This qualifies as comfort food for me, in the same category with mac 'n' cheese, mashed potatoes, and Thanksgiving food. And it's most definitely a common food in the South (don't know about other parts of the country). It's not gourmet. It's not healthy. It's not rocket science. But it's ooey, gooey good. It's also cheap.
The recipe I use now is an adaptation and merging of several different recipes I've had over the years. Chicken and rice is one of those individual dishes - some people like it creamier, some with lots of butter, some with lots of chicken, some with more rice - there are endless variations. The general backbone is chicken, rice, some sort of cream, a little butter, and maybe some cheese.
This meal also freezes easily, so I usually make it in two 8 X 8 disposable pans - I can pull one out to take to a friend when needed, and it's great to have on hand for those nights that you just can't get a meal together but don't want to do takeout.
Chicken and Rice Casserole
Meat from 3-4 chicken breasts, or 1 rotisserie chicken
3 cups of minute rice (measured in uncooked rice)
1/4 C butter
2-3 ribs celery, diced
8 oz shredded cheddar or colby
1 can cream of mushroom
1 can cream of celery
up to 1 can chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook minute rice according to directions on package.
3. Once rice is cooked, combine all ingredients except stock in a large bowl and stir to combine. Gradually add stock until you get a gooey mixture, but not overly soupy. Keep any leftover stock in case the casserole gets dry while cooking (you can just pour a little over the top to bring it back to life before you take it out of the oven).
4. Transfer mixture to 2 8x8 pans or another casserole dish/cake pan that will hold all of the mixture.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until casserole is completely set.
Sorry that the directions aren't overly detailed - this is just how I do it every time I make it. Some people like to make them in bigger pans so that the casserole is thinner and a little drier. I tend to like it a little more on the gooey side, so I make it in a smaller pan so that it's thicker. This will yield 8-12 servings, depending on appetites and what else it's served with. Enjoy!