Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Southern Chicken Casserole

Probably considered "the" southern chicken casserole for ages, this casserole has birthed multiple variations, including Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole and Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole. It remains a popular and beloved dish on the party, church supper and potluck circuits.

Southern Chicken Casserole

This Southern Chicken Casserole is another one of those basic casseroles that has been around for years. Indeed, a fabulous recipe, perfectly delicious all on its own in this bare bones version, but also a great blank slate to build on, making it the foundation for many of our southern chicken casseroles.

You can vary it with a wide range of ingredients by adding in cooked white, brown or wild rice, cooked raw vegetables, or even frozen or well drained canned vegetables. For extra flavor, add in a little sauteed onion and celery. For crunch, include chopped water chestnuts, sliced almonds, or finely chopped pecans. You can also switch out toppings for buttered plain or seasoned bread crumbs, panko, fried onion, or even shredded cheeses. You are limited really only by your culinary imagination.

While this casserole most often uses cut up or shredded chicken these days, originally it was made with poached bone-in chicken, bones removed, but leaving the chicken in whole pieces, making it an appropriate company casserole. Leftover turkey makes a fine substitute too.

Please don't scoff at the use of cream of soups here y'all - it is indeed traditional for this yummy casserole. Period. It's certainly okay to use reduced sodium or lower fat cream soups and sour cream of course, and you can absolutely substitute your own homemade sauce also. You know I love my cream soups, and in my little ole humble opinion, if it's good enough to be served in its original form as a regular dish in the buffet room of Blue Willow Inn Restaurant, a popular and well-loved Georgia restaurant, well then, it's sure good enough for my table too.

Here's how to make it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish; set aside.


In a large bowl, whisk together one can of cream of chicken soup, one can of cream of mushroom soup, and a cup of sour cream; set aside. Sub in lower fat and lower sodium products if you like.


Stir in a cup of chicken broth. I used Better than Bouillon chicken base with water this time because I didn't want to open a new carton of broth. Love that stuff - look for it at your local grocer for the best pricing.

Add any additional seasonings you like here - freshly cracked black pepper, thyme, rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne - whatever you like. You shouldn't need any salt at all in this recipe, though if you're using low sodium soups and broth, you may want to add a little. If making the wild rice variation with a packaged product, be mindful of sodium there as well. Taste the sauce and adjust here as needed.


You can use either whole cooked and deboned or boneless chicken breasts, mixed chicken, or any already cooked, shredded chicken (including dark meat) that you've put away in the freezer. I almost always have some pre-cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer ready, so that's what I used this time.


Place chicken into the bottom of the buttered casserole dish.


Pour the soup mixture on top of the chicken.


In a separate bowl, crumble 1-1/2 sleeves of saltines (which is what I used here) or a buttery cracker like Ritz, and mix in the poppy seeds if you're using them. I've seen some recipes using a lot of poppy seeds, but I think 1/2 tablespoon is about right. Use what you like.


Mix together and add a stick of melted butter. You can certainly reduce that also if you prefer.


Mix and spread on top of the casserole.


Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 35 to 40 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and cracker topping has browned. Remove and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Can be served as is, or spooned over cooked rice or noodles.


Recipe: Southern Chicken Casserole

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 40 min | Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 (10-3/4 ounce) can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (10-3/4 ounce) can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4 cups of chopped or shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1-1/2 sleeves of saltine or Ritz crackers
  • 1/2 tablespoon of poppy seeds, optional
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted
  • Cooked rice or noodles, optional
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the soups, sour cream and chicken broth. Add other seasonings (see below), as desired, taste and adjust; set aside. Place chicken into the bottom of the prepared casserole dish and cover with the soup mixture. In a separate small bowl, crumble the crackers, stir in the poppy seeds, if using and mix with melted butter; spread on top of the casserole. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and cracker topping has browned. Remove and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Can be served as is, or spooned over cooked rice or noodles. Add a salad or green vegetable.

Cook's Notes: This makes a wonderful company casserole when using whole chicken breasts. Prepare 8 bone-in chicken breasts (more flavorful) or boneless, skinless breasts, by poaching or broiling. Remove skin and debone, but leave whole. Can also substitute leftover turkey meat for this casserole, as well as other varieties of cream soups, and also okay to use lower sodium and lower fat condensed soup products, however the sauce will be much thinner. Substitute a homemade cream sauce, if desired.

