Southern Living reader Leslie Flemister declares this dish perfect for a big family get-together. Make and freeze the casserole ahead, or make two small casseroles.
2 (6.2-ounce) packages fast-cooking long-grain and wild rice mix
1/4 cup butter or margarine
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 (8-ounce) cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
5 cups chopped cooked chicken
4 cups (1 pound) shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
2 (10 3/4-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups soft breadcrumbs (homemade)
1 (2.25-ounce) package sliced almonds, toasted
How to Make It
Prepare rice mixes according to package directions.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add celery and onion. Sauté 10 minutes or until tender.
Combine water chestnuts, cooked rice, celery and onion, chicken, 3 cups cheese, and next 5 ingredients in a very large bowl.
Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 15" x 10" baking dish or a 4-quart baking dish. Top casserole with breadcrumbs. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese and almonds; bake 5 more minutes.
Note: You can divide this casserole evenly between 2 (11" x 7") baking dishes. Bake as directed above, or freeze casserole up to 1 month. Remove from freezer, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Bake, covered, at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover casserole, and bake 55 more minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese and almonds; bake 5 more minutes.
I've been making this casserole for over 10 years (Christmas with SL -2002) and it is always a hit with family and friends. This is also my go-to recipe when our church outreach program asks for meals and also for any other time when people need a meal - new baby/ sick family member.
This is a great easy recipe. I save time by taking a large bowl and microwaving the celery and onion along with the butter for 5-7 minutes. I use the same bowl to mix everything together and it makes clean up easier. I also add slivered almonds on top of the cheese during the last 5 minutes. I use breadcrumbs which I make myself. Just toast bread and throw into the blender or food processor. Lastly I save time by using a rotisserie chicken. This makes 2-11x13 pans in my house. We either half this or when we make the whole recipe we eat one of the pans and freeze the other. Stays in rotation since we get rotisserie chickens at Costco weekly and are always looking for ways to use up the meat. I will use the breast meat for sandwiches and the rest of the meat for casseroles, enchiladas etc. You must remove the meat while the chicken is warm or it will be more work.
Great make ahead dish. I will definitely add it into my normal rotation. It would be perfect to take to friends and family in times of need. I followed the recipe, minus omitting water chestnuts (not my families favorite). I also used all low-fat ingredients.
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