I was scheduled to take a hot lunch in for the children at our church school today. If you, like some others, feel a bit blank about the logic of that, it’s okay. Everybody in church participates in the meal list, whether their children attend school or not. I have considered putting up a meal list for once a month “homeschool mom relief” but of course, that would be silly, because we would have to make sure our students are properly dressed for the event. 😀 And there are always hotdogs.
Anyhow, I decided to do a chicken casserole, because these were children I was cooking for. I found what I was looking for at allrecipes: Chicken Casserole Del Sol. I have no idea why this is considered the casserole of the sun, but we all need the sun on a day like this, so that clinched it. Then I went on to “Aunt Ruth” the entire recipe, which is what we call it when I substitute more ingredients than not. (You can find her story here.)
Instead of rigatoni, I used macaronis, 4 pounds of them. As I was cooking them, I had a flash back to the Worst Casserole I Ever Made when I was 16 and my mom was away. We had decided to have some friends over for Sunday lunch and I called Mom for advice. She suggested I do this really easy macaroni dish. I did not have the confidence to Aunt Ruth recipes back then, but something went horribly wrong with the amount of time I baked the dish in relation to how often I stirred it. When it was time to eat, there was one solid mass of pasta disintegrated into flour with some bits of chicken and I think peas were in it too. It was inedible and so embarrassing I never forgot it. All that to say I have a phobia of overcooking pasta, stemming from a pool of pain when I was 16. I did not cook these maccies very long, and I shocked them in cold water to avoid the flour mass.
Then I got my son to grill 5 pounds of chicken breasts. Easy peasy. When a recipe says 2 chicken breasts, I feel perplexed because I have bought some that were the size of an entire chicken all by themselves. I figured I would eye it for when there was the proper ration of meat to starch and just went with the 5 pounds.
I no longer buy cream of chicken soup except under duress, so I made a roux with a half cup of butter, about a cup of finely chopped onions and flour. To make my soup, I used chicken broth that I had cooked off the carcass of a whole chicken last week, then I added a cup of shredded cheddar, 1/2 of the mayo called for in the recipe, some milk, and a pound of Velveeta queso blanco. I probably had five quarts of chicken soup/sauce by the time I was done. I wanted light soup, not heavy. So far so good.
The recipe said to add mushrooms and green beans. I pretended I didn’t see the mushroom bit and the green beans were going to be cooked as the side dish. I do love to throw a little whole kernel corn into my chicken noodle soups, and this was a similar situation, so I did that. You hardly notice it, but it is just a really nice surprise, unlike mushrooms from a can. Once I had all the seasonings (Morton’s Nature’s Seasons instead of salt, lots of parsley, black pepper, red pepper for zing) mixed into the sauce, the chicken chopped up, and all of it mixed together, I found that doing times four on the recipe was a prodigious amount of food.
I stepped back and just looked. Wow. A roasting pan and a deep lasagna pan full of Chicken Casserole of the Sun. Then I made another digression from the recipe. I did not put the crushed cornflakes on top. Instead I grated cheddar to sprinkle on top just as it was ready to serve.
That’s it folks. And I find myself a little surprised to now be one of those women who can wing it on a recipe for a crowd, and it actually tasted pretty good, wasn’t gloppy (you have to shock those maccies) or goopy. I guess all those thousands of meals between 16 and the current time must have taught me a few things.
The extra lasagna pan full of casserole turned out to be providential, because my parents-in-law were in town and they stopped by after an appointment to have supper with us. I cut up some vegetable to eat with Ranch, got out a jar of applesauce and served an easy frozen strawberry dessert.
Today was the day I fed macaronis to the multitudes. Well, maybe about 50 people, so not that many. What did you do?