I made this dish because of a 24-ounce bag of French’s French Fried Onions that I fell in love with at Costco and simply had to have.
I was with the Son and Heir, whose level of thriftiness is such that he makes me look profligate, and his first question on seeing the bag was,
“Why do we need that?”
“It’s what you use to make that green bean casserole with.”
“I know the green bean casserole you’re talking about, and we’ve never had that in my life. You don’t even like canned green beans or mushroom soup, so what would inspire you to make the casserole?”
What an irritating kid.
But I’m the one with the checkbook so I tossed the bag of French fried onions in the cart, and when I came home, I made this casserole. On seeing it, the Son and Heir commented,
“This is delicious, but given that we eat casseroles once or twice a year, I’m thinking that you made this so that you could use the dried onions.”
Next month, I’ll take Tired of Being Youngest with me to Costco.
Whether you have the dried onions to put on top or not, this is a quick, fun casserole that tastes great on a cold evening, with the woodstove heating the house and the dog lurking in a corner hoping that no one wants to take a walk.
Chicken Noodle Casserole — serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 cups dried pasta, any shape
2 cups cooked chicken (I used leftovers from the rotisserie chicken we picked up at Costco)
1/2 cup cheese, shredded (anything you’ve got in the fridge works for me)
2 stalks celery, chopped finely
3-4 leaves chard, ribboned (if you don’t have chard, you can use 1 cup of frozen peas instead)
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
1 cup French’s French Fried Onions (if you don’t have these, you can still make the casserole, but since the entire dish was developed around their existence, I really can’t leave them out)
Cook the pasta in water until it’s tender.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the celery until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chard, if you’re using it, and stir until it’s limp — 5 minutes or so. (If you’re using the peas, you’ll add them elsewhere, later.)
Stir the flour quickly into the chard/celery/butter mixture and then whisk in the milk and salt. Cook this white sauce over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, 10 minutes or so. Make sure to keep whisking the mixture so that it doesn’t stick on the bottom.
In a greased 9 x 13 pan, toss the noodles with the chicken and peas, if you’re using them. Pour the white sauce over and mix it all together. Sprinkle cheese across the top and — this is the MOST IMPORTANT PART — sprinkle on the French fried onions. Mmmmmm. Make sure to make up for what you snitch as you’re sprinkling.
Bake at 350 until bubbly and hot.
Enjoy the meal with a cup of hot tea and the company of your household, remembering that eating — which we do three times a day, average — is an opportunity to love, laugh, talk, share and be thankful.
Remember, also, that cooking is one of the first, and easiest, means of being more independent and saving money, both of which are important in today’s economy. I talk about this in my book, Live Happily on Less, which I regularly recommend people look at, because it’s a simple, friendly way of learning how to use what you’ve got, better.
We have lived our entire lives, happily, on less, and it hasn’t stopped us from owning our home, outright and mortgage free; or driving a nice car for which we paid cash; or dressing decently, staying warm, and indulging in little luxuries like Polish pottery, volumes of books, and family vacations.