Creamy Spinach Chicken Casserole
We had a bunch of frozen spinach that I decided to put to use! I pulled it out to drain and set to work deciding what recipe to use it in. I also had some chicken to use - actually we've had a lot of chicken in the freezer! With the various meat shortage issues that have been cropping up, Raeford Farms is one of the companies that has made several visits to the Atlanta area for "Meating the Need" - they've primarily been in SC, but have been within an hour or so drive of me a couple times. The first time I went to pick up chicken I don't think they'd had as much press, and it was pretty easy to just drive up, get a couple boxes of gorgeous chicken breasts, and then bring the meat home. My sister and I spent about an hour dividing it all into bags to be vacuum sealed into about 4-5 lb packages.
My dad went a couple weeks later when they were in town again and had additional items to pick from, he was able to get thighs and drumsticks that time. So our freezer is well stocked with a lot of chicken and I am VERY grateful for that. It's been so hit or miss at the grocery stores the times I've tried to buy protein, and they have such strict limits on everything right now! We've found a local farmer to buy our eggs from for that reason as well. I have been trying to limit grocery store pick ups to every 1 1/2 - 2 weeks, as long as we can go between needing restocks on milk, half and half, and produce essentially.
So! This dish actually came about because we needed additional freezer space when my dad was able to pick up thighs and drumsticks - I tried to pull out some of the older items that had fallen to the bottom of the freezer, including a couple packages of frozen spinach. I did some googling for inspiration and came across a spinach sauced chicken recipe, and decided to turn that into a deliciously creamy casserole, using up the last of our tasty Irish cheddar cheese too! It all worked together so well. The bits of crunchy bacon on the top add some nice texture contrast!
Creamy Spinach Chicken Casserole inspired by The Spruce Eats
4 cups cooked brown rice
8 slices thin cut bacon
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 4-oz cans of mushrooms, un-drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 TBS olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, diced small
3 cups frozen spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 TBS minced garlic (jarred)
1 cup heavy cream
1 15-oz can chicken broth
2 cups shredded white Irish cheddar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Cook the bacon in a large non-stick skillet, when crispy remove to paper towels to drain. Cook the onion in the skillet, in the bacon grease, for about 10 minutes, until it becomes tender and begins to get some color on it.
- In a large bowl combine the cooked rice with the un-drained mushrooms, and sauteed onions. Set aside.
- In the skillet, heat 1 TBS of olive oil and cook the diced chicken until well browned on both sides. Season generously with salt and pepper. When well browned, add the cooked chicken to the bowl of rice and other ingredients.
- Melt the butter, whisk in the flour and allow to cook for a minute or two. Whisk in the heavy cream, garlic, and chicken broth, blending vigorously until sauce is no longer lumpy and begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese until melted. Add in the spinach and stir until sauce is well combined. Pour spinach cheese sauce into the bowl with all other ingredients and stir gently until mixture is combined.
- Use a spatula to spread the rice mixture in the prepped baking dish, smoothing the top. Chop the cooled bacon and sprinkle over the top.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-45 minutes, until well heated and bubbly.
- Serve hot.