The goal was a simple chicken casserole that had the rich, satisfying flavor of a lasagna.
Actually, that’s a lie. The goal was a chicken roulade – a dish in which chicken breasts are pounded flat, then slathered or layered with some sort of filling, then rolled into a log and roasted or braised.
Except my roulade didn’t cooperate. During roasting, the cheesy innards oozed out all over the baking sheet, then promptly burned. The result was an inedible, ugly mess.
Attempt No. 2 wasn’t much better. I ditched the pounding and rolling in favor of cutting slits into chicken breasts, then stuffing them with a cheese and roasted red pepper filling, pinching them shut and roasting. Nice try. Simply put, they looked like road kill.
Then it occurred to me. If the cheese wanted so badly to ooze out of the chicken, why not reverse the dish and start it that way. And thus was born this simple chicken casserole that tastes like a lasagna. The chicken can be served over a bed of noodles or rice. It also could be spooned into a sub roll.
Chicken Lasagna Casserole
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
16-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, patted dry and diced (about 2 cups)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat an 8-by-11-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, mozzarella, red peppers, egg, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add all of the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. It does not need to cook through. Transfer the chicken to the prepared baking pan. Pour the cheese mixture over the chicken, then stir gently to combine.
In a small bowl, mix together the panko and butter. Sprinkle the panko over the chicken, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through.
Yield: 8 servings
Approximate nutrition per serving: 330 calories, 12 grams fat (5 grams saturated, 33 percent fat calories), 39 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrate, 145 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber, 690 milligrams sodium.