Recipe: Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Casserole

A hearty casserole that pairs well with crusty bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, or even a salad.
Remember all those pantry items you receive or buy and never know they even exist? Yeah... sadly, one of those items is that jar of sun-dried tomatoes. A lot of people like to give away baskets during the holidays and most of the items are gourmet products. I try to use them up but of course, some of them I even forget about completely. A few weeks ago, I bought 2 packages of sun-dried tomatoes when I wanted to make porchetta sandwiches. I forgot (again) about the second pack.

I was bored of all the sun-dried tomato pasta dishes. Or pestos. Or making another sandwich with this just as an add-on. So... what to do? I decided to use them all up and make it into a casserole. This casserole is creamy and tangy and hearty. A touch of the basil brings out the freshness too. Since I also bought a few bunches of fresh herbs, I wanted to make use of them. I know herbs are fairly affordable but I just hate it when I see them wilting and dying in my crisper bin. My husband ate the whole plate and it seemed to make him happy and satisfied. That's good enough for me! Because that meant no left-overs. And, another good part was that he wasn't sooo super stuffed after dinner (I also think it's because I had measured his rice intake...).

Another great thing about this dish is that it's a one-pot dish. No need to heat up the oven, get all the kitchen gadgets out, and scurry into the deep depths of your cupboards to find one thing to do one function. Grab your casserole or pot or dutch oven and you're ready to get cooking.

By the way, I made this dish when it was it forecasted to have thunderstorms and heavy rains here. Hahaha. Because you know... ambience. It really does heighten the aptness and heartiness of the dish.

Just to support my earlier statement - I love using up my pantry ingredients. Throwing away the emptied bottle or container gives me a certain satisfaction. Especially if it was a gift I received and I was able to use it all up. Some one us may not even know we have those ingredients. Look through your pantry and throw out the expired ones - seriously... throw it. That's prime real estate in your pantry area. (Also, think about it. If you forced yourself to eat that and your other option was to "throw it out", then just throw it out. You'd have made your body a "trash can" by throwing it in your digestive system.) If you're still able to use it, search for some recipes that you can use to incorporate these ingredients in your dishes. Open up a search page or even Pinterest and just type in that certain ingredient and a whole world of options will open upend make your life easier.

Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Casserole
This can make 3-4 servings, depending if you're eating it as is or serving it with rice, potatoes, as a pasta sauce, or eating it with crusty bread. Carl had his over rice and I ate mine with a side salad.

You'll need a casserole/dutch oven/heavy bottom stock pot, a chopping board, some plates for your mise-en-place, a bowl, a knife, and... that's pretty much it.

4 chicken thighs, boneless, cut into halves or quarters
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley (you can use 2 tsp of fresh if you have)
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional, I didn't use this because Carl's allergic)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

3-4 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (chiffonade is rolling up the leaves then slicing to create strips, then go ahead and chop from there)

1/2 cup chicken/vegetable stock
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

You can garnish with:
a sprinkling of parmesan cheese
chopped parsley
chopped basil leaves

1. In a bowl, mix together the cut-up chicken thigh pieces and the garlic powder, dried parsley, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Let this sit for 20 minutes.
2. Heat up your olive oil in your dutch oven, use medium-high heat. Sear the chicken pieces and set these aside until you've browned up everything.
3. If you need to add more olive oil, go ahead. Sauté the fresh garlic and sun-dried tomatoes for 2-3 minutes. Add the thyme and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken stock to deglaze the fond (To "deglaze" is the technical term to use a liquid to get all the browned up bits stuck in the bottom of the pan. The "fond" is the technical term of the "browned up bits in the bottom" where all the flavour is.)

4. Lower the heat and add the heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Let this simmer for 2-3 minutes until it's nice and thick. Add the chicken pieces and continue to simmer on low for 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked through. Maximum of 15 minutes.
5. Just before serving, add the basil leaves and stir into the casserole.
6. Select a partner (rice, potatoes, pasta, grits, cauliflower rice, etc.) and ENJOY!!!! Go ahead and garnish with cheese and freshly chopped herbs.

*If the liquid is not enough, go ahead and add some stock and cream. Remember, cooking is to taste. No need to be super exact like baking. Also, if you don't have cream and have milk instead, you can make a blond roux before adding the liquids. Just cook about 2-3 tbsp of flour in the same about of butter to make a thickener. 

**If you're Filipino (or Asian), every stew or casserole is essentially eaten with steamed rice. But, you've got a whole world of starchy (or non-carb) partners to choose from! Yes, go ahead and make cauliflower mashed "potatoes", heat up the oven and make some roasted potatoes, cook up a bowl of pasta (linguini, fusilli, rotini, or even orzo), toast up some nice crusty bread and dip it in the sauce and even wipe the bowl with it! I opted to have mine with a side salad just so I can skip the starch - I made it during the week. (I try to keep my carbs to the weekends which essentially starts Friday night).

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