Grandma A’s Recipe Box: Crusty Chicken Casserole

This week’s recipe (actually at this point, it’s last week’s, but who’s counting?) was an interesting challenge. The original recipe called for one of those ingredients that I try very hard not to use, partly because it’s simple enough to make myself rather than buy, and partly because I’d rather control what’s in our food than trust something that’s overly (and unnecessarily) processed. But because my goal was to stay true to Grandma A’s recipes if I could, I wanted to go ahead and make the recipe the way it was written. I even clipped a coupon for that specific ingredient, since I happened to come across it. I got to the grocery store and couldn’t even figure out where they kept this particular ingredient, since I’ve never bought it. I finally found the right area of the store — and they didn’t have any. So I went ahead and made the recipe the way my gut told me to, and you’ll see the results below.

The recipe, as written:

Crusty Chicken Casserole

2 cups (4 oz) thin noodles
1 envelope cream-of-mushroom soup
2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 cup cooked chicken or turkey chunks
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
2 tablespoons salad oil2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup packaged dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup snipped parsley

Make day ahead, ready for baking:
1. Cook noodles as package label directs; drain.
2. Meanwhile empty soup mix into large saucepan; gradually stir in water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and add milk, chicken, curry, salt, pepper, Tabasco and noodles. Stir all, then pour into 10″ by 6″ by 2″ baking dish.
3. Then, in hot salad oil, in medium skillet, saute garlic slices until golden; remove garlic. Stir in bread crumbs, then parsley; when blended sprinkle over chicken mixture. Cover with foil or saran; refrigerate.
About 40 minutes before serving:
Start heating oven to 375F. Uncover casserole; bake about 30 minutes or until heated throughout. Makes about 6 servings.

I didn’t take a photo of the final recipe, but let me assure you it was beige. It was late, I was exhausted, and there is no photo.

1. So obviously, the mystery ingredient that I didn’t really want to buy and then wasn’t even able to find: cream of mushroom soup mix. I haven’t used cream of anything soup in years, I would much rather just make a simple white sauce with whatever flavoring (chicken, celery, mushroom) is required. But when I went to look for powdered cream of mushroom soup mix, I couldn’t even find it. So I made a simple white sauce, added mushrooms, a little Worcestershire sauce, and the requested spices. I used about 2.5 cups of milk, since the original recipe called for 3 cups of liquid.
2. I also can’t imagine how 1/4 teaspoons of Tabasco does anyone any good, but maybe my spice tolerance has gotten so high that I don’t realize that a normal person could taste that small amount of Tabasco in three cups of liquid.
3. It was a very beige meal. Mushrooms, pasta, white sauce, bread crumbs. Very beige.  It was very much like a turkey tetrazzini kind of dish.
4. Overall, this was find – bland and mellow, but comforting – but if I made it again, I’d tweak all kinds of things. In fact, I’d tweak so many things it would be an entirely different dish.
5. The first ingredient is thin noodles – I used angel hair pasta, because I was trying to guess the age of the recipe and what might have been available then. But using cellophane noodles or rice stick noodles, and adding some water chestnuts, some soy sauce, and some other things could take this dish in an entirely different (and very eastern) direction.

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4 Responses to Grandma A’s Recipe Box: Crusty Chicken Casserole

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I bet egg noodles would do the trick. They’re like a casserole STAPLE.

    Also every “Cream of Whatever” recipe I’ve seen basically calls for a roux, so you’re on the right track. Man, I used to LOVE cream of mushroom soup as a kid, and now I can think of few things more sad and bland to eat.

  2. Sarah MacDonald says:

    I know, I used to use canned cream of whatever all the time, and now I can’t imagine it.

    I thought about using egg noodles, but since the recipe called for “thin noodles,” it’s hard to know what the original intent was, especially since there’s no source. 🙂

  3. Dan says:

    Never underestimate the powerful sensual properties of: poultry tetrazzini.

  4. Sarah MacDonald says:

    Nice, Dan. I don’t want to know how you knew that even existed.

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