This is adapted from another recipe that made 14-16 giant servings, and used a boxed fast cooking rice blend. Go search for it on myrecipes.com if that’s what you are looking for. This makes a healthy amount of food for 6-8 people, served with a nice salad and some crusty bread. Since we live in Minnesota, where every casserole is called a hot dish, and where most wild rice is harvested, you might want to call this a hot dish, too. Or casserole. It’s good, either way!
2 c. cooked brown rice
2-3 c. cooked wild rice* (See cook’s notes, below)
3 T. butter
2 large celery ribs, cleaned and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 c. cooked chicken, cut into cubes or bite-size pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup (cream of chicken also works)
1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 c. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, or 1/2 c. sour cream**
1/2 c. milk (use this to rinse out the soup can)
salt and pepper to taste
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese, plus another 1/2 c. for the topping
1 c. bread crumbs
2-4 Tbsps. sliced almonds, toasted***
Toast the almonds and set aside to cool. Cook the rice (if you don’t have any leftover in the fridge, as we usually do) – note that wild rice and brown rice cook differently, so don’t try to cook them together unless you are using one of those boxed mixes. If you are doing that, one box of Uncle Ben’s cooked to package directions, will be enough.
Cook a couple of large boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a quart or so of water or chicken broth (with a couple of bay leaves if you have them). Remove the chicken to a cutting board to cool (reserve the broth for another use, like maybe cooking the wild rice?), then cut into cubes.
Sauté the celery and onion in the butter in a large skillet. Remove from heat. Add the chopped chicken, soup, water chestnuts, yogurt/sour cream, and milk and stir to combine all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 2 c. cheese, just to blend. Transfer everything to a buttered 9×13 baking dish. Top with bread crumbs.
Bake at 350° for 35 minutes, or until top begins to brown and the casserole is bubbly around the edges. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 c. cheese and the toasted almonds over the top, return to the oven for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and it all looks toasty.
Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before dishing it up.
You can put together everything but the bread crumbs and cheese/almond topping, cover tightly and freeze this for later. Thaw it in the fridge overnight, and maybe allow some extra baking time to make sure the center gets hot.
* Cooking wild rice is not hard, it just takes time. My son’s father-in-law insists the only proper way to cook wild rice is to pour boiling water over it to cover, let stand until water is absorbed, and repeat this process until the kernels “bloom” (pop open, but remain firm, not mushy), then fluff with a fork.
I’m sure he’s right, but I find putting a cup of well-rinsed wild rice in a pan with 2-3 cups of water, bringing to a boil, then reducing the heat to simmer until the desired doneness is reached works just fine. This makes 2-3 c. cooked rice. You may need to add more water, or you may find that not all the water gets absorbed when the kernels start to bloom. When the skins start to pop open, the rice is done, either way. You can also soak it overnight to reduce the cooking time.
** I use plain non-fat Greek yogurt for just about any recipe calling for sour cream. The flavor and consistency are nearly identical, without the calories or fat. If you insist on using sour cream, use only 1/2 cup.
*** toast almonds 4-6 minutes in a 350° oven, or 2-3 minutes over medium heat in a skillet, stirring and shaking constantly – remove from heat as soon as they start to turn caramel-colored, or you’ll burn them!