Like any casserole, this is one of those meals that doesn’t look that impressive. I wouldn’t necessarily serve it for company. But, it is easy to whip up, works with what you have, and goes over well with both children and adults. So in my books, a weekday win.
Taste wise, it’s sort of like chicken pot pie filling, but with rice and cheese thrown in. And, please, vary it up as you wish! The veggies below are what I did this time, but I’ve used this as a base for whatever I’ve had on hand or leftover in the fridge. Squash, turnips, broccoli, celery, or peas are just a few things that could easily be substituted. Instead of ham, I’ve used shredded chicken (often reserved from making soup), sausage, or simply upped the veggies to make it meatless. Get creative with the seasonings too. The directions you can take this meal are boundless!
2 cups uncooked rice (I used short grain brown rice. I’ve also used quinoa.)
4 tbs butter
1-2 cups mushrooms
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of cayenne
Few grinds of black pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
8 oz cheese (I used a mix of smoked and regular cheddar, parmesan, and Monterey jack — so basically, whatever you have on hand)
1-2 cups cooked, sliced ham, torn into pieces
Preheat oven to 400.
Cook the rice — use your favorite method. I generally put 2 cups dry rice into a small pot and add 4 cups water (or broth, for more flavor!) and 2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook, covered, until all the liquid is absorbed, about 30-45 min.
While rice is cooking, dice onions and veggies. Or, if you really want to sneak them by the kids, use a food processor and pulse everything until it is almost a puree (which is what I did this time around).
Heat dutch oven or large oven proof pot over medium low heat. (Not necessary to have an oven proof pot, just saves you a dish!) Once heated, add butter and melt. Once melted, add veggies and seasonings (thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cayenne, and pepper) and cook until tender and fragrant, about 10-15 min. (If you essentially pureed them, don’t bother wondering if they are tender. Just cook for 10-15min to ensure a well seasoned base.)
Stir in flour and cook for an additional minute or so. Slowly add in milk, adding a splash at a time then stirring well after each addition. Once all the milk is added, bring to a simmer, then cook until slightly thickened, about 5min. Turn off heat, and stir in cheese until fully melted. Add rice and chopped meat and stir thoroughly. At this point, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. (You could also serve as is, if you wanted, like a stove top rice n’ cheese.) Transfer to oven (and to an oven proof pan if needed) and cook until bronzed on top, about 20-30min.
Now, if you’re on top of it, let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving so it can set. Otherwise, expect some soupiness. Serve with a green salad or sliced fruit. (Though I often consider this a one pot meal — it is surprisingly filling.) Enjoy!
Inspired by this recipe.