This was one of the first entries in our Best Healthy Casseroles contest, and I knew right away that it was a favorite. Why? Because I wanted to cook it immediately! This simple dish from reader Nancy takes just a few ingredients, and through the magic of the oven, transforms them into an aromatic dish of perfectly cooked rice studded with chicken and shiitake mushrooms, flavored with soy, ginger, and garlic.
Why I chose Nancy's casserole This dish has so many of my favorite flavors: Soy, garlic, ginger, and rich mushrooms. It also features one of my favorite casserole techniques: Baked rice. Rice can be really wonderful when baked in the oven. When done right, like it is here, it is easy and foolproof, and it lets the rice absorb the other flavors in the pot.
Cooking this is very quick and simple. You marinate chunks of chicken (cut very small so they cook fast with the rice) with soy, sesame oil, and a bit of sugar. Then you take a small amount of dried smoked sausage and cook it slowly to help it release its fat (and flavor), and use this to cook the mushrooms. Add the rice, chicken, and some stock. Bring to a boil and put in the oven. 45 minutes later you have a delicious one-pot meal with rice, chicken, and mushrooms.
I just could not believe how delicious this was, especially for so little work. From pulling the chicken out of the fridge to chop and marinate it, to cooking the mushrooms and baking the casserole itself, I put it on the table in just over an hour. It was absolutely packed with flavor: the ginger pops out and the soy livens it up. My husband and I were both delighted with it, and we ate it for lunch, happily, for three days straight! I cook and develop recipes regularly, so I don't return to recipes very often. But this is one that I am going to make over and over again.
• What makes this recipe so great? I love this recipe for so many reasons. It's fast, easy and so good for you! One of my favorite things to eat at Chinese restaurants is clay-pot rice. There are so many gorgeous flavors and they come together perfectly to make one cohesive meal. I hope you enjoy this casserole as much as I do.
• What makes this casserole health(ier)? I love this recipe because it is light but still packed with flavor! I use chicken breast which is incredibly good for you, mushrooms which are an excellent source of potassium and very low in calories, and rice which is a major plus for all the gluten-free people in my life.
Chinese No Clay Pot Chicken Casserole
1/4 cup soy sauce 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil 2 teaspoons cornstarch 2 boneless chicken breasts, about 1 pound, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 3 scallions, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve 3 garlic cloves, minced 1-inch piece fresh ginger, roughly grated 2 ounces smoked sausage, such as Chinese lapchang or good Italian salami, cut into 1/4-inch cubes 10 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps thinly sliced 1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil 2 cups Chinese long grain rice 1 teaspoon salt 4 cups chicken stock
Heat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Stir in the chicken, scallions, garlic and ginger, and toss so that they are coated with the liquid. Place this mixture in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 15 minutes while you cook the mushrooms.
Place an oven-safe pan, like a 3-quart Dutch oven, over medium high heat on the stove. When it is hot, add the sausage and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the sausage slowly release its fat. When the bottom of the pot is slick with the sausage fat, add the mushrooms. Turn the heat back up to medium high heat and let the mushrooms cook, without stirring them, for 5 minutes. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, and sauté the rice briefly to develop some toasty flavor (you don’t want to brown the rice here, just sauté it for 1 minute or so), then add the salt and the chicken mixture from the fridge. Pour in the stock. Bring to a boil.
Turn off the heat, cover with a lid or with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Make sure to taste the rice for doneness before taking it out of the oven. I like my rice a little chewier; some might want it more cooked. Let stand 5 minutes, covered, before serving. Stir up the rice before serving, as the chicken and mushrooms will have risen to the top during baking (see photo below). Stir thoroughly so that they are incorporated throughout the rice.
Garnish with chopped scallions and serve with extra soy sauce and chili garlic sauce, if desired.