Twenty years ago, I assisted an owner deliver a 47-foot Chris Craft Constellation down the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers to Destin, Fla.
In Vicksberg, Miss., I discovered an antebellum rooming house that held dinner for its tenants and those who walked up its steps. I was welcomed in and seated at a huge table with a large Lazy Susan loaded with things like fried chicken, greens, okra, and banana pudding. Good, home-style, Southern cooking.
I just couldn’t get enough of this casserole. I asked the owner/cook for recipe but she wouldn’t give it up. I was undeterred. After some trial and error, I created my own, which has satisfied many a guest over the years.
Chicken and broccoli casserole
3 lemons, juiced
2 tbsps olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp marjoram
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 26-oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
4 cups broccoli flowerettes
2 ½ cups cornbread stuffing mix
1 10-oz can shoepeg (white) corn
(Optional) Turkey or andouille sausage
Juice the lemons and whisk in oil and garlic.
Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, in a quart-sized freezer bag and flatten with a rolling pin. Cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks and marinate in the oil mixture 15 minutes. Strain in a colander and toss in the marjoram.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Fry chicken in a hot skillet or wok. (I season the skillet with smoked bacon for added flavor.) Because the chicken absorbed the oil mixture, it releases the liquid as it cooks. Cover the pan to poach the chicken to a juicy tenderness.
In an 8×8, two-quart casserole dish, begin with a layer the soup, topped with chicken, broccoli. Repeat, ending with soup. Top with the corn.
Prepare the stuffing according to package instructions. (While fluffing it, I like to drizzle a little maple syrup in.) Cap the casserole, leaving the corners exposed for escaping heat.
Place casserole on a cookie sheet and place on the center rack and bake for 30 minutes. Then let sit for 10 minutes before plating.