Dinner

Carolyn’s Chicken Curry Casserole with a Side of Loss & Hope

Everybody’s been handling this pandemic differently. Please understand, I know the difference between people making different but still appropriate and compassionate choices and people who are not meeting this crisis with compassion or appropriateness.

My family unit made a decision based on compassion (and science) and have not deviated from that decision since March of last year. I have not hugged my mother for 11 months. I have not seen a single friend or family member at a closer distance than six feet.

And I know there other people like us out there. I know because I see Tweets and Memes that speak to the exhaustion, confusion, and actual heartbreak I’ve felt. Everyone has to make their own choices and set their boundaries. And I know this. COVID bubbles give people mental respite that I, believe me, understand is equally important to physical health.

But we all know people that are throwing much-needed caution to the wind. We know there are people willfully ignorant. People who don’t believe in COVID. People who think it’s “the same as the flu”. Those people are the party poopers who continue to have parties. And they are disappointing.

But then? During a mindless scroll of my feed? To see family members? People I love with my whole heart making those types of decisions – the truly bad decisions? To reckon with the devastation I feel seeing their football parties and Halloween hangouts and ‘the more the merrier’ comments.

I read a thread like this from one of my most treasured family members the other day. And it honestly brought me to tears. Not metaphor tears. I sat on my couch and wept for five straight minutes.

Because. I’m not afraid. I’m not living in fear. Sure, I have anxiety. But it’s not me I’m thinking of when I make the choices I make. I’m actively and constantly engaged in the deep understanding that my choices could mean life or death for other people. People I don’t know. People I’ve never even seen. But people, all the same. People who matter equally to myself and my husband and my children.

I cried because I felt grief. I felt loss. How can I maintain a relationship, in whatever the new normal of this country looks like on the other side of vaccines, when I know the selfishness they possess? How can I allow my children around their Q-Anon opinions and blatant disregard for the sanctity of life and the right we all have to live it?

I don’t know the answer. And I don’t know the way forward.

But I know it has caused me to turn inward. It has caused me to reflect and shift the dynamic of my life and holiday planning and turn slowly and more solidly towards my chosen family.

What I know, what my truth is? I’d rather get to the end of this and have somebody say “you did all that isolation for nothing” rather than have someone say “you caused someone’s death inadvertently”. I will choose the life of the stranger over a tailgate every time.

Through all of this, I cling to little bits of hope like a shadowboxer. Maybe things will change. Maybe they will change. Maybe they’ll revert to who they were before I knew more about them. Maybe they’ll understand.

But in the meantime, I am left feeling a sense of isolation deeper than simple physical distance from the rest of the world. And with this departure from the closeness I’ve felt to my once-big, ever-shrinking family, I’ve turned to the recipes that have fed us for generations.

Carolyn was my Mamaw’s friend. An interior designer and real estate agent extraordinaire. She always smells like expensive vintage perfume and has on a matching jewelry set. She gave my family this recipe years ago.

And it’s been on my dinner table dozens of times. And it’s been in the fridge when I visit my aunts and uncles dozens of times. And its exact make-up is slightly altered from house to house. But this is the Radcliff household recipe.

Today, as the relationships and understanding and realizations regarding the generation directly above me are melting, so is the cheese atop this casserole. And that’s a comfort I should probably talk to my therapist about? But today, I’ll let it just be a comfort.

Maybe it can bring you some comfort, too.

Pre-Cooking Chicken for Other Use

There are a lot of choices for how to cook a couple of chicken breasts for a casserole or other recipe that calls for pre-cooked chicken. But, I almost always split the chicken breast, pound it a bit. Salt & Pepper, in a pan with olive. I try to keep it as not brown as possible, which is opposite from what I’m usually aiming for. But, I’ve found a uniform texture for casseroles is appreciated. Cook through. Allow to cool a bit, diced into bite-sized pieces.

Of course, you can use rotisserie chicken or pulled chicken, or canned chicken if you want or need. But if you’re cooking the chicken yourself, keep it simple, make sure not to overcook it, and try not to brown the outside too much. It’ll make for a really nice consistency.

Carolyn’s Chicken Curry Casserole

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes Uncle Ben’s long grain & wild rice mix (not the microwave pouches), prepared via package directions and set aside
  • About 1 lb of cooked and diced chicken
  • 2 cans or jars marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 C mayonnaise (Hellman’s is specified in the original recipe)
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom
  • 1 can Cream of chicken
  • 1 rounded tspn curry powder
  • Grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 3/4 stick cracker barrel sharp cheddar)

Instruments

  • Casserole dish (I like a round casserole about 1.5 quart should do it)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Stirrin’ spoon
  • Various measuring cups and spoons
  • Cutting Board
  • Chef’s Knife

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4
  2. Grease your casserole.
  3. Spread the prepared rice mixture on the bottom of the casserole
  4. Cut the artichoke hearts into bite sized pieces and place on top of rice
  5. Place cooked chicken on top
  6. In a mixing bowl, combine the soups, mayo, and curry powder. If you want, and its a really nice marinade, you can add a splash of the artichoke marinade jar juice – but don’t add too much, you don’t want to change the consistency of the glop.
  7. Pour the glop on top.
  8. Cover the top of the casserole with cheese
  9. Place on center rack and bake for 30 minutes or until well heated and cheese is fully melted and bubbly.

One thought on “Carolyn’s Chicken Curry Casserole with a Side of Loss & Hope

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