A complete delicious family meal in a single casserole dish. Chicken is baked on a bed of kale and baby potatoes while smothered in French onions and mozzarella cheese. Serves 6-8 people, depending how hungry everyone is and makes wonderful leftovers.
A Healthy Chicken Casserole Recipe to Start the New Year
Happy New Year everyone! We made it to 2021 and can kiss 2020 goodbye! That said, 2020 left amidst a very blustery winter windstorm in Western Washington. Sitting inside and watching the buckets of rain and wind battering down on the house is enough to have many of us quickly forgetting any New Year’s resolutions and diving headfirst into the unhealthiest of our comfort food favorites. What if you could have something deeply comforting and hearty, and maybe not so unhealthy?
This is what I was hoping for when I first started making eatwell101’s recipe for French Onion Chicken Casserole. I absolutely love French onion soup. The lovely sticky caramelized cheese topping, the thick buttery chunks of bread soaking in the rich and savory broth that I swear could thaw any ice person’s heart. For me, there is not a lot about any recipe with “French onion” in the title though that I would not be oohing and awing over and it is perfect for satisfying that cold weather comfort food craze.
More Vegetables Please!
Aside from the fact that the name of the casserole included “French onion,” this recipe was also appealing to me because baking whole chicken breasts can sometimes be challenging as they can dry out easily during the baking process if you are not paying close attention to them. This is especially a problem with large chicken breasts where portions may overbake in the effort to get the thicker portions to cook completely through. Having the chicken heaped with caramelized onions and cheese helps to lock in the moisture while the casserole is in the oven.
However, I thought it silly to go through the effort of cooking all these onions and baking this chicken and having this lovely broth and nothing to benefit from it. I wanted to smother other things like kale and potatoes with the sweet onions and cheese and bake it with the chicken so that all the broth soaked into the vegetables and I had a full meal when it was all said and done. A few extra minutes of prep work to slice and dice a bed of vegetables for the chicken to bake in was all it took. I also increased the amount of cheese and broth used to help ensure that everything gets saturated with the lovely flavors that one associates with French onion soup.
This casserole makes 6-8 servings, depending on how hungry folks are and how big of chicken breasts you use. This makes great leftovers as well for lunch or dinner later in the week.
QUICK TIP: Since I’m about to ask you to slice up a ton of onions for this recipe, I’m going to do my best to save your tears and your eyes. About 30 minutes before you are going to start prepping the vegetables, put the onions in the freezer! Yes! The freezer! Refrigerating onions gets a similar smell staunching effect, but it usually takes a couple hours to get them cold enough. Pull each onion out as you need to cut them to save you from at least some of the usual crying.
Cheesy Onion Chicken Casserole with Kale and Baby Potatoes
Originally based on the French Onion Chicken Casserole recipe from eatwell101 https://www.eatwell101.com/french-onion-chicken-casserole-recipe
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts trimmed of extra fat. If they are more than 1” thick, I would either slice the back of them so they open up more, or smash them with a kitchen mallet a bit so they are no more than 1” thick.
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Crushed red pepper flakes (optional, but highly recommended)
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup Gruyere cheese (or swiss or additional fresh mozzarella if not available)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 5 large onions, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 bunch Tuscan kale, washed, shredded, and tough stems removed
- 1 lb mini red or gold potatoes, halved or quartered
- Olive oil
- Fresh chopped parsley
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish with a light coating of oil or grease and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and a little olive oil together in the pan. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Do this slowly if the pan to onion ratio is not ideal (I sometimes do this to cheat more vegetables into the pan than could fit at one time). Cook the onions until soft, 5-8 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and cook onions until caramelized, stirring occasionally. You can add some of your chicken broth to the pan during the caramelizing if the pan gets too dry.
- Add the remaining chicken broth to the pan to deglaze. Stir in the minced fresh garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- Toss the potatoes and kale together in a large bowl with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add the potatoes and kale to the baking dish in an even layer across the bottom so that the dish is roughly half full of vegetables. You may not be able to fit all your potatoes and kale in the baking dish depending on how big of a bunch of kale you have, but you can always bake them alongside separately or save them for another meal later in the week.
- Place the chicken breasts on top of the bed of vegetables in the baking dish so that they are roughly an inch apart in the dish. Season them with the garlic powder, more pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, and a smidge more salt.
- Top the chicken breasts with the caramelized onions so that they are completely covered, and you cannot see any more chicken. Sprinkle any remaining onions on the vegetables. Spread the cheese across the casserole, focusing the most on top of each of the chicken breasts.
- Bake the casserole for 30-40 minutes, depending how thick the chicken breasts were. If you have a meat thermometer you are looking for the chicken breasts to be an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
- Let the casserole cool slightly before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve (hopefully) with a glass of red wine.
Like chicken? You may also like this Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta with Tarragon recipe.