Friday, April 04, 2014

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

Well, it’s a good thing I haven’t had to pass drug screenings recently, because I’ve eaten A LOT of poppy seeds. After the muffins, I made poppy seed hamantaschen for Purim, and then this chicken casserole from The Kitchn. Casseroles are a Southern comfort food, and the Engineer confirmed that he indeed felt very comfortable eating this! I had to modify the recipe a bit, replacing the evaporated milk with a soy substitute and using lactose-free sour cream instead of crème fraîche, though if I had been in Canada, I would have used lactose-free cream to make crème fraîche. The Engineer and I both absolutely loved the results! In fact, this was one of his favorite dinners, ever. The Ritz crackers on the topping take this casserole from good to outstanding. Next time, I would make two casseroles and freeze one. With our appetite, this yielded 4 servings.

For the casserole
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup chicken stock
2/3 cup soy milk powder, mixed with ¾ cup water
2-3 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
8 oz. (1 cup) room temperature lactose-free crème fraîche or sour cream (see above)
1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
8 oz. wide egg noodles
3 cups cooked, chopped chicken (from 1 rôtisserie chicken or 2 chicken breasts)
1 splash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco, or to taste

For the topping
1 cup crushed butter crackers, such as Ritz (from 1 sleeve)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

For the casserole, preheat oven to 300 °F. Lightly grease an 11” x 7” (medium-sized, 2-quart) baking dish.

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until thick and golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and ¾ cup of the soy milk mixture, followed by the garlic cloves. Continue whisking until the mixture is very thick and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Discard the garlic cloves. Fold in crème fraîche or sour cream and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Stir in egg noodles and cook until al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain but do not rinse; return the noodles to the pot.

Stir the chicken and milk sauce into the noodles. Season with hot sauce and additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish; pour the remaining soy milk mixture evenly over the top.

For the topping, transfer the crushed crackers to a small mixing bowl. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the butter, olive oil, and poppy seeds to the crumbs and use a fork to combine. Scatter the topping evenly over the casserole.

Bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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