Just in time for chilly weather, Betty Rosbottom delivers a collection of creative casseroles with make-ahead instructions.
Poultry, meat and seafood dishes are accompanied by vegetable offerings such as the baked “risotto” with butternut squash, sage and Parmigiano. Breakfast specials include the potato and chorizo tortilla.
Think how nice it would be to have the following casserole ready to pop in the oven when the chicken wing and chip snacks of Sunday’s marathon Super Bowl party leave the gang wanting more. Chronicle Books. $24.95.
4 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1-1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces sweet potatoes, (preferably ones with darker skin and rich, copper-hued flesh), peeled and julienned
1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/4-wide strips
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided for use
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
5 slices good-quality smoked bacon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Fresh sage sprigs for garnish (optional)
Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish (optional)
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9x13-inch shallow baking dish.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together the thyme, sage, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Set aside 1 teaspoon of this seasoning. Season both sides of each piece of the chicken with the remaining mixture.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and saute until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to the prepared baking dish. Add the chicken broth and wine to the pan and whisk to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom. Cook, stirring, until the liquid has reduced to 1/4 cup, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour over the chicken breasts.
In the same frying pan, fry the bacon until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and, when cool, chop coarsely. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings in the pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat. Add the sweet potatoes and onion and saute, stirring, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and spoon them over the chicken. Sprinkle with the bacon. (The casserole can be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding.)
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and the reserved 1 teaspoon of seasoning. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, whisking constantly, and cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Season with salt if needed. (The sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate separately from the baking dish. Gently reheat over low temperature.) Drizzle the sauce over the ingredients in the casserole and sprinkle with the Gruyere. Cover the casserole loosely with a sheet of foil.
Bake the casserole until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. If desired, garnish the center of the dish with some sage and thyme sprigs before serving.
Adapted from “Sunday Casseroles”