Comforting Creamy Rice and Chicken Bake

If you have leftover chicken or turkey, this is a perfect use for it; you can get creative by using up small amounts of vegetables, leftover rice and even a store prepared gravy if you don’t want to make your own. This is the perfect dinner for a chilly night.

Rice

3 C cooked rice – white, brown, wild or a blend (or 7oz. boxed rice blend, such as Lundberg)

Filling

1 T unsalted butter

1 C onion, diced

1 C celery, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb. chicken breast, cut into small cubes (or 2 C leftover cooked chicken or turkey, cubed)

2 t Italian seasoning

½ C parsley, chopped fine

1 C Panko or regular breadcrumbs

Other vegetable add-ins (optional) – choose two or three

1 C mushrooms, sliced or minced

½ C fennel, diced

½ C leeks, thinly sliced

½ C zucchini, grated

½ C carrots, grated

½ C artichoke hearts, diced

½ C celery root (celeriac), diced small

½ C parsnips, peeled and diced small

Creamy gravy

3 T unsalted butter

1 medium shallot, minced

3 T flour

1 ½ C chicken or vegetable broth, warm

½ C half-and-half, warm (or substitute non-dairy creamer such as oat milk creamer)

¼ t nutmeg

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the rice: If using a rice blend box mix, cook the rice according to directions on the box. Remove rice from heat when it’s almost cooked through but still slightly hard to the bite (“al dente”). If using leftover rice, bring to room temperature.

Make the filling: While the rice is cooking, prepare the vegetable and chicken filling: melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat, add the onions, celery and garlic. Cover with a lid and sauté until vegetables have lightly softened, 2 minutes, uncover and add any additional recommended vegetables you desire. Add the chicken, cover and cook another 3 minutes, until the chicken no is no longer raw but not thoroughly cooked. (Note: if using leftover cooked chicken or turkey, add it after the vegetables have been lightly sautéed.) Set vegetables and chicken aside while you prepare the creamy gravy.

Make the creamy gravy: In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter and add the minced shallot. Sauté the shallot briefly to soften, then add the flour, whisking thoroughly and cook, whisking constantly, until the roux loses its glossy sheen, about 3 minutes. Warm the broth and the half and half (or oat creamer) in the microwave for one minute. Add the broth ½ cup at a time to the roux, whisking constantly between each addition. Add the warm half and half and whisk well. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Transfer the rice into a 9×9 baking dish, add the vegetable chicken filling and gravy, mixing carefully to incorporate the gravy throughout. Add the chopped parsley and mix thoroughly. Cover with the breadcrumbs and bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. Serves 4.