As Julie and I planned our menu for September, we thought that cooler days just had to be around the corner. Well, if the last few days are any indication, it isn’t getting cooler yet. I am ready for fall and all the dishes that I don’t make in the summer when it is hot. As much as I hate to say it, I am kind of getting sick of “cookout” food. My inbox and Facebook have been full this week of pasta salads, beans, and other summertime dishes to celebrate this last summer weekend. Well, I have moved on for this year.
When I think of fall food, I think of soups, apple cider, pot roast, pumpkin, squash, and casseroles, just to name a few. I know there are people who are just not “casserole people,” but I love them. Also, it might be the convenience of a one-dish meal to which you can just add a salad and you’re done. I also like that I can make them earlier in the day then pop it in the oven on a busy school night.
The Chicken Cordon Bleu casserole recipe that I’m sharing with you is perfect when you want a comforting meal that is kid-friendly. It’s great to take to a new neighbor or a friend who’s just had a baby. It’s simple and doesn’t have any “exotic” ingredients. The original inspiration for this casserole came from Cook’s Illustrated, but they used potatoes and I thought my family would prefer pasta. Also, there is not a canned cream soup in sight, which I really like. When my family was younger, I seemed used a lot of canned soups, maybe everyone used them more. Dan used to guess which kind of canned soup was in any casserole I made. I like that I’m not using all those preservatives and sodium, and the food tastes better!
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream or whole milk
- 2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded (8 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 - 1½ pounds chicken breast, cooked and chopped
- 8 ounces ham, cubed
- 1 pound pasta (I use rotini, but penne or any other short pasta would work)
- 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- ¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- Boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until it is just shy of al dente. While your pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant, stir continuously so it doesn’t burn. Add the flour and keep stirring for another minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and the whipping cream or whole milk. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened. Be sure and whisk frequently so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom. When thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the Swiss cheese, dijon mustard, and cayenne pepper. Check your seasonings and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Mix the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta, chicken, and ham. Place in a greased 9 x 13 dish.
- For the topping: Melt the butter and mix with panko, parmesan cheese, and parsley if using. Sprinkle on top of the casserole. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and the topping is browned.