“This chicken artichoke casserole filled with mushrooms and artichokes and a hint of capers, is what my family calls comfort food. This is the dish to drop off to a neighbor but only if you want them begging for more!”
Life has a way of letting us know when we need to slow down. The most obvious seems to be illness, and then many of us come to a complete stop. That was the case with my mom who has been in bed for over a month now. One day she was feeling fine and the next moment – BAM! After a few weeks of being flat on her back with only my dad to nurse her I was called in to the rescue and it was off to Phoenix I flew, where I’ve been the last 8 days. Now I can’t say I rescued anything but I was able to put a new face in front of my mother and let my dad go off to work each day. (I believe work is his favorite form of pleasure; next to my mom when she isn’t in her sick bed.)
After many, too many tests, the doctors finally made an educated guess that it was just (JUST) a virus that was keeping my mom lying down. Relief set in, that it wasn’t more than that. So finally, on her 5th week, she is starting to feel better but still quite a way from normal. At least now she can make her own breakfast and lunch, so I felt it safe to return to my daily life. And I hope soon, she can, too. I spent my time cooking and cleaning her pantry and the spice cabinet and the freezer, and last but not least, the refrigerator. I expect I’ll have to go back and do it again in about 6 months, but at least I know I won’t find a container with unknown contents in the freezer and a date from 2009 written on it.
When I was sick as a child my mom let my lie in her giant bed so I could watch TV. She fed me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (light on the peanut butter, please) and heavy on the strawberry jam. I drank Nestle’s Quik in milk and ate Mott’s applesauce. My mom is a little bit different. Since her stomach hadn’t held much for the last three weeks she must have been waiting for me to fill it. Honestly. She had shrimp and grits and spaghetti and salmon and eggs and a burger and oatmeal and this chicken casserole. Twice.
It is a good chicken casserole. It is her and my dad’s favorite casserole. And so I made it. I remember it from my teenage years when it contained broccoli but over the years my mom and dad have decided that broccoli just isn’t their thing, and so this casserole no longer contains broccoli. I have not had this in at least thirty years and it is still good. Though I will confess that if I made it again, I would leave out the Campbell’s soup and make my own white sauce. Just on principal, don’t you know?
This is a warm, comforting, soothing casserole with lots of exploding flavors. It is not bland and not for those on a bland diet. It is a perfect dish for company as it contains special, not everyday ingredients like artichokes and mushrooms and capers. Well, at least those aren’t every day for me. My mom wanted biscuits to go with her casserole and rather than sending my father to McDonald’s which she considered, she requested I make a baking powder biscuit so that is what I served her. The next night we compared the buttermilk biscuit to the baking powder variety and definitely we felt buttermilk was the way to go. But that is another story.
In any case, I got to see my mother smile and so my week was worth it. I also did sit in the sun a bit and took in the beauty of the desert. I read some good books and perused many of her cookbooks. I took photos of this quail nest right outside her kitchen door, and watched the mother sitting on her eggs. I am sorry I will miss the great event but I read it can take 24 days for those cute tiny eggs to hatch. Not knowing how long they’d been there, I wasn’t sure I should wait.
And now it is Memorial Day weekend and I am way behind. But if by chance you aren’t grillin’ and you want a good chicken casserole, I promise this is worth it.
My Mama’s Chicken, Artichoke and Mushroom Casserole
Time To Prepare: About 35 minutes
Time to Bake: 60 minutes
1 roast chicken from deli (skin and bones removed and chicken shredded)
1 lb sliced mushrooms sauteed in 3 T butter (I used a combo of fresh white mushrooms and portabellas with some reconstituted shitakes and some porcinis)
2 cans of quartered artichoke hearts, drained (If you don’t want as many, only use one can.)
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c mayonnaise
1 4oz jar of pimientos, drained
1/4 cup of drained capers
Panko or bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Place boneless, skinless cooked chicken meat on bottom of dish.
Melt butter and saute mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon cooked mushrooms over chicken.
Place drained artichoke hearts over mushrooms.
Sprinkle cheddar cheese over artichoke hearts.
Heat both cans of soup and mayonnaise until warm and a bit bubbly. Do not let burn. Stir in drained capers and pimentos. Spoon over artichoke hearts and level out. Use all of it!
Top casserole with panko or bread crumbs
Bake for an hour until top is golden and casserole is bubbly. You could serve this over noodles or rice, but it is not necessary. A salad would round out the meal. And if you are sick and have a cast iron tummy, this hits the spot!
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