A few months ago I was lamenting the fact that I could not find a Chicken Casserole that I liked. I have finally put the issue to rest with this delectable dish. Think grown up macaroni and cheese; full of succulent chicken, nutty Gruyere cheese and Parmesan cheese with a crispy bread crumb and cheese topping. One of the reasons that I have been looking for a good chicken casserole recipe is that it nice to have a dish that you can just pop in the oven when you are having company. You can make a simple salad and the meal is complete. We will be having a lot of family here over the Labor Day weekend so I have been experimenting with easy dishes. What is great about this casserole is that it will appeal to both the grown ups and the kids alike. And if you are in a pinch for time you can use rotisserie chicken and boxed chicken broth.
PASTA WITH CHICKEN AND GRUYERE
1 3 to 4 pound whole chicken
5 cups of water
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 carrot rought chopped
1 onion, quartered with 1 whole clove inserted in one section
2 smashed garlic cloves
2 sprig of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauce and Pasta:
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 lb Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated (3 cups), divided
2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 pound penne pasta
3 cups dried bread crumbs
Butter a 9 X 13 casserole. Place chicken in large stock pot. Add water and vegetables and seasonings. Bring put to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook Chicken until it is tender. Remove chicken from stock and set aside to cool. Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer.
Make cheese sauce: Heat butter in a heavy pot over moderate heat until foam subside, then whisk in flour. Cook for 1 minute while whisking. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock (freeze the rest for future use) in a slow stream while whisking, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream, milk, salt, pepper, cayenne, 1 cup Gruyere and 1/3 cup Parmesan.
Cook pasta in boiling salted water until not quite al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. Return pasta to pot, then add chicken and sauce, tossing to coat. Turn mixture into buttered casserole.
Toss bread crumbs with remaining 1 cup Gruyere and 1/3 cup Parmesan, then sprinkle evenly over pasta mixture. Bake casserole in a 400 degree oven until crumbs are browned and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.