Later this month, many college freshmen will make their first trips back home for Thanksgiving, and I’m sure that they’ll be eager for some of their favorite home-cooked meals. While I never traveled home for Thanksgiving in college, I was lucky enough to swing by for a single night in the middle of my first term, since I was in the marching band and we were traveling to an away game near where my parents lived. My mom asked if there was anything in particular I wanted for dinner, and I requested…broccoli.
I went to a school whose dining halls were highly-ranked on the national level, so it’s hardly like I was suffering from a lack of proper nutrition, but throughout my childhood I had grown accustomed to steamed or parboiled broccoli with the tough outer skin removed, and all the dining halls offered was raw broccoli with the skin on. No bueno. I missed broccoli sorely, but I wasn’t about to eat it raw. I don’t do raw broccoli.
Anyway, once I moved into an apartment and started to expand my cooking repertoire learned how to make green bean casserole, I found that my list of “home foods”—you know, the things you beg Mom and Dad to make when you’re home—grew considerably shorter. The one meal that invariably remains on my list to this day? This curried broccoli cheese chicken casserole.
My parents have been making this dish ever since they got the recipe while cooking for a charity event over fifteen years ago. The original recipe called for cream of something soup, but they substituted milk mixed with a simple roux of oil and flour. Even my brother, who finds many other chicken/broccoli/rice casseroles repulsive, loves this dish, and we have it nearly every time the family is gathered together. It’s a real crowd-pleaser with its creamy (yet light) curry sauce, its tender chicken and broccoli (remember to remove the tough outer skin!), and its irresistible golden-brown cheesy top layer. What’s more, this casserole hits all the major food groups, so it can fly solo as a stand-alone meal.
One of the reasons this curried broccoli cheese chicken casserole is always on my “home foods” list is because…well, there’s no way around this: I’m lazy and not always so good at planning ahead (also: food just tastes better when your parents make it for you, no?). It takes about an hour of prep work (there are a few shortcuts if you use canned chicken or pre-cut broccoli) plus the better part of an hour in the oven, so if your stomach is already growling, this probably isn’t your best bet for tonight’s dinner. That said, it really is worth the wait, and if you’re a smaller household, you can get two or more dinners out of it! Conversely, this is a great recipe for a crowd since it doubles (or even triples) well.
What meals are/were on your “home foods” list? Do you have kids heading home for the holidays? What are their favorites?
- 2 cups cooked, shredded or diced chicken (or leftover Thanksgiving turkey!)
- 2 large broccoli crowns, parboiled or steamed
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk, preheated in the microwave
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups rice (white or brown)
- Prepare the chicken and the broccoli (see notes below for options), then set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9×13 baking pan with butter or cooking spray.
- Prepare the sauce: heat the flour and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once this begins to bubble, add the warmed milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, and cook until slightly thickened. Remove the pot from the stove, then add the mayonnaise, lemon juice, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Stir until smooth.
- In the prepared pan, layer (in order): broccoli (be sure to drain this!), chicken, sauce, grated cheese. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top and bake until the top is golden brown, 35-45 minutes.
- While the casserole is baking, cook the rice according to the directions on the package.
- Feel free to use whatever kind of chicken is most convenient for you. My family has made this recipe with leftover rotisserie chicken, pan-fried chicken tenders, and even canned chicken.
- As for the broccoli, we’ve tried both parboiling and steaming. I prefer to steam it in the microwave to save a little time; working in two batches, place the broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl, add about 3/4 cup water, and microwave until soft (the time will vary depending on the strength of your microwave; I do mine for about 2 1/2 minutes.). Be sure to drain the broccoli well before adding it to the casserole, otherwise you may have a liquidy casserole! We’ve found that a salad spinner does the job well.
- To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free bread crumbs on top and a gluten-free flour mix in the sauce.
Cake Lover says
I think this recipe would also be good with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers. Thanks for another comfort food recipe.