Add-ins: Cooked raw, frozen or well drained canned vegetables can be added as a layer. Asparagus, broccoli, French style green beans, carrots, peas, or mixed vegetables are good choices. Also good with sauteed onion and celery added, well drained pimentos, well drained, chopped water chestnuts, sliced almonds, or finely chopped pecans. Use other seasonings (but avoid added salt) such as freshly cracked black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried red pepper flakes, crushed dried thyme or rosemary, or dried parsley. Start with 1/4 teaspoon, taste and adjust.

Casserole Toppings: Use Panko bread crumbs or dry bread crumbs mixed with melted butter, or simply slice cold butter thinly and scatter over the top. Top with shredded cheeses, alone or mixed with these crumb toppings. Crushed plain or kettle style potato chips are also a great topper as are French fried onions. Cheese can also be added in the casserole.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole Variation: If you're poaching chicken to make this, reserve the water to use with making the rice. You'll need one 6 ounce bag or box of wild rice (like Uncle Ben's), prepared according to package directions. Saute 1 small container of fresh mushrooms in a couple tablespoons of butter, if desired,and add to sauce mixture. Place 1/2 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of the buttered casserole dish, top with the rice, then chicken, and pour remaining sauce all over the top, or can also mix all ingredients together and transfer to casserole dish. Top with cracker crumbs or cheese.

Chicken and Rice Casserole Variation: Sub in 3 cups of cooked white or brown rice for the wild rice, place 1/2 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of the casserole dish, top with the rice, then the chicken and pour remaining sauce all over the top. Top with cracker crumbs or cheese.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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©Deep South Dish
You can find recipes like this one and more in the Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking.
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Posted by on January 11, 2012
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42 comments:

  1. This sounds pretty darn good! Now I'm craving chicken casserole.

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  2. reminds me of dinner at the DDD house! yumm, thanks for reminding me!

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  3. You are so right about this casserole. You can add almost anything and it's wonderful. This is one of my "go to" recipes for pot luck suppers.

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    1. Yep Beverly, it's a go to for many of us and very versatile.

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  4. I never scoff at cream of soups!

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  5. How funny, I made the wild rice version last night and was going to post this morning. There are so many variations, but you are right. The casserole does show up for all occasions in the south. :)

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    1. That tends to happen a lot with those of us who blog food! Great minds think alike I say! I do enjoy seeing the varieties in the common dishes we do though.

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  6. This is so crazy, I should just say into the universe....Mary, I've got chicken to cook because it never fails that you provide me with good eats recipes when I need them. And I had forgotten this dish. My Mom used to make it for "company" coming nights. XOXO Oma Linda

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  7. I'm for sure going to try this recipe...I'm going to change from crackers to chips, since I top my tuna casserole with those...Hope to make over the weekend..Thanks for your recipes, of all kinds..Maybe I miss it..but do you have one for Southern Fried Chicken? My G'ma allways made the best, but of course she raised her own chickens.

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    1. I usually do add potato chips as a casseorle topping but I forgot! Thanks for the reminder. I have several different fried chickens - the classic, and a few varieties including an oven fried version, a favorite with boneless breasts and a saltine coated tender. Best way is to type "fried chicken" in the search box at the very top & it'll show you all of them.

      You know I'm sure the key to those fried chicken dishes was that very thing - have a fresh, young yard chicken! These chickens we have these days, just are not the same. Now... that said, well.. I don't know that I could go out in the yard, chase down a chicken, kill it and clean it. Would be hard for me to do!

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  8. You can also top this casserole with a boxed stuffing mix. i love the cornbread one. I use 2 boxes for a 9x13 pan and 1 box for an 8x8 pan.

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    1. You'll be seeing that version one day here too!

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  9. Mmm, I've made lots of chicken casseroles and love them. Yours looks delicious Mary; real comfort food,

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    1. Lynda, we eat a lot of chicken here - it's always on sale so I stock up on it. Course my husband enjoys casseroles a lot so I'm pretty much a fan of any casserole myself!

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  10. That would be just right on a cold rainy night like tonight. That Better Than Boullion rocks, always handy!

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    1. Most all of that rain went north of us here on the Gulf Coast Chris. We're actually in a deficit so we could have used some. Cold weather is moving in with an arctic front I hear though, so we'll probably have our first hard freeze this weekend.

      I do love that BTB - it's very flavorful and handy to have when you only need a cup or so.

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  11. I have 2 or 3 chicken casserole recipes and think they're about the best meal. Been awhile since I've made one ... thanks for the reminder.

