use with that amount of sauce? But that got me thinking, there has to be a good basic blueprint out there, that I could use to make my own casserole recipes. A little googling later and I found it: Making a Casserole with What’s On Hand, and the following ingredients. The formula is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure guide, allowing you to use whatever ingredients you have or want, and you can totally make it vegetarian or vegan by using beans, and non dairy butter & milk.
My husband and I both liked it, and each went back for seconds. The rest will be lunch today. He did say he felt like it should include more cheese, but he understood why I only used a little Parmesan. If you can handle dairy, feel free to add more. My only complaint was that it makes a lot of dishes! But I think next time, I might double the recipe, and portion it into 8" square pans, and be able to freeze 2 meals worth.
Here’s what I used to make last night’s Lemon & Herb Chicken Casserole with Kale and Penne.
1 small-medium yellow or sweet onion
1/2 of a HUGE bundle of kale, washed and torn to bits
2 cups shredded chicken
2 cups (UNCOOKED) penne pasta
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups milk of choice (I used cashew)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 lemons, zested & juiced
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
3/4-1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, paprika
Handful of crispy onion salad toppers
Cook the pasta to just short of al dente according to package directions, rinse in cold water to stop cooking. (Mine said cook 13-15 minutes, so I cooked 12.)
Meanwhile dice the onion and sauté on medium-low. Add in the kale, a pinch of salt & pepper, and cook till the kale is wilted down, adding a dash of water or wine as necessary if the pan gets dry. Set aside.
Make 2 cups of a basic white sauce.
In a large bowl, combine your drained pasta, shredded chicken, sauted kale, white sauce, shredded parmesan, chopped parsley, and the zest and juice of two lemons. Stir to combine, then pour into a casserole dish and cover with a lid or foil. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.
While that bakes, melt the butter for your topping, and stir in the panko breadcrumbs. Add a teaspoon or two of parsley, a pinch of garlic powder and onion powder, and paprika to your taste.
Remove casserole from oven, uncover, and sprinkle over the breadcrumb topping. If desired, then sprinkle on some crispy onion pieces. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes for the topping to get golden brown and crunchy.