I continued my search for casseroles that are easy and delicious. I wanted something with a little Asian influence so when I came across Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole from the Food Network, I was pleased. It looked easy to make and promising enough. Alas, this casserole became my nemesis. The first two attempts were complete failures, but I was determined to get it right. The third time was a charm and I’m here to give you my version of this dish. It’s really simple once you figure out that you need to layer, not “evenly scatter” the ingredients, add enough liquid, and cook it long enough. I have no idea how the original could ever work.
Gather your ingredients: rice, veggies, chicken., light coconut milk, broth, red curry paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime, peanuts, and cilantro. I stuck to the same ingredients that were in the recipe. Nothing to change there.
In a casserole pan, add a layer of rice. The original recipe wants you to mix the rice with the veggies and chicken, but this was a bad idea and caused failures to attempts #1 and #2. Who likes crunchy rice? Not me. You need the rice completely submerged in the liquid so it’ll cook.
Next, slice up your peppers and onions. Cut the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces. Layer over your rice. Do not mix it!
Slice your chicken. I like to slice the chicken last to avoid cross contamination with the veggies. It probably doesn’t matter in this case because we’re cooking the veggies, but it’s a habit I like to practice.
Layer your chicken over the veggies. Do not mix it! (Note my general theme.)
Looks good. Now you need your liquid that will cook the rice. In my first attempt, I used the amounts listed in the recipe. It turned out not to be enough liquid so after 50 minutes, I kept adding cups of water every 10 minutes while I tried to wash the rice off the veggies and chicken to get the rice to cook. After 80 minutes, it was edible enough to eat, but I was extremely disappointed. I hate when dinner is late and we were all very hangry at this point.
In my second attempt, I used more broth, but because I followed the recipe and mixed the ingredients, once again I was smushing the rice down after it had been cooking for 50 minutes to get the rice to cook properly. I almost had crunchy rice on my hands, but I managed to rescue it.
Still frustrated but confident that my third attempt would work, I mixed the wet ingredients and poured it over the casserole. I checked that the rice was fully submerged. It was. I was good to go! I popped it in the oven and prayed to the cooking gods that all would go well. Meanwhile, I chopped up some salted peanuts and fresh cilantro for a garnish. I had plenty of time while the casserole cooked so I sneaked in a couple of episodes of HGTV while making the boy’s lunch.
I checked on the casserole after 45 minutes. Not ready so I continued to babysit it, checking the rice every five minutes. After 60 minutes, it was done! I cautiously took a bite of rice. Delicious. I could taste the spice of the curry paste, the saltiness of the fish sauce, the sweetness of the brown sugar, and the acidity of the lime. The flavors were perfect and so were the veggies, cooked yet still firm. Adding the peanuts added an extra crunch and reminded me of pad Thai.
With my changes, I completely recommend this casserole. Did I mention not to mix the rice?
Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole
- nonstick cooking spray
- 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
- 2 cups small broccoli florets
- 1 medium red pepper sliced
- 1/2 medium yellow onion sliced
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs sliced
- salt and pepper
- 14 ounces canned light coconut milk
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1-2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray.
- Add a layer of rice to the bottom of the pan. Evenly scatter a layer of broccoli, red pepper, and onion. Top with chicken slices. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, broth, curry paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice. Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the pan, making sure the lquid covers the rice. Bake until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, 60 minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and cilantro before serving.