I can’t call this a casserole. I won’t call this a casserole. Nah.. this a bake.
I’m not entirely sure what the difference is, but I think it has something to do with a blond roux, heaps of flavor, nutty brown rice, tender-crisp broccoli, and an incredibly rich sauce. It has nothing to do with “cream of” anything and nothing to do with cans. This, my friends, is your broccoli chicken casserole, upgraded.
My best friend came in town this week, and we decided to invite her and my mom (who secretly wishes she was her daughter instead of me, pretty sure. Pretty sure!!) over to dinner on a whim. I didn’t really feel like coming up with and buying for a whole new dish, so I just worked with what we had on hand–broccoli, chicken, brown rice, and lots of cheese. I wasn’t thrilled by any of the recipes I was seeing, so I just pieced together a dish off the top of my head.. and it was righteous.
I made a blond roux after sautéing onions and garlic then added chicken stock, essentially going for a rich “cream of” soup without any pink slime. I added cheese for a tangy mornay, mixed that sauce in with everything else, and covered it all in loads of cheese. The broccoli had perfect texture–still very crisp, but oh so tender. The sauce coated the nutty brown rice in a way that seemed almost luxurious, and there was chicken in every bite.
A few of us went back for seconds.. I won’t name names.
And then O tried to negotiate eating these leftovers for dinner the next night instead of the tom kha tofu I had planned.. no dice, sucker.
It’s good. I was surprised at how good. In fact, I was surprised it made sense at all, considering I just winged it. (Wung it? Wang it? OK, maybe not, erm, wang it..) But I’ll be making this again and again, and that’s a promise. I made a huge batch because I wanted leftovers, but you can very easily half the recipe.
Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Brown Rice Bake
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium yellow onion , chopped
- 5 cloves garlic , minced
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 3 1/2 cups stock
- 1/2 teaspon dried thyme leaves
- 2 lbs chicken breasts , cooked and diced into bite-size pieces
- 3 cups brown rice , cooked or frozen
- 2 large heads of broccoli , cut into florets (about 7-8 cups), raw
- 3-4 cups shredded cheese (depending on how cheesy you want)
- salt and pepper , to taste
Preheat oven to 400º F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent and very soft, almost browning, about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until very aromatic.
Sprinkle flour over and whisk to combine. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until flour is cooked and mixture is a strong yellow color. Add stock and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a strong simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in thyme leaves and salt and pepper, to taste. Reduce heat and stir in 2 cups cheese. Whisk until very well combined and remove from heat.
In an ungreased 13x9" pan, combine chicken, brown rice, and broccoli then pour sauce over. Stir until combined. Sprinkle remaining 1-2 cups cheese over top. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces a piece of broccoli. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.