let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? i tried my best to make this casserole look pretty, but casseroles, despite their extreme deliciousness, are just not the prettiest of meals. so, you’ll have to trust me when i say that, despite its ugly duckling appearance, this is one of the *best* casseroles i’ve ever had. it’s a super savory casserole full of delicious wild rice, tender pulled chicken, lots of veggies, + an absolutely divine creamy homemade cheddar sauce. topped with a crunchy cheddar + panko breadcrumbs crust, then baked until golden + bubbly, it is casserolely perfection.
here’s how good it is: i made the full recipe last Thursday for dinner. the recipe makes about 10 servings, + in the 4 days since then, we ate every single one of those servings. my husband is not usually a huge leftovers fan, but he specifically requested this for all of his lunches this weekend. like many dishes, it actually seems to get more flavorful after a day or two in the fridge. so, if you’re looking for a fantastic comfort food meal that will make for awesome leftovers, too, give this a try!
Cheesy Chicken, Cheddar + Wild Rice Casserole
serves 8-10, adapted from picky palate
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves fresh minced garlic
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
2 4.6 oz boxes of wild rice, prepared (i use uncle ben’s long grain + wild rice blend)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
for the cheese sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
3 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. heat oil into a medium dutch oven or pot over medium heat. saute onion, celery + carrots until softened, about 10 minutes. stir in garlic + cook for 1 minute. stir in chicken, prepared rice, salt, pepper + garlic salt. reduce heat to low.
prepare cheese sauce: melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. whisk in flour, salt + pepper + cook for about 3 minutes, until roux turns golden. slowly pour in chicken broth whisking continuously. whisk until thick + nearly boiling, then stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese until melted.
pour cheese sauce into chicken/rice mixture then transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish. top with additional 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese + panko breadcrumbs, + bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted, golden + bubbly.