Fort Mill Times

Cooking with Joy - April 9, 2008

Joy Smith lives in Fort Mill.
Joy Smith lives in Fort Mill.

Without a doubt, I think the greatest invention in the history of cooking is the casserole. You can combine just about any variety of ingred-ients, mix with a sauce of some sort, add a topping, bake, and voila! - you've got a casserole.

I'm a big fan of casseroles and have been ever since I was a kid. I was practically raised on them. After all, my father was a Baptist minister and I know all about covered dish dinners at church where casseroles were king. I was convinced that in order to be a good Baptist you had to have a good casserole recipe!

I must have been in elementary school when I remember Daddy telling a joke about this very topic. It was considered to be a real "knee slapper." It seems that a teacher asked her students to bring a symbol of their religion to class for "show and tell." The next day the Catholic kid brought a rosary, the Jewish kid brought a menorah, and the Baptist kid brought a casserole!

I've probably eaten every kind of casserole ever invented over the years, so I feel I'm fully qualified as an expert on this subject. One of my favorites is a recipe I got from a good friend of ours in New York, Dottie Walton. Dottie was a lovely person whose happy nature was infectious. I'm smiling now just thinking about her.

Dottie was a member of P.E.O., an international sisterhood that promotes education for women through scholarships. We met in the evening and periodically had dinner meetings. Whenever Dottie was the hostess she served her chicken casserole, We started calling it "Dottie's Famous Chicken Casserole."

Dottie's Famous Chicken Casserole

8 split chicken breasts (skin on, on the bone)*

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 pint sour cream

1 8 oz. package Pepperidge Farm herb dressing

1 cup chicken broth

1 stick butter

Place chicken breasts in baking dish and cook for 1 hour at 350 degrees, uncovered. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove skin and bones and cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Combine soup and sour cream. Add chicken to mixture. Pour into baking dish.

Mix dressing, chicken broth, and butter together. Sprinkle over top of chicken. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Let set for a few minutes before serving.

*I use split chicken breasts because chicken cooked on the bone with the skin on is juicier and more flavorful than skinless, boneless breasts. I make sure that the casserole mixture has lots of chicken in it, otherwise it will be runny. You can easily double or triple this recipe. Make it a day in advance if you like and refrigerate it. It keeps well.