Spicy Chicken and Rice Casserole

At last, a reprieve from the pumpkin recipes that have been flooding my blog ;).  Don’t worry though, I have another pumpkin-related post waiting in the wings, and several more ideas just waiting to be cooked/baked.  I’ll probably continue eating pumpkiny foods like a mad woman until I can’t stand to look at the stuff.  Maybe not the best strategy… but that’s how I roll!

As I tweeted at Josie of the blog Pink Parsley (great blog for those of you who have never been), my mouth is so happy that I decided to make this casserole.  While I omitted a few ingredients since I didn’t have them, and baked the chicken ahead of time instead of poaching it (I knew I’d be pressed for time in the evening), my version stayed pretty true to the original recipe.

For serious though, don’t be daunted by the length of the ingredient list!  It’s well worth it, and I’d wager that you probably have a lot of this stuff in your cupboards and fridge anyway.


You’ll need:


4 tbs unsalted butter
2 red bell peppers, chopped medium
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipotle in adobo, minced (Add a 2nd if you really like heat, but these little guys are hotter than you might think!)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
4-5 (smallish) chicken breast halves, cooked and shredded
1 1/2 cups white rice
1 cup (8 oz.) fiesta blend cheese, shredded (or whatever kind you’d like)
1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
pepper
1/4 cup scallions, minced


Topping
6 oz. tortilla chips (or whatever is left in the bag, in my case)
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
salt and pepper

Melt your butter in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Add in your bell peppers, onion, and 1 tsp salt.  Cook for ~8-10 minutes, or until the onions and peppers are soft.  Stir in the garlic, chipotles (maybe I’m just a wuss, but seriously watch out for these guys if you don’t like much heat!), cumin, and chili powder; cook ~30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring occaisionally until golden, for approximately 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in the cream and broth.

Stir the rice into the pot, cover, and let it continue cooking on low heat.  Stir it pretty often until the rice has absorbed some of the liquid.  Let it cook for 20-25 minutes.  If things are still looking pretty soupy at this point, don’t worry.  It will really thicken up once you put it in the oven.

While the rice is cooking, you can go ahead and get started on the topping.  Pulse the tortilla chips with melted butter in a food processor until coarse crumbs form (it took ~10 pulses).  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

After allowing the rice to cook for 20-25 minutes, remove the pot from the heat.  Stir in the shredded chicken, black beans, corn, cheese, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the chopped scallions.

Now we come to an intersection in the road: Do we 1) Bake it all right now?; 2) Bake some and freeze some?; 3) Freeze it all now?

It’s up to you! 

If baking immediately: Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle with the crumb topping.  Bake in a 400 degree F oven, uncovered for 25-35 minutes.

If freezing some or all: Pour the mixture into your desired storage vessel.  Wrap the portion to be frozen tightly with foil and then plastic wrap.  This will be okay in the fridge for about 2 days, or will freeze for up to 1 month.  Thaw the casserole completely in the fridge prior to baking, if freezing.  Bake at 400, covered in foil, for about 1 hour.  Remove the foil and bake for 15-20 minutes longer.

 
This casserole is creamy, a bit crunchy from the topping, hearty, filling, and a tad spicy.  It was really, really good.
This recipe really does make a ton of food.  So if you’re one of those types (like me) who loves to freeze meals ahead of time to make things easier on yourself later on, this casserole is probably for you.  We managed to get an 8×8 dish (for dinner that night and leftovers the day after) as well as a mostly-filled 9×13 dish to freeze and eat at a later date out of this recipe.  In fact, I’ll probably break this bad boy out of the freezer this weekend.  Can’t wait! 
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