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Chicken Casserole



At least 8 hours before you plan to serve this dish.
Turn the artisan bread loaf upside down or on it's side.
With a sharp knife, remove the entire bottom crust.
Slice bottom crust into strips and then 1 inch squares.
Gently extract the middle of the loaf and set aside.
Cut the rest of the crust into strips and cubes.
Keeping them separated from the crusts, gently cube the inside parts of the loaf as well.
I found that I needed the crust of 1 loaf and the inside of two loaves.
Spread the crust squares on the bottom of a lightly buttered (can use vegetable oil spray) 9 x 13 x 2 baking dish and sprinkle with the sage.
In a bowl, combine the chicken, celery, mayonnaise, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
Spread this mixture over the bread crusts.
Arranged the diced white part of the bread over the chicken mixture.
In another bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, then pour over the bread.
Cover and refrigerate all day or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bechamel Sauce (prepared just prior to baking) :.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the flour and stir to form a roux.
Continue to cook, stirring for about 1 minute.
Slowly whisk the chicken broth, milk and cream into this mixture.
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer and stir occasionally over low heat until dense, about 12 minutes.
Pour the sauce over the chicken casserole and bake until bubbly and golden, about 45 minutes.
Remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle the cheese on top, then return to the oven and bake until the cheese melts, 8 - 10 minutes.
Serve hot.