Mom’s ‘Chicken’ Casserole
Unless you’re Cool Hand Luke, you may be reaching your wit’s end trying to use up all those hard boiled eggs from Easter. Well, have I got a recipe for you! It’s my mom’s famous chicken casserole which I ingeniously call: Mom’s ‘Chicken’ Casserole. Notice the quote marks around the word ‘chicken’. That means I use faux (aka – fake, imitation) chicken. This recipe uses 4 hard boiled eggs! And, what the heck – if you’re getting desperate, throw in a couple more.
My mother was a very nervous cook. She generally stuck to what she knew. Somewhere along the line she found this fabulous chicken casserole that she made for every occasion. It always drew rave reviews so she figured if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No one ever tired of it.
When I became a vegetarian, I figured that was the end of my mother’s casserole for me. But once I discovered there was such a thing as imitation chicken, I (with much anticipation) tried various brands. While some of them were good, they were all too dry for this recipe. Dang! Then I found Worthington’s frozen Meatless Chicken Style roll. What a difference! It’s very moist and gives the illusion that you’re actually eating chicken. So I dug out my chicken casserole recipe and tried the Worthington roll. It tasted great! Imitation meats have really expanded my vegetarian cooking repertoire.
A bit of warning (the bad news) – this roll is pricey (about $25.00) so don’t faint when you’re shopping. BUT it weighs 4 lbs (the good news), so you get a lot for your money. If you were to cut it into cubes, you’d get approximately 14 cups. And remember, unlike real chicken, the entire roll is edible – there are no bones, skin, fat, and gristle! Yuck!!!
Here’s my tip: Since these logs are far too much for any one meal, I let it thaw enough so I can cut it into thirds. Then I refreeze the portions on a cookie sheet and, when frozen, seal and store them in a freezer bag. (If you store and seal the portions before they’re refrozen, they’ll stick to each other.)
Mom’s ‘Chicken’ Casserole is one of those great recipes that you can make ahead of time. My mother always made it the day before – she claimed that allowed the flavors to blend. If you do make it ahead, don’t sprinkle on the potato chips (if you decide to use them) or almonds until just before you bake it. By the way, my mom used the potato chips; I never do. Of course, it’s delicious with the potato chips (why wouldn’t it be?) but I’m constantly watching my fat and calorie intake so I leave them out. Either way, the casserole is fabulous!
The original chicken casserole recipe calls for Cream of Chicken Soup. Of course, since this was now a vegetarian recipe I had to come up with a substitute. I decided on a thick basic white sauce with some herbs added in.
NOTE: You don’t have to use Worthington Chicken Style roll. If you have another brand you prefer, use that. Taste is subjective.
This recipe is made in the traditional 9½” x 13″ casserole dish. If you choose to half it (which I did this time), use an 8″ x 8″ pan. I actually have a cooking video of me making this recipe, if you’re a visual learner. Click on Mom’s ‘Chicken’ Casserole to watch.
MOM’S ‘CHICKEN’ CASSEROLE
- 8 cups cubed fake chicken (I used Worthington’s Chicken Style – see photo above)
- 2 cups celery, diced (about 6 stalks)
- 1 4-oz jar diced pimento
- 4 hard boiled eggs, chopped (throw in more, if you like)
- ¾ cup mayonaise
- 3 T butter
- 3 T flour
- ¾ cup milk (I used organic nonfat)
- ½ tsp salt (this is separate from the 1 tsp salt that follows)
- ¼ tsp each of thyme, dill, and celery salt
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried minced onion (found with the jarred spices & herbs)
- 2 T lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
- 1 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- Optional: 1½ cups crushed potato chips
The first thing to do is make a white sauce. In a small saucepan melt the butter. Add in the flour and mash it together with the melted butter to form a smooth paste (make sure there are NO lumps – if you don’t do this now, they’ll never come out). I use a flat-headed wooden stirrer for this. Once blended, cook the paste over a low flame for 1 minute. Pour in the milk, increase the heat to medium, and continue to stir until it thickens. Stir in the ½ tsp salt and the thyme, dill, and celery salt.
In a large mixing bowl mix everything together (including the white sauce) EXCEPT the cheese, almonds, and potato chips (if using). Spread evenly into the casserole dish. If you plan on baking this later, cover with foil and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 350º F.
To bake, layer the potato chips (if using) on top, then the cheese, and finally the slivered almonds. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes. Serve hot.
I’ll be the first to admit the fake chicken version isn’t quite as good as the real thing. Chicken, Cream of Chicken Soup, and crushed potato chips are all really tasty. But this is still an excellent casserole! Remember, the fake meats are geared to talk you off the ledge when you start to weaken. The imitation chicken forms a base to all those other yummy ingredients.
Thanks to imitation meats, vegetarian cooking has come a long way.