Do you ever feel irrationally protective of a dish? Like you want to make it and you want to eat it, but you aren't sure if it's 'cool enough' to share. That's Chicken and Cheese for me. My mother has been making it as long as I can remember, it was a standard feature at dinner parties when I was a child, sometimes bulked up with pasta, often times not. It has come back into rotation for me recently and every time I make these indulgent soul satisfying dish I want to curl up on my couch with a big plate of this (and salad because I am a responsible adult) and dig in. Ideally in my pajamas.
What's in the Chicken and Cheese Casserole?
So many good things folks, so many good things. It starts off with the ubiquitous white sauce, a roux based wonder. Then comes all the good stuff. Minced onion for body and zest, chillies for a kick, broth for rounding out the flavour, pulled chicken, sweet corn and diced potatoes. When that is all mixed in you go in with the cheese and call it heaven. I am pretty sure the way this dish was made was someone sitting around and saying "hmm what are my favourite things and how do I get them in one dish?"
Customizing Chicken and Cheese
I suspect many of you will wonder about customization. Absolutely do as you please! I have given a range for amounts for the chicken, corn and potatoes, but should you be adjusting with other ingredients then just adjust the total amount. For example if you like a hearty casserole then make sure whatever you use totals to about 4 cups which is what the chunky version has.
I have also in the past omitted the cheese crust (because I am out) and used a puff pastry sheet or a pie crust to top it. Both work well as do any breadcrumbs or even Ritz crackers crumbled up and lightly greased.
The Chicken and Cheese casserole is also an excellent dish to do ahead for a dinner party, just bake it half an hour before eating and watch everyone ooh and aah as you bring it in because melty golden cheese just has that effect on people. Quite understandable no?
a hearty bechamel based baked dish loaded with tons of flavour!
- 4 tbsp butter (or 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp oil)
- 4 tbsp flour
- 3 +1 cup milk (whole preferred, 2% works)
- ½ cup minced onions
- 2-4 minced green chilies
- 1 - 1 ½ cup cut up boiled potato (1 cm pieces)
- ¾-1 cup sweet corn
- 1-1 ½ cup shredded chicken or chicken pieces
- 1 cup chicken stock or half a boullion cube diluted in one cup water
- pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 ½ cups shredded cheese - cheddar or monterey jack
Lightly grease a 10 cup dish and set it aside
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F
Melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven on medium heat.
Sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly until it starts looking a little darker and has an almost nutty aroma - 2 minutes
Gradually add the three cups of milk, whisking constantly to ensure there are no lumps
The sauce will start to thicken and bubble (stir frequently so it doesn't burn)
Add in the onions, green chillies, nutmeg, pepper, and stock.
Mix well and cook to thicken - another 3-5 minutes
Fold in your chicken, potatoes and corn and take it off the heat
Stir in 1.5 cup of the cheese and then if your sauce is too thick looking add a little of the reserved milk until you get the right consistency. It should be thick enough to easily scoop up with a piece of bread.
SEASON! Because salt varies with stock and cheese wait till the end to season the dish. You want the dish to be a smidge more salty because the potatoes will suck up a little of the salt.
Pour into your pan, scatter over the remaining cup of cheese and bake for 8-10 minutes, can broil for another 2 to get crispier cheese.
Make ahead tip: If you're making this ahead of time then bake it 375 degrees uncovered for 25-30 minutes to ensure it gets heated the whole way through.
A note on the ingredient ranges: for a chunkier casserole use the larger amounts and for a lighter one dial it back a little.
for the chicken you can boil half a chicken breast and shred it, use leftover rotisserie chicken, etc
1 ½ cups of sliced potatoes is about 2 4-5 inch potatoes. I prefer to use yellow fleshed potatoes if you have them handy.