A Hug from a Casserole

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March 13, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

The days have been getting longer. Daffodils are beginning to bud. Just when I thought spring was coming to London, the chill is back. Over the past few days, snow has fluttered in the air. Yesterday it was so cold that i had to push Gertie out the door for our walk. It’s actually hailing at this very moment. Burrr. It’s time to shake these winter blues.

Sometimes you need a dinner that gives you a warm hug. This casserole is the perfect dish for the time of year when you just don’t know if it’s winter or spring. It’s a hearty casserole that uses healthy vegetables instead of rice or pasta. So while it’s filling and comforting, this meal won’t send you off track if you’re getting an early start on bikini season (hard to think about that when I see the sun about once a week these days, but we can hope, right!?). To lighten the dish more, feel free to use boneless skinless chicken thighs and half and half instead of cream.

When I was creating this dish, I originally thought about a basic casserole with some of my favorite flavors. Just slap a bunch of stuff in a baking dish, pop it in the oven and call it a night. But how could I not give these amazing ingredients the tender loving care they deserve. The flavors will meld and come together like a classic casserole but by prepping everything in individual stages you get a rock star meal that highlights each ingredient.

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Start by roasting sweet potatoes that have been tossed simply in olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 20 minutes. You want them to become just tender but not mushy, since you’ll be baking them more later.

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While the sweet potatoes bake, brown your chicken thighs, starting skin side down, until they are golden. Then continue baking in the oven while you prepare the rest of the casserole.

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Using the same skillet that you browned the chicken, drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat, and cook the red onions. After they’ve softened, add the seasoning and reduce white wine in the skillet. Then turn the heat to low and add the cream. Season to taste before tossing with the kale.

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Once the kale wilts slightly, mix with the sweet potatoes and spread evenly into a casserole dish.

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Then top with the chicken and bake the whole thing for about 20 more minutes, allowing the juices to mix and the flavors to come together.

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Chicken, Kale, & Sweet Potato “Casserole”

Serves 4

1 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and 1″ cubed
1 1/2 lbs chicken thighs
1 red onion, quartered and sliced
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp chicken soup starter
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half)
8 oz. kale, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Toss the sweet potatoes in 1/2 Tbs of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the remaining olive oil and brown the chicken, starting with skin side down. Once the chicken is done place in the oven and drain all but 1 Tbs of fat from the skillet.

Lower the heat to medium and add the sliced onions to the skillet. Cook for 8 minutes until soft. Add the paprika, thyme, soup starter, and Dijon. Once incorporated, add the wine to deglaze the pan. Turn the heat to low and add the cream.

Add the kale and sweet potatoes to the skillet and toss with the onion mixture.

Pour the kale and sweet potatoes into a 9×12″ casserole dish, making a bed for the chicken.

Place the chicken skin side up onto the kale and bake for 20 minutes.

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