Chicken Noodle Casserole with English Peas

I love chicken like mom did.  I like it cooked just about any way, however, mom liked it simply boiled, very plain, her thin fingers picking meat off warm bones, which happens to be  a method that is not a favorite of mine; there are so many savory recipes that top that. She was big on keeping her slim figure, so boiled chicken worked for her. This recipe is not low fat at all, especially with the cream and milk, but boy is it yummy!  Although preparing it from scratch took awhile as I preped onion, mushrooms, cheese and garlic. I loved every minute of the  process though; it truly felt exhillerating, fun, a rich experience, and for such a simple comforting dish, it made me happy!

I  took my time, moved slowly.  I’m  retired, and am pleased to go at a slow pace, not rushing through the steps, not needing to move quickly onto my next task.  I’m freer now without a tight work schedule.

Initially I saw this recipe in a magazine, but it was only for two, which didn’t work for me, even though I usually cook for only  me and my husband.  However, I like to prepare extra portions for others – friends and family – leftovers too, and naturally freeze some. I doubled the recipe, and improvise  ingredients, which improves the overall dish. I added garlic,  herbs and extra cheese. Other possible additions can be seen in Tips and Tweaks.

INGREDIENTS

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil, divided

1 1/4 cup bread crumbs, Panko or homemade

1-2 tsp salt or to taste

1/2 tsp pepper

6 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

8 oz mushrooms, (any kind) trimmed, sliced thin

2 large shallots, sliced thin

1 Tbsp worchestershire sauce

15-16 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, cut into 1 -inch strips

3 Tbsp  flour

2 cups half and half, or a mix of milk and half and half or some light cream too, as a replacement for the half and half

3 cups chicken broth

8 oz noodles

4-5 oz cheddar cheese, montery jack, fontina or any good melting cheese, grated

1 cup freshly cooked English peas or 1 small can peas

1/2 squeezed lemon (optional)

 

PROCESS

 

1   Use a large, preferrably heavy  cast iron pan.   Heat two tablespoons of  oil until very warm. Add the bread crumbs and toast gently, stirring for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, stir in the  parmesan cheese.  Set aside,but leave oil residue in pan.

2   To the pan, add one more tablespoon of oil and heat to medium.  Add the shallots,  stirring for 5-10 minutes as the shallots turn tender, loosen and  turn slightly brown. After 7 minutes of cooking the shallots, add the mushrooms.  Lower the heat, stir occasionally and cook for 5-7 minutes as the mushrooms release their liquid. Add the garlic and cook on low for 1-2 minutes but be careful  not to burn the garlic.  Remove everything and set aside on a plate, cover with aluminum foil. Leave the pan empty.

3   Add the remaining oil to the pan, heat  to medium- low.   Add the chicken, cook about ten-fifteen minutes until the chicken looses its pink color, stirring occasionally. Half way through, sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste and add the worchestershire sauce.

4    Add the shallots and mushroom mixture back in the pan.  Reheat on low-medium for a few minutes.  Sprinkle on the flour.  Stir for a few minutes as the mixture thickens. Gradually stir in the two cups of milk products and two cups of chicken broth.  After a minute or two add  the noodles, pressing down with a spatula to make sure the liquid covers all the noodles.  Cover and cook on medium-low for 10-12 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Look closely and see if more liquid (1/3rd to 1 cup of chicken stock) is needed to make the dish more saucy and to cook the noodles until they are at the tenderness you want.   Stir in the peas, cook on low for 1-2 minutes.   Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in 1/2 squeezed lemon, if desired.

5   Add the cheeses, let them melt thoroughly as you stir. Adjust any seasoning, stir in the breadcrumb mixture, cover and let the dish sit for  five minutes. Serve warm or hot.

 

TIPS AND TWEAKS

  • At step 3, replace the chicken with 1-2 cans of tuna (5 1/2 oz each) in water or oil.  Squeeze out the liquid.
  • At step 2, add other vegetables, perhaps several  small bok choi, chopped or  10 oz of chopped fresh spinach.
  • The casserole reheats very well, and freezes well too in portions.
  • At step 4, use any small pasta as a replacement for the noodles, adjust cooking time, if necessary.
  • Instead of the lemon, at step 4, and for a good tangy bite, and to bulk up the sauce, stir in about 1/2  cup of sour cream.

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