Recently, my whole family got together for a big family dinner. Due to the crazy logistics of organizing a bunch of adults and two small children, having everyone gathered for a dinner that doesn’t include pizza is rare. I wanted to make something that would feel fancy and refined, while giving us all plenty of opportunities to have actual conversations and enjoy ourselves. That meant whatever I made needed to be done and prepped before my family arrived with plenty of time to spare for cleaning and showering; but, it also needed to satisfy my inner Martha Stewart and be super classy. So how does one make something easily made ahead, yet fancy enough to satisfy my compulsive need to impress others with food? You make casserole…A fancy as F$#@ casserole!
So I busted out some dried porcini mushrooms and got to work on my Porcini Mushroom and Chicken Casserole. This casserole feeds a lot of people. Like 8 people and 1-2 servings leftover over for the next day. It also takes some time to prep, but the results are well worth it.
Porcini Mushroom and Roasted Chicken Casserole:
- 1/2 lb. bag of Pasta (I used Elbow macaroni, but Rotini or Rigatoni would work as well) cooked per instructions
- 1 Rotisserie Chicken with the skin taken off and the meat shredded
For the Sauce:
- 2 cups Chicken Broth
- 1/2 Cup Brandy, split into 1/4 cups
- 1, 1-ounce package of dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 ½ to 2 lbs. Mushroom (I like to use a mixture of Baby Bella mushrooms and White mushrooms for both flavor and economy), thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed in a garlic press
- Kosher Salt and pepper for seasoning
For the Béchamel:
- 1/4 AP Flour
- 1/4 Butter
- 2 cups Milk (whole or 2% milk)
- Optional: 2 Tablespoons Truffle Oil
- 1 cup grated parmesan (plus 1/2 cup of parmesan for the topping)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs for the topping
- 2 Sauce pans
- 1 10” sauté pan
- 2 sheet pans for roasting mushrooms, lined with parchment paper
- 1 pot of boiling water for the pasta
- 9” x 13” oven proof baking dish, greased with butter or cooking spray
- 1 really large mixing bowl
- a wooden spoon
1) Roast the Mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Divide the sliced mushrooms into two piles and spread in a single layer on each sheet pan. Drizzle each pan of mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a 1/4 teaspoon salt mixing thoroughly with your hands and redistributing the mushrooms into a single layer for even roasting. Place in the oven and roast the mushroom for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.
Note on Roasting Mushrooms: you can sauté them, but roasting the mushrooms helps dry them out and keep your casserole from getting to watery.
2) In a sauce pan with the heat turned off, combine the broth and 1/4 cup of brandy (Do not add brandy to a pan if the stove burner is on because you will get a kitchen fire). Turn the heat on high and bring the brandy and broth to a boil. When the broth and brandy are boiling, add the dried porcinis and turn off the heat. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes or until they have plumped up (they will look less like dried leather and more like an actual mushroom. Yay!). After they have rehydrated, drain the mushrooms making sure to reserve ALL of the liquid from the mushroom mixture (This is your mushroom broth and is very important for making your sauce super flavorful).
Finely chop up the rehydrated porcini mushrooms and set aside. Set the Mushroom broth aside as well.
3) In a sauté pan, sauté the onions on medium –low heat until soft in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil (the pan should have thin, even coat).
Add the minced garlic and sauté for about 10 seconds.
4) Turn the heat off and add the rest of the brandy. Turn the heat back to medium and deglaze the pan with the brandy (To Deglaze-pour liquid in and scrape up any stuck food particles off the bottom of a pan using a wooden spoon. This makes things tasty).
5) Add the reserved mushroom broth to the pan. Turn the heat up to Medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil. When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer for about 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally until the sauce has reduced and thickened a little
6) When the sauce has reduced a bit, add the shredded chicken, chopped porcini mushrooms, and roasted mushrooms to the pan stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside
*Note: Up to this point you can do all of this up to 24 hours ahead of time. Just pour the mixture into a bowl, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate.
The Day of:
7) Boil the pasta per instructions on the box making sure to subtract a few minutes from the cook time (you want very al dente pasta because it will also be cooking in the oven). Drain and drizzle with olive oil and mix in order to prevent the pasta from sticking to itself and forming a giant clump. Set aside.
Making the Béchamel:
7) Heat the milk in a small saucepan on low heat, making sure not to scald or boil the milk. You just want it to be warm.
8) Melt the butter butter in a large (4-quart) sauce pan with the truffle oil. When the butter is melted, add the flour. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring with a whisk until a thin paste forms.
9) Whisk in the hot milk and cook for a few minutes (about 5), until thickened and smooth. To see if it is thick enough, dip a wooden spoon in the sauce. Using your finger, draw a line across the middle of the spoon separating the sauce. If the sauce stays separated, then its thick enough. Turn the heat off and add the salt, pepper, and parmesan.
Assembling the Casserole:
10) In a very large mixing boil, combine the chicken mushroom mixture, béchamel, and pasta. Pour into the greased baking dish**
11) If making now: Sprinkle with ½ cup bread crumbs an ½ parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minute or until bubbling and golden brown.
**you can also make ahead or freeze the casserole for a latter day.
For Refrigeration: Cover with Saran wrap and place in fridge. Add about 15 minutes to the bake time.
For freezing: Cover it in saran wrap, then foil. When ready to use, Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and add 15 to 20 minutes to the bake time.