The spinach is starting to grow in the garden, and I'm still scrambling to use up what we froze last year. I've been slipping it in all manner of dishes, from potatoes and eggs to meatloaf and enchiladas. I'm patting myself on the back a little for eating more vegetables than ever.
When I saw this recipe in Real Simple (I think maybe it was the March 2012 issue), my first thought was that I should cut it out and save it for when we had fresh spinach. Then I thought, why not give it a try with our frozen spinach? Which is exactly what I did. Maybe it will be utterly fabulous with fresh spinach, but it was a hands-down, plates-clean winner even with the frozen stuff.
Chicken, Spinach, and Noodle Casserole
Real Simple, 2012
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and black pepper
12 ounces egg noodles
4 slices sandwich bread (I just used about a 1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken
5 ounces baby spinach, chopped (if using frozen, thaw and drain)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes (do not let the mixture darken). Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking often, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the package directions; drain and return to the pot. Pulse the bread in a food processor until course crumbs form. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave safe bowl.
Add the milk mixture, chicken, spinach, and thyme to the noodles and toss to combine. Transfer to a 9 x13-inch or other 3-quart baking dish (I coated mine with cooking spray first), sprinkle with the bread crumbs, and drizzle with the melted butter.
Bake until the bread crumbs are golden and the filling is bubbling, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Make-ahead Tip: The casserole can be assembled and refrigerated up to one day in advance (but don't top with the bread crumbs). Sprinkle with the bread crumbs just before baking. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 8 to 10 minutes more.
I love it when I find a recipe that has a simple and short ingredient list, comprised of things we usually have on hand. I have made a habit recently of buying a whole chicken at the farmers' market every couple of months, cooking and shredding it, and freezing it in 2-cup portions just for casseroles like this and it helps to make meal planning and prepping easier.