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On a Casse-role

April 21, 2010

I apologize now for the pun in the title. It’s been one of those days! Just a few weeks after I started blogging I was invited to an event with a food photographer. It was an amazing experience, and I think my pictures have improved ๐Ÿ™‚ People brought so much food to photograph: M&M cookies, sourdough bread, eggplant and goat cheese costini. But the number one food that kept coming up, the most unphotogenic food to date, was casserole.

When I think of casserole, I always see the Mom in That 70’s Show, in her terribly decorate kitchen, feeding Ashton Kutcher.ย  But a little research showed me that the 1970’s destroyed the name of a very popular European dish (also called a “bake” or a “hotdish”) and that I had, in fact, eaten many types of casserole: from Shepard’s pie, to pasta bake, to the green bean-cream of mushroom dish my Stepfather’s Mom used to make every Christmas. I have been pondering “the casserole” ever since, a dish that once seemed so foreign but whose ingredients are actually hiding in my kitchen.

A casserole is perfect for Love Your Leftovers. A starch base, some veggies, maybe some meat; there are as many versions of a casserole as there are types of leftovers. My brain is already swimming with ideas for meals to make just so I can have leftovers to “casserole” (yes, I am now using it as a verb). But for my first real casserole creation I wanted to start with a recipe, and I chose one from 101 Cookbooks. Heidi’s Mushroom Casserole has been on my list for years, and tonight was the perfect opportunity to start with a wonderful base, then mix it up and make it my own!

Love Your Leftovers: Chicken. Round 2.

Mushroom and Chicken Casserole (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

1 cup leftover chicken, shredded

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups of mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 cup cooked brown rice (but make extra for leftovers! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

1 egg

1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese

1/4 cup low fat sour cream

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used dill, mint, and cilantro)

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Lemon slices and herbs to garnish

Preheat oven to 350*

In a pan, saute the onions and garlic in a little olive oil until they are soft. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cooked rice and chicken to the onions and mushrooms and combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the egg, cottage cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, chopped herbs, 2/3 of the Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Whisk together.

Add the rice and mushroom mixture to the bowl and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Spray a casserole dish with a little Pam, fill with the mixture and top with the rest of the cheese. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Uncover the dish and cook for a further 15 minutes. Then turn the oven on to broil and cook for 10 more minutes, or until the cheese has turned golden brown.

I served with with a lemon wedge and some sauteed spinach.

For a meal that is known to be so unphotogenic, I could not stop taking pictures! The cheesy top was crisp and golden, specked with flecks of amazing herbs. Once served you could see every element of the casserole: the meat and mushrooms in perfect harmony with the rice, the cottage cheese offering delicious bites of white, the Parmesan soft and gooey. The splash of lemon, while it may seem strange, offers a freshness and tang that should not be left out. The result was a risotto-like consistency, packed with protein (egg, lean meat, and low fat dairy!), and full of healthful goodness. I am obviously now a huge casserole fan. Plus I still have a cup or so of shredded chicken left. Oh what will my leftovers become tomorrow?! ๐Ÿ™‚

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2010 11:01 pm

    Mmm, this looks so comforting and is everything a casserole should be. Can’t wait to see what you do with the rest of your leftovers!

  2. April 22, 2010 12:19 am

    haha. You know I love me some casserole! Its so easy to make a healthy version (condensed cream of whatever soup? NO thanks!) and I love making them for Josh so he can grab at them throughout the week.

  3. April 22, 2010 6:34 am

    This looks amazing!! You are a cooking queen!!

  4. April 22, 2010 8:25 am

    Hmm, maybe i had too many as a kid, but i don’t often think to make casseroles ๐Ÿ˜‰ i should give them another shot though, def a great way to use leftovers!!

  5. April 22, 2010 9:29 am

    This rocks. This is my favorite recipe you’ve posted thus far!

  6. April 22, 2010 9:43 am

    I used to make the most digusting casserole wtih Cream of Mushroom soup. I get chills just thinking about how gross it was…but this looks nothing like that! Yours photographs well and looks delicious!

  7. April 22, 2010 2:11 pm

    Oh I love casseroles. They’re so comforting to eat.

  8. April 22, 2010 3:08 pm

    Casseroles are so fun. I love that you can make so many subsitutions and they still turn out great!

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