Tasty Tuesday: National Spinach Day

TASTY TUESDAY,  March 23, 2021 . . . . NATIONAL SPINACH DAY     

In celebration of National Spinach Day coming up on Friday, March 26th – let’s make something delicious! There is nothing I enjoy more than comfort food.  It not only tastes good and brings back memories for me, but it’s usually healthy and very delicious!  For me personally, chicken doesn’t do it, spinach doesn’t do it, but combine them into an awesome Chicken Spinach Casserole that is creamy and eaten nice and hot. 😊 It warms the “cockles of my heart” as my Irish grandma used to say and is always something I like to eat when I need comforting.  Here is my recipe I’m sharing with you.  (As a bonus it is within almost any budget and ingredients that are easily found.)

CHICKEN SPINACH CASSEROLE

This recipe is easily doubled or cut in half depending on how many to serve.

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken, boned, skinned, cooked (roasted or boiled or even grilled, but not battered)

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons All-purpose flour

1 cup milk, whole is richer but a less fat percent is fine

2 teaspoon ground thyme (optional)

1 – 2 teaspoons dry mustard (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

6 ounces softened cream cheese

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

1 package frozen spinach (or fresh blanched)

Instructions

Cook the chicken and cool slightly – your preferred method of cooking. Chicken needs to be chopped, no larger than 2” is preferred here.

Put olive oil or butter in a Dutch oven or large pan, heat and cook onion, pepper, and garlic until translucent, not browned.

Add the butter if not using to cook vegetables and heat until melted, add the flour to thicken into a roux.  Stir and cook about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Add the milk and stir until smooth and thick. Add the thyme, dry mustard and salt. Stir.  Add the softened cream cheese and the Parmesan cheese if using. Stir to combine and the cheeses melt into the sauce. 

Add the chicken. If using frozen spinach defrost, drain, and dry the spinach (put in a clean dish towel and squeeze out the water). Add spinach to the mixture. If using fresh spinach, blanch in boiling water and drain/dry.

Stir all together. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. If the sauce seems to be too thick add a little chicken broth or milk to thin a bit. Remember this is a casserole dish. If it’s too thin let it cook a little until it is thick enough. Sprinkle lightly with paprika if desired.

Prepare a casserole dish by buttering the bottom and sides.  Remember to adjust your casserole dish size to the amount of ingredients.

Add the mixture to the casserole dish.  Preheat oven to 375 o F. Top with either shredded mozzarella cheese or a crumb topping of 1 cup breadcrumbs mixed together with 1 T melted butter and 1 T dry Parmesan cheese (optional).  Cover the casserole with foil. Bake for about 10-20 minutes.  Remove from oven. Remove foil, return to the oven without a cover and bake another 10-20 minutes. Check at 5-10 minutes to see if the top is lightly browned.  If you use a larger casserole it may take a little longer.  Just check and bake until it is hot and bubbly.  Remember all of the ingredients are already cooked. We are really just making it hot and bubbly. Baking time depends on the size of casserole you are baking.

Serve with flat bread or be creative and serve with hearty crackers or bagel chips and eat as a hearty main dish appetizer.  Oila’ Great idea! 😊

I really hope this will become one of YOUR COMFORT FOODS!  Please enjoy!

CHEF NOTES:

If roasting the chicken, try marinating it in Italian salad dressing before roasting. Marinate for 20-30 minutes before roasting. I like to roast my chicken breasts in butter in a “cooking bag” and if you do this be sure to add the melted butter the chicken was baked in for added flavor. YUMMY!!  (This is delicious and a different flavor.)

This is a relatively quick dish, so remember to defrost the spinach ahead of time if using frozen. It takes time to thaw.

Both chicken breasts and thighs are equally delicious in this dish.

I like serving this with flat bread like Naan.  Often, I make it if I don’t have any.  It’s easy but also easy to find at the store. We will tackle breads another day.

I also prefer the crumb topping whether I’m serving it as a main dish or an appetizer. 

This is a really FUN dish to serve as either the main dish or appetizer or even snack.  OR, if you serve it as a main dish for dinner and have leftovers, warm up and serve the leftovers as an appetizer the next day or so.

I always like to serve hot casseroles with a cool accompaniment like fresh cold tomatoes, pickled cucumbers or pickled beets, even deviled eggs.  Even a cold lettuce or lettuce and tomato salad is great. OR a cabbage coleslaw!  One of my favorites! 😊  It’s a combination of textures, temperatures, and flavors.  ENJOY!

Bon Appetite’ with Love,

To download this recipe, click here.