It was a sunny, June afternoon. We had all my things that I had accumulated as a single gal, plus all the wedding gifts that we’d gotten packed into the car. My childhood home was warm and inviting as usual, filled with conversations and comfortable sounds. I was about to leave the only home I had even known and my family to start my new life as a married woman. It was a bittersweet day – I had married the most wonderful guy on earth (of this I am 100% sure!) but we all knew that I would be miles away, 1335 miles, to be exact.
Life changing moments like this have a way of being stamped in our memories. I remember the feelings, the sounds and the smells. The aroma of the Potato Chicken Casserole wafting from the kitchen throughout the whole house. I don’t think I ate much, since I usually lose my appetite when I’m nervous or emotional.
I remember hugging everyone good bye, Mom starting to cry, Dad getting choked up as we all prayed together. Every time I looked at my siblings I had these terrifying thoughts playing in my mind – “I’m going to be the sister that lives far away and nobody really knows”, “I won’t get to see them grow up”, “they’re going to change so much”. I’ll never forget driving down the long driveway, and crying for miles, Sergi quietly holding my hand. Emotional, huh? I’m not even the emotional type:).
This is my favorite casserole. It beats Lasagna any day, in my opinion. It may not be pretty to look at, but it sure is tasty. It’s the character that counts anyway, right?
We’ve been making this in our family for years, and still love it just as much. It tastes very Russian:). Unlike most casseroles that I’ve eaten, this one doesn’t taste too heavy, but is still a hearty one dish meal. You have your potatoes and meat in one pan. The potatoes are tender and flavorful, but still hold their shape. The chicken is the crowning glory on top of the potatoes, and since we use chicken thighs, it’s so juicy and moist. For a crispy, golden crust, the chicken is spread with a bit of mayo and cheese.
Yields: 8 servings
2 lbs potatoes, Yukon gold (about 6 medium)
1/2 tablespoon butter or oil
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cup half n half
salt, pepper, chicken seasoning
8-10 chicken thighs
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 – 2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/4 – 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
Peel and cut the potatoes into long and thin rectangular sticks, about 1/4 inches thick.
Yukon Gold potatoes keep their shape really well. Russet potatoes will fall apart and become mushy.
I usually cut the potato in half, cut each half into 1/4 inch parallel slices, lengthwise, and then cut through the stack, making parallel 1/4 inch cuts.
It’s pretty important to cut the potatoes thinly, or they will take much longer to cook.
Finely chop the onion, and peel and finely shred the carrot on a box grater. Melt 1/2 Tablespoon of butter in a skillet, add the onion and carrot, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until they are soft. Add to the potatoes. Mix together, seasoning with salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning, if using, and thyme. Place all of this into a 13×9 inch casserole dish. Meanwhile, prep the chicken thighs. Remove the bone, skin and cut out all the grease that you possibly can. I have a tutorial on how to debone chicken thighs. Follow that tutorial and remove the skin also.
Season on both sides with salt, pepper and Montreal Chicken Seasoning, if using.
By the way, you can use pork instead of the chicken. Cut country style pork ribs into thin pieces, pound each cutlet into thin, uniform pieces, season and place on top of the potatoes. You can also use sausage. I usually brown the sausage first, though.
I would NOT recommend using chicken breast in this recipe. Chicken breast cooks very quickly and 1 1/2 – 2 hours in the oven will make it as dry as leather.
Quick tip: To make this even more Russian, top the meat with a layer of thinly sliced onions before spreading it with mayonnaise and cheese. You can also place the onions underneath the chicken, instead of on top of the meat.
To keep the cheese from sticking to the foil, spray it with oil first. (PAM, etc. or spread some oil with a napkin or paper towel, or you hand). This is a good trick to keep in mind when making anything that’s topped with cheese, such as lasagna.
Bake for 1 1/2 -2 hours at 350 degrees, until the potatoes are cooked through. Take off the foil in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking so you can brown the cheese. You can even broil it, if you’d like for just a few minutes. Keep an eye on it though. It tends to burn to a crisp while your back is turned. The second that you step out of the kitchen or start washing dishes, POOF, it’s all black!
(Here’s how you can salvage it though. Scrape off the burned cheese, top with some fresh cheese and back into the oven it goes, with you staring intently into the oven window this time. Almost no harm done.)
- 2 lbs potatoes, Yukon gold (about 6 medium)
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- ½ tablespoon butter or oil
- 1½ - 1¾ cup half n half
- salt, pepper, chicken seasoning
- 8-10 chicken thighs
- 3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1½ - 2 cups mozzarella cheese
- ¼ - ⅓ cup parmesan cheese
- Peel and cut the potatoes into long and thin rectangular sticks, about ¼ inches thick.
- Finely chop the onion, and peel and finely shred the carrot on a box grater. Melt ½ Tablespoon of butter in a skillet, add the onion and carrot, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until they are soft.
- Add the carrots and onion to the potatoes. Mix together, seasoning with salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning, if using, and thyme. Place all of this into a 13x9 inch casserole dish.
- Meanwhile, prep the chicken thighs. Remove the bone, skin and cut out all the grease that you possibly can.
- Season on both sides with salt, pepper and Montreal Chicken Seasoning, if using.
- Heat the half n half until it's almost boiling. Pour over the potatoes. It should barely cover the potatoes, but still not come to the top.
- Place the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes.
- Thinly spread the mayonnaise on the chicken thighs and sprinkle with cheese.
- Cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 1½ -2 hours at 350 degrees, until the potatoes are cooked through.