This casserole reminds me of my mom's cooking, too. She was keen on stetching a small piece of meat.
This is a gravy-rich chicken casserole with vegetables that even fussbudgets will gloat over. For the locavore, the possibilities are seasonally endless.
The topping, the cornbread, is like birthday cake. I wouldn't hesitate to put candles on top.
The basic idea, for advanced chefs, is this:
Sauté onions and make a Bechamel sauce, in a Dutch oven. Add whatever tasty meat and lightly cooked veggies you like. Pour cornbread batter on top and bake. Good Golly Miss Molly!
1 large chicken breast, chopped into bitesize pieces
Sprinkle of flour
2-3 T. butter
1 tsp. olive oil, just so the butter doesn't burn
1 medium onion
1 tsp. thyme
2-3 T. white vermouth
Buttermilk or Milk (the buttermilk really knocks it out of the park)
1 c. peas, fresh or frozen
1 can corn kernels, or kernels right off 3 cobs of corn
(Handful of chopped lightly cooked carrots, or any other colorful vegetable)
1 recipe of cornbread muffin batter, from the box— or homemade
(2 chopped fresh tomatoes or handful of cherry tomatoes)
Cook the Chicken
Cut up a chicken breast into mouthful-size pieces, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of flour, and fry up quickly in a frying pan with a little oil.
[Lazy Sod: buy a roast chicken and cut up your favorite parts into chunks).
Set up your Dutch oven on the stovetop— you have one, right? It's a must. The rest of the dish gets put together in it.
Make the Sauce— and Cornbread Batter on the Side
Chop your onion fine, and sauté it in the butter with a dab of oil on medium-low heat, with the thyme, until soft and golden.
The small amount of oil keeps your butter from burning.
[Lazy Sod: Open up a can or two of Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup and heat it slowly in the pot with a couple tablespoons of butter].
While your onions are melting, mix up a batch of cornbread batter! Place to the side.
Finish your white sauce, aka "Bechamel Sauce"— this is the only step that takes some cooking technique:
After onion is soft, turn the heat high, and pour in a couple tablespoons of vermouth (or white wine, or anything a little acidic) and stir.
You'll cook off the excess liquid in a minute or so. Turn heat down to medium.
Wooden spoon in hand, add a 2 tablespoons of white flour.
Vigorously STIR in small circles, making a roux with the buttery soft onions.
You're making a buttery, floury paste; it may even start to come together like a ball. Never stop stirring!
Start slowly pouring in your buttermilk/milk/cream. You can switch to a whisk or keep at it with your wooden spoon. Stir, stir, stir; never leave it alone.
You can substitute your liquid with a combo of dairy and white wine, or dairy and chicken broth. It all tastes good.
As you add the liquid, stirring madly away, the sauce forms, a nice thick creamy sauce.
Watch the video, and you'll say, "Oh yeah, I get it!" Once you know how to make a white sauce, the world is your oyster.
[If you're a Lazy Sod, you can skip all that sauce-making. But boy, it is good. Try it sometime].
Put Together the Casserole
Once your white sauce is finished, add the cooked chicken, the peas, the corn kernels, and any other vegetables you like. Mix it all up.
Take your wet cornbread batter, and drop it by heaping tablespoon-fulls, plop, plop, plop, on top of your chicken/veggie/bechamel mélange.
You don't have to cover every spot, as the batter will spread in the oven— but make sure you evenly cover the casserole with your batter.
Put in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.
As soon as the cornbread is golden brown on top and cooked through (use a toothpick, just like testing a cake) it's done!
Garnish with chopped tomatos.
For those of you who want the low-down trash originals, see below. —But mine blows them all away.
Betty Crocker, girl.