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CHICKEN BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE

Introduction:
Indulge in the comforting flavors of a homemade Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole that’s free from canned creamed soup. This delectable dish, bursting with cheesy goodness, offers a satisfying main course perfect for family dinners or gatherings with friends. With tender chicken, vibrant broccoli, and a buttery cracker topping, every bite is a symphony of flavors. Follow this step-by-step guide to create a memorable meal that’s both wholesome and delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 4 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed (about 32 crackers)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions:

  1. Preparing Chicken and Onions:
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Move onions to one side of the skillet and add chicken pieces. Cook until browned on both sides, flipping halfway through. Work in batches if needed.
  • Once chicken is cooked, add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Plate onions and garlic.
  1. Cooking Rice and Broccoli:
  • In a saucepan, combine water, 1 tablespoon of butter, salt, and long-grain rice. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes until water is absorbed.
  • Steam broccoli on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  1. Preparing Sauce:
  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray a 9×13 inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add crushed red pepper, onion powder, dried marjoram, and dried thyme. Slowly whisk in chicken broth and milk, alternating between the two.
  • Continue whisking and cooking until smooth and slightly thickened. Reduce heat to low and whisk in 1 1/4 cups of cheddar cheese.
  1. Assembly and Baking:
  • Add cooked chicken, rice, and broccoli to the sauce, stirring to coat evenly.
  • Spoon half of the chicken mixture into the prepared casserole dish and top with 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.
  • Spoon the remaining chicken mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Combine crushed crackers and melted butter, then sprinkle over the casserole.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is browned and the cheese is melted.
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Tips:

  • For even cooking, cut the chicken into thin bite-size pieces.
  • Cook onions and chicken simultaneously by pushing onions to one side of the pan.
  • Substitute brown rice for white rice if desired.
  • Steam broccoli alongside rice for efficiency.
  • Use freshly grated high-quality cheddar cheese for superior flavor.
  • Customize with additional vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, or zucchini.
  • Experiment with alternative toppings like cornflakes or panko breadcrumbs.
  • Create a low-carb version by omitting rice for a keto-friendly option.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Reheat leftovers in the microwave at a reduced power level for best results.

FAQs:

1. Can I use pre-cooked chicken?
Yes, you can use pre-cooked chicken for convenience. Adjust cooking time accordingly.

2. Can I make this casserole ahead of time?
Absolutely! Assemble the casserole, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Bake when ready to serve, adding a few extra minutes to the baking time if needed.

3. Can I use a different type of cheese?
Certainly! Feel free to experiment with your favorite cheeses to customize the flavor to your liking.

4. Can I make this casserole gluten-free?
Yes, you can use a gluten-free flour blend and gluten-free crackers to make this recipe gluten-free.

5. How can I make this dish spicier?
Increase the amount of crushed red pepper or add your favorite hot sauce to the sauce mixture for an extra kick of heat.

6. Can I freeze leftovers?
Absolutely! Freeze leftovers in a heavy-duty container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Reheat in the oven or microwave until heated through.