A while back, as in last year a while back, a Twitter friend asked if we might try some casserole recipes here on Full Fork Ahead. I thought, sure, why not. I can get behind a casserole or two. But. The thing is, many of them have that canned Cream of Something in them, and I was looking for ones without Cream of Anything At All. I won’t pretend I haven’t cooked with Cream of Something before and enjoyed it mightily, but we try to find recipes for this place that aren’t the norm or have a fun, tasty twist on the norm, and are still easy enough.
Enter this casserole.
Admittedly, the best thing about making this casserole is the pre-cooked chicken and ham. The recipe suggested using a store-bought rotisserie chicken and I’m all over that one, people. You want ease? Indeed you do. You can has all the ease with this recipe. The ham is just deli-sliced honey ham. Shaaa-wing.
After taking all the meat off the chicken and shredding it (you can do this step a day ahead), just start layering. Down goes the cooked chicken. Bam! Down goes the diced deli ham. Bam two!
Next you layer on the deli thin-sliced Swiss cheese. Don’t hate me for saying it, but I might, uuuh….put more cheese on next time.
Our béchamel sauce turned out much more red in color due to the paprika called for. The original recipe pics show a perfect white sauce, so I’m not sure how theirs didn’t turn color like ours, but no matter. It still tasted delicious. We just luuuuuuv béchamel sauce. Pour, baby, pour. Pour it all on.
The next step is to sprinkle on some butter-infused panko bread crumbs. Some seasoned salt is called for, but sis blogging partner and I agreed we’re not the biggest fans of it, so we just seasoned the crumbs with a little of the dried parsley called for and a little regular salt and pepper.
Oh lookit – a handy dandy before and after shot!
At first I didn’t really smell this baking. One of the best things about cooking this time of year is how delicious the house comes to smell as your efforts morph in the oven into Delicious Things. Thankfully after about thirty minutes I began to smell it. And want it.
And we had it, oh yes. Chicken Cordon Bleu happens to be one of my hubby’s most favorite dishes ever, so he was ecstatic to have this on his plate later that night. It’s not nearly as rich as you might think, with the sauce and cheese and all. It’s really filling though, and warm and gooey and just perfect for these very cool Fall nights. Pair it with a simple veggie and you’re well on your way to a perfect, easy meal.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 50 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 6-8
For the casserole:
- 1 whole cooked chicken, bones removed, meat diced or shredded (rotisserie chicken is excellent, should have 5-6 cups)
- 1/2 pound very thinly sliced deli-style honey ham, rough chopped
- 1/4 pound thin sliced baby Swiss cheese
For the sauce:
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 3 1/4 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- salt, to taste
For the topping:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
Put cooked shredded or diced chicken on the bottom of the baking dish. Rough chop the ham and scatter it over the top of the chicken. Lay the Swiss cheese on top of the ham.
To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large sauce pot over medium heat. When butter is melted, quickly stir in the flour to form a smooth roux. Do not brown! Once the roux is smooth and bubbly, slowly pour in the cold milk while stirring briskly to make a smooth sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Stir in the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, smoked paprika and white pepper. Bring sauce just back to a low boil and turn off heat. Pour sauce evenly over the casserole, being certain to get some of the sauce around the edges of the pan.
To make the topping: Melt the butter in the microwave in a medium sized microwaveable bowl. Heat it for 30 seconds at a time and stop once it’s melted. Take the bowl out of the microwave and stir in the panko bread crumbs, seasoning salt and crushed dried parsley. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.
Bake casserole uncovered for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly throughout and topping has turned a light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes prior to serving.
Things you can do ahead:
1. Shred your chicken a day ahead if you want to.
2. Make the casserole up to the step where you pour on the sauce, cover and refrigerate till the next day. The next day take it out of the fridge for a little while to allow it to take some of the chill off, make up the breadcrumb topping and bake as instructed above.
3. Make the casserole completely the morning of the day you want to serve it. Let it cool completely, cover and refrigerate. That night, take it out of the fridge about an hour before baking to allow the chill to come off a little. Bake again, covered loosely with foil to prevent further browning, at 350 for about thirty minutes to reheat. (I only suggest this last idea because this is what I did the day we made this for the blog; it was a delish dinner for the hubby and I that night and it reheated great.)
The rotisserie chickens at my store tend to be on the smaller side, so I got two that day – they were on sale yaaaay. Good thing I did. One would not have been 5 cups of chicken.
Notes on the salt in particular: We’ve been getting several comments recently on this being a salty recipe. In looking back at the ingredients, I decided to change the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in that part to just “salt, to taste”, and the butter in the topping to unsalted butter. Both my sister and I have begun to watch our salt intake more over the last year or so, and often measurements in a recipe like this can be switched up to suit different tastes. When it comes to adding salt, if it ever seems like too much, add a little at a time and taste each time to see if it’s right for you. This has become one of my own basic techniques while cooking. As I’ve told a couple of commenters below, I don’t even use the total amount of salt that was specified before.
Others have commented that it’s possibly items like the rotisserie chicken, ham and/or cheese that is overly salty, and while you can’t always control the salt in those items, you might be able to find low-salt ham options at a deli counter, and when push come to shove, you can always cook your own plain chicken to use in this casserole (though, of course, no telling what that tastes like till you try it). Better yet – taste that rotisserie chicken (if you use one) first before ever putting it in the casserole. Is it noticeably salty? Hope those suggestions help, and thank you all for commenting.