We’d finally made our first trip to the local farmer’s market. Our summer had been so busy and we’ve been out-of-town so much that we were craving some vegetable dishes. Dining out is nice (no cooking, no dishes to wash) but eventually you must have some home-made veggie goodness. This also makes two rice dish posts in one week. Maybe it should have been a theme week!
When I saw the kale at one stand at the outdoor market I instantly thought of a chicken rice casserole with lots of chopped kale. I’d pull it all together with an alfredo sauce and plenty of garlic. I really must have been a bit sun struck to be standing in the sun and heat and thinking about a casserole. But it is do-able if you time it right.
Lately my P.S. and I have schedules that don’t allow us to dine together many nights a week. I’ve gotten to be good at making things ahead of time and we each microwave or reheat our meal when we’re home. I did this with the chicken and kale rice casserole yesterday. Who crawls out of bed and makes a casserole early in the morning? Me! It wasn’t hot outside yet and it was good to get cooking done early.
I started the rice cooking first, as it would take the longest. I sigh here because I’m still working on that bag of medium grain rice my P.S. bought awhile back. I think it’s sushi rice as it’s super sticky when cooked. It just takes a little more work to mix with the other ingredients. Ok, whining about rice is done.
I wanted the casserole to have a basil flavor. It was the perfect time to use more of that wonderfully flavored olive oil from the Olive Barrel. I drizzled 2 tablespoons (roughly) into my largest skillet and set the heat to medium high. When the oil was heated I added the chopped onion and some salt and let it cook for 5 or 6 minutes until it was turning translucent and slightly brown around the edges.
I’d been cutting up the chicken into chunks and was ready to add it to the skillet. I let it sauté for about 5 more minutes, turning it occasionally, until it was browned in places. Flavor in the brown, as the chefs on tv say when cooking meat!
Next my kale went into the skillet. I’d cut the stems off of the kale and chopped it rather finely. I wanted it spread throughout the casserole rather than having big chunks. I drizzled another couple of tablespoons of basil olive oil over the kale and let it sauté for several minutes. I added minced garlic to the skillet and stirred well for a minute or two. My chicken and kale mixture was done and I poured it into a bowl and set it aside while I prepared the sauce.
In the same skillet I melted the butter and sautéed the flour until it was bubbling and looked like sand. I added a little more minced garlic, some salt and pepper, and stirred for another minute or two.
I slowly poured 2 cups of milk into the skillet and stirred until it was bubbling and thickened. I added 2 more cups and again stirred until it was smooth, bubbling and thickened. I poured in the last cup of milk and let it come to a bubble again. I added 1 1/2 cups of shredded Parmesan to the creamy mixture and stirred until it was smooth and melted.
I added the chicken and kale mixture back into the skillet and stirred well, cooking it for a few minutes to reheat.
Finally I added the rice to the skillet and carefully folded and stirred to mix it well. Yes, my skillet was overloaded and I had to squeal a couple of times because I was in danger of letting it overflow. But the rice quickly began to absorb the luscious sauce and it was piled in the middle of the skillet pretty high.
I taste tested for seasoning and was very pleased with the flavors. It was exactly how I’d imagined, standing out in the hot sun on Saturday at the farmer’s market. It will be easy to microwave for dinners for a few nights! I stored it in the fridge in a Ziploc container and it was ready to microwave when we were ready to eat.
Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole with Kale
2 cups dry rice; cooked according to directions (I used medium grain)
4 tablespoons basil flavored olive oil; divided
1 cup onion; diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts; cut into 1″ chunks
2 cups kale; chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 cups milk; divided
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan
Cook rice according to directions. I used a medium grain rice that cooked in 5 cups of water. Set aside when cooked.
Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of the basil olive oil. Add the onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and cook until it begins to turn translucent. Add the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes until it is beginning to be browned in places.
Add the kale and the other 2 tablespoons of basil olive oil and stir until kale is wilted. Add the minced garlic; stir mixture for another 2 or 3 minutes. Pour contents of skillet into a bowl and set aside.
In same skillet melt butter and add flour. Stir and cook for several minutes until bubbly and looks like wet sand. Add 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and stir well.
Add 2 cups of milk to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. Add 2 more cups and again stir and cook until thickened. Add last cup and stir until mixture is smooth and thick. Add Parmesan and stir until melted and smooth.
Return chicken and kale mixture to skillet and stir to blend. Add rice and carefully fold and stir until fully incorporated. Taste test for seasoning and serve hot or refrigerate and microwave later.