Welcome to 2020, where every person deserves a go-to nostalgic dish.
Here’s my Texan Mom’s recipe for the dish she made us kids a gazillion* times while we were growing up.
It’s got the good stuff kids like (chicken and cheese) and the stuff they don’t (broccoli) hidden in a sauce that makes it all go together.
And that’s probably why it’s delicious.
That, and because it takes 30 minutes in the oven to meld together like real food. Happy sigh.
Check the bottom of this post for ways to prep this in 12 minutes. (There are, in fact, shortcuts and cheats.)
Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole the Way My Texan Mom Made It
Bake Time: 30 minutes @ 350-degrees
Pan: 1 “9×13” casserole pan
Meat: 1-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (fully cooked and chopped into bite-sized bits)
Vegetable: 1-2 lbs broccoli (fully cooked and chopped into bite-sized bits)
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
2T lemon juice
1c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Topping: 1c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Cook and chop chicken. Set aside. Cook and chop broccoli. Set aside. (My Mom would boil these together in the same giant pot. Just an idea.) Mix the sauce together in a large bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees while you do the next step…
In the 9×13 pan, spread the cooked and chopped broccoli on the bottom. Spread out evenly.
Then add the cooked and chopped chicken over the broccoli and spread evenly.
Finally, over the chicken, add your sauce mixture as evenly as you can. Spread the sauce to all corners and into any gaps. As it cooks in the oven, it will seep down.
At this point, sprinkle the cheese topping over the casserole, or decide to add the topping on during the last 10 minutes of cooking. (I like crispy bits in my cheese so I add it early.)
Cook casserole in the preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.
Pull out carefully and let cool for 10 minutes before serving to adults, longer for children.
This serves 4 and might leave a bit behind for leftovers.
Leftovers will keep about 5 days if refrigerated properly.
Cheats and shortcuts.
I discovered over the years that I could use rotisserie chicken chopped up to save me the “cooking chicken” step.
Then I further discovered I could use frozen, already cooked, already cut chicken, as long as it was barely seasoned. And those steamer bags of frozen and cut broccoli? They work just as well!
So, to recap: I can buy frozen steamer bags of broccoli and (pre-cooked) frozen chicken that comes in bite-sized bits, steam-bag cook the broccoli in the microwave while I make my sauce, then layer it all: steamed broccoli, FROZEN PRE-COOKED chicken, sauce, topping, then cook it in the oven!
The whole thing. Easy peasy, without the peas.
And just like the picture, I make this thing in bulk. Because y’all. It freezes really well. Just gotta cover it good and eat it before the 5 month mark.
All I’ve got to say is “Thanks, Mom!”
*My Mom actually didn’t make this bad boy but 1x a month. “A gazillion” was taking artistic liberties in light of nostalgic wishes. Maybe I should’ve said 8-12 times a year. Yeah.