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  12. I have this casserole in the oven right now! So far my family as LOVED everything that I have made from your site. Thanks for making my life so much easier!!!!!
    Janece in Round Rock Texas

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  13. I made this last night with white rice. My husband really enjoyed it. He even went back for seconds.
    This seemed like such a great recipe, I ordered the cookbook you mentioned as the inspiration for your recipe. Thank you, Mary, for another great recipe.

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    1. Hi Sabrina! I'm so glad he enjoyed it and it's really a great blank slate to expand on, so just use your imagination and try a few different things with this as your base. If you love southern cooking I really think that you'll enjoy the Blue Willow Bible. It's got quite a few recipes for some good ole southern favorites!

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  14. I love the idea of using the Ritz crackers Mary that sounds great. I bet it's nice and crunchy!

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  15. You are so awesome and I come here more frequently than you probably know...well maybe you do know??!! I just got lazy about blogging and leaving messages...sorry...but I LOVE your blog and adore the recipes you publish. You put so much work into it....fantastic...keep up the good work my friend.

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    1. Hi Debbie!! I'm so glad that you do. I know what you mean though - this site has grown so much that it does take up much of my time. I'm either writing recipes, in the kitchen making them (and sometimes RE-making them LOL, and the posting itself is a time consuming process with all the manual coding, so I just don't have near enough time to visit like I used to. Thanks so much for stopping by to taking the time to say hello & for your sweet comments too. HUGS!!

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  16. I made the wild rice version and topped it with sharp cheddar and got raves all around. Thanks Mary.

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    1. Hi Joe! I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. It's such a versatile base to use too you'll find that you'll come up with a hundred different varieties to make. Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and let me know you made this too - I really appreciate that!!

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  17. This is almost exactly my grandmother's chicken casserole. We don't use chicken broth or poppy seeds, though. The original recipe called for water chestnuts (just for the crunch I guess), but we never used them. It is easy and delicious! I think it's going to have to make the rotation soon.

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    1. Hi Kimber! Yes, it's been around quite a long time. I hope it brings back some memories for ya!

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  18. This sounds like the base that I use for my chicken enchilada filling.... I hadn't thought of making an "official" casserole out of it - with cracker crumb topping! Yum!!

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    1. I do a white enchilada too like that! You're right it is good. Hope you try the casserole version!

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  19. Made this for dinner last night. It was an immediate success. Everyone enjoyed it and most went back for seconds! I served it with rice and a big salad. Thanks again for a wonderful traditional SOUTHERN recipe. You always have the BEST recipes...thanks for this and all the others you have given us.

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Thank you so much Becky! I'm thrilled the family enjoyed it.

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  20. I just made this tonight and it turned out amazing! I served it over cooked rice. My friends mother made it for us when I went to visit in Georgia, so I thought I would try it at home. My hubby is a picky eater but he too loved it. Thank you for posting this amazing recipe! I will definitely be making this for dinner again.

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    1. You're so welcome Callie - I'm glad it got the hubby approval!! Thanks for taking the time to come back and comment - I really appreciate that!

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  21. Mary,

    I am a bachelor and I have recently come across your webpage by chance, and I must say that I am in love - with your FOOD! I live in So. Cal, but I have family roots from Winnie, TX, Savanna GA, and Newburn, NC. This chicken casserole is the very first recipe I tried. When I was at work Friday I found out that some cousins of mine were blowing through on their way back from Disneyland, and I wanted to host them for some good home-cooked food before they made their way up north to Oregon to see our uncle.

    I made your casserole dish without substitution. I generally eat quite healthy, and this casserole dish reminded me of the same dish our Mema (Grandma) used to make for all the grandkids. I used saltine crackers for the topping, and for seasoning I used : LOTS of black pepper, some thyme, cayenne, and some paprika. I served this over (un-boxed) wild rice, and made your fried corn recipe as well to serve on the side.

    There were 4 adults including myself, and 4 children and all the adults commented that this was "exactly how Mema cooked it..." It's amazing how much food can stir up fond memories of good times shared with loved ones who have passed. I'm a student and I'm on a budget, but I had literally ALL the ingredients in my pantry (AND I had cooked chicken in the freezer - my momma taught me how to stretch a dollar right) and I just plopped everything in my pyrex and whipped up the rice and corn(frozen). Thank you Mary for being so wonderful and sharing your recipes. I have bookmarked your site, and I am enjoying the last of the casserole as I set here and type.

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    1. Aw Justin... you made me tear up on this one! I'm so thrilled it was enjoyed & thanks so much for taking the time to come by and share this with me!!

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