Listen. I get it. I hear what you’re saying out there. About how this recipe is made mostly of canned condensed soup. About how all of the ingredients are mass-produced, pre-processed chemical marvels of modern science. About how the chicken is BOILED, for crying out loud. People are, quite simply, Not Cooking This Way Anymore, and you don’t read food blogs to read about this style of Sandra Lee-style gloppy nonsense. I understand.
But let me explain something else. This stuff is amazing. A little backstory:
When I was a kid, growing up in a tiny village in Maine, my mother somehow got persuaded to participate in a potluck supper at the local Odd Fellows Hall. It was exactly the kind of event you’d imagine; a much older crowd, all arriving in the evening clutching crock pots full of home-cooked comfort food, matching enamel bowls stenciled with tiny flowers, and quietly hushed voices endlessly repeating the latest in local gossip, all under the auspices of raising funds to install a new floor in the town office, or some equally important civic undertaking.
It wasn’t the kind of thing my mom normally participated in (generally preferring to be the gossipee, rather than the gossiper), and I’m not sure how she got roped into this one. It was probably my fault; I probably brought something home from school for her to sign, which she did, unwittingly committing herself to an evening spent dishing out casserole samples for a “dime per dip.” I don’t know. But I do know that on that particular night, she made a dish that I would beg her to make again, for the rest of my childhood (though she never would again): Chicken Noodle Casserole.
It was an incredibly simple dish. A couple of cans of soup. Some chicken. Egg noodles, and an ungodly amount of sour cream. In fact, as I type this now, it occurs to me that my mom’s selection of what to bring to the supper was probably a very subtle jab at the proceedings; she’d attend, sure. She’d even contribute. But she’d make something so lowbrow, so utterly lacking in culinary merit, that surely she wouldn’t be asked back. I loved every last bite of it.
And if we’re being honest with ourselves, what’s not to like? It’s a hot, bubbling crock of cream and butter and chicken and egg noodles, like someone filled two pickup trucks with chicken pot pie and macaroni and cheese, and somehow crashed them into each other in a ridiculously tasty and hilarious accident. The recipe can be embellished as little or as much as you’d like. Add some fresh sliced mushrooms, some peas, some chopped green chiles, or some smoked paprika, if you’re feeling fancy. Or accept this dish at face value: A comforting bowl of plain-flavored satisfaction that you can eat for days.
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 package egg noodles
- One 10¾-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
- One 10¾-ounce can cream of chicken soup
- One cup sour cream
- 1 Tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 slices white bread, crusts removed and torn into bits
- 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 cup frozen peas
- One 4 ounce can chopped green chiles
- Preheat oven to 350, and grease casserole dish with butter.
- Melt butter, and toss with breadcrumbs in a bowl until evenly coated. Set aside.
- In a large pan, cover chicken breasts with salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken breasts from liquid and set aside to cool.
- Cook noodles in salted water until slightly underdone, about 6 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander.
- Everybody back in the pool! Transfer cooked pasta back to pot, then add both cans of soup, sour cream, and hot sauce, as well as any/all optional mix-ins. Shred chicken by hand, and add to mixture. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste. Stir well to combine. Ignore slupping sounds. That's just the last gasp of your dignity.
- Transfer mixture to casserole dish, and sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs. Cook in the oven until breadcrumbs brown and mixture is bubbly, about 20 minutes.