Poppy seed chicken
Poppy seed chicken is what you take to people for whom cooking is temporarily not an option. Sometimes it’s funeral food, but this weekend it was celebration food for The Millennial and his wife who became first-time parents on May 4.
You remember. As you leave the hospital, you’re looking at your nurse waving goodbye and wonder in a panic, “Are they really letting me take this baby home?”
But they are and you now fall into a cycle of sleep 2 hours, wake up 2 hours. Feed, poop (not you , the baby), wash (both of you) and sleep. Rinse and repeat in a never-ending routine. At least for the first few months.
The happiest baby present I got came a week after Noah was born. A friend left a pan of lasagna at the front door. She didn’t even ring the bell. She just called me and said, “There’s food outside.” So that’s what I did this weekend for Jay and Jessica.
Tomorrow they are getting a pan of poppy seed chicken, a pan of lasagna and a pan of grilled vegetables.
There’s nothing more comforting than poppy seed chicken. Let’s just review the key ingredients. Chicken from a rotisserie chicken, a white sauce, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and a crust made of crushed Ritz crackers and butter. I have actually never understood why there are poppy seeds in poppy seed chicken. They have no taste and they get stuck in your teeth, but obviously you can’t make the casserole without them. What would you call it then? Just chicken?
Pro tip: I always use rice as a base for the poppy seed chicken but I never make it myself. Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice is the single most delightful discovery of the last year for me. It comes in a variety of different kinds of rice and flavors, it heats up in 90 seconds in the microwave and it comes out perfect every time. I use the rice pilaf for the poppy seed casserole but you can use any flavor you like best.
- 1 rotisserie chicken
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed into crumbs
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole dish.
- Shred the chicken from the rotisserie chicken. Reserve.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute until fragrant. Whisk in the flour and stir for about a minute.
- Gradually whisk the milk into the saucepan. Add the chicken broth, sour cream, cream cheese, salt and pepper. Simmer 5-10 minutes until the cream cheese melts, stirring occasionally.
- Add the shredded chicken and poppy seeds to the sauce and stir. Transfer to the casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Top with cracker crumbs and drizzle the melted butter over the top.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, checking to make sure the cracker crumbs don’t get too brown.