Thanks so much for pointing that out – what a great idea! I’ve edited the recipe to include that suggestion. Since I’ve never hosted Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t typically have any leftovers; I forget that many people are looking to repurpose theirs!
This was one of my favorite dishes growing up, and is now one of my husband’s and kids’ favorites, too! My mom’s (and now mine) recipe calls for cream of chicken soup, and I always hate using that even though it tastes so good, so I am really happy to get your version that doesn’t call for it. Thanks so much! Can’t wait to try it!
It’s a classic for a reason! My parents have long avoided cream soups because my dad is lactose intolerant; as a result, I’ve learned to make many recipes that call for canned soups with a roux and (lactose-free) milk instead. Works like a charm! Let me know what you think if you try it 🙂
I just wanted to let you know I tried this recipe, and it was wonderful! I used our recipe that I normally use for the casserole which isn’t that different from yours, and replaced the cans of cream of chicken soup with your roux. It came out tasting exactly like the original. We loved it! Thank you so much. I am really excited about being able to get rid of the cans of soup.
I’m so glad to hear that! I find that making a roux is so much more convenient (in terms of the ingredients I keep on hand). Thanks for letting me know!
Natalie Browne says
My mom made a dish just like this when I was growing up. It was one of my favourites.
Comfort food at its finest! Broccoli, cheese, and chicken go together so perfectly that it seems like everyone has had some version of this.
i’m in love with this!! i LOVE broccoli!! and with cheese and curry *.* oh my. i’m definitely trying this!
thanks for another great recipe! 🙂
I’m glad there are other people whose enthusiasm about broccoli matches mine! I hope you love this dish as much as we do 🙂
Jess @ Sweetest Menu says
Oh I love anything curry flavoured! Plus cheese too? I would be one happy lady to sit down to a big bowl of this casserole!
Me too! Just the smell of this casserole baking makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I hope you get a chance to try it sometime!
I love Broccoli, too. Yay! This sounds so amazingly delicious with the curry and cheese. 😀 Thanks for sharing at this week’s FF. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend. xx
I’m glad this caught your eye! Thanks, and I hope you have a great weekend as well!
Julie is Hostess At Heart says
What a beautiful dish! I love broccoli, and the curry sounds warming and delicious!
Thanks! The original recipe only calls for 3/4 teaspoon curry powder, but each time I’m tempted to add more and more…the flavor is actually quite subtle!
Julie is Hostess At Heart says
That is the way I am with Cilantro and tons of other spices! Love them.
Lovely dish. beautiful combination of flavours..total winner 🙂
Thanks! I’m glad you think so 🙂
Just the look and sound of this dish is making me hungry!! This looks so delicious! I am sure my kids will love it! I am saving this recipe! Thanks for sharing! Happy FF!
I hope you get a chance to try it – and that you and your family love it as much as we do! We always end up fighting over the leftovers…if there even ARE any leftovers!
I definitely didn’t go to a school ranked as highly as yours in terms of food quality, but even if I had there’s still nothing like a homemade meal. My favorites from her kitchen are spicy tomatoes and her New England fajitas.
Thanks for bringing this dish to the fiesta! I never thought of making a curried dish with cheese and broccoli, but it sounds amazing. Happy FF, and have a wonderful weekend! 😀
Patty K says
Loving the eastern and western fusion in this dish! Every time I went home I asked for something from the restaurant 😉
Ooh yes, I can imagine you’d miss the food from the restaurant!
Sounds delicious! What a fabulous take on the whole casserole idea!
I’m glad it caught your eye! It’s one of those dishes I could eat for days on end without ever tiring of it.
I like the sound of this combination. I do a broccoli, cheese, chicken & apricot dish #recipeoftheweek
That sounds like a really unique dish! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂
I love that you requested broccoli when you went back home! But hey, if the broccoli looked this delicious, then I can totally understand why! I’m thinking this casserole needs to show up in my kitchen soon…it looks like the very definition of comfort food!
Believe me, my request for broccoli came as a surprise both to my parents and to me! If all broccoli came like this, perhaps more kids would like it!