Bulking season: A chicken and broccoli recipe that isn’t boring

Take chicken, quinoa and broccoli and marry them in a creamy, rosemary-infused parmesan sauce  (Tom McCorkle/The Washington Post)
Take chicken, quinoa and broccoli and marry them in a creamy, rosemary-infused parmesan sauce (Tom McCorkle/The Washington Post)

Pan-cooked chicken with sides of quinoa and broccoli make for a perfectly serviceable, if ho-hum, dinner on a busy weeknight. But take those same basic ingredients, marry them in a creamy, rosemary-infused parmesan sauce and bake them into one big, comforting casserole, and you have a dish that really revs some excitement. That’s what’s happening with this recipe, which is an even bigger win because it all happens in a single frying pan.

You start by browning the chicken – in batches, so it gets nice, golden colour in spots (I prefer chicken thigh here because it retains its moist, tender texture once baked, but chicken breast works fine too, if you don’t mind it being a bit drier).

Then remove the chicken from the pan to make the sauce: sauté onion and celery, bloom garlic and rosemary, then sprinkle with flour, add milk and broth, and simmer until a thick and creamy slurry forms. Finally, stir in lemon zest and parmesan cheese (you could substitute 2 teaspoons cornstarch to make the dish gluten-free, and sub almond or oat milk for the dairy milk).

The quinoa gets stirred into this lovely, light pan sauce, then the chicken and broccoli are nestled in, and it goes into the oven, covered for a while so all the ingredients cook through, then uncovered so a finishing sprinkle of cheese can brown a bit on top.

The result is a gorgeous one-pan casserole of tender quinoa cooked in a creamy parmesan sauce, wafting of rosemary and lemon zest, studded with juicy chunks of chicken and tender-crisp broccoli – an outstanding, nourishing meal that’s totally doable on a typical weeknight.

Chicken, broccoli and quinoa bake

Active time: 45 minutes | Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves: 6

In this big, comforting one-pan casserole, toothsome quinoa, juicy chunks of chicken and tender-crisp broccoli are married in a rosemary-infused, creamy parmesan sauce. It’s an extraordinary, nourishing meal that comes together in one pan, making it ideal weeknight fare.

After removing the chicken from the pan to make the sauce (Tom McCorkle/The Washington Post)
After removing the chicken from the pan to make the sauce (Tom McCorkle/The Washington Post)

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.

Ingredients:

900g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed or any excess fat and cut into 5cm pieces

¾ tsp fine salt, divided

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

5 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 large yellow onion (340g), chopped

1 stalk celery, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

480ml low-sodium chicken broth

120ml whole milk

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

50g packed finely grated parmesan cheese, divided

185g quinoa (may substitute with parboiled/quick-cooking brown rice)

310g small broccoli florets

Method:

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 200C.

Sprinkle the chicken with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. In a large ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering (see note below). Add half the chicken and cook, stirring once or twice, until the meat is browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes total, then transfer to a plate. Add 1 more tablespoon of the oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more.

While stirring constantly, add the broth and milk to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, scraping up any browned bits in the pan, until the liquid is reduced by about a third and has thickened to the texture of cream, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the lemon zest and ½ of the parmesan cheese. Then stir in the quinoa and any accumulated juices from the plate of chicken.

In a medium bowl, toss the broccoli with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the chicken and the broccoli to the pan, nestling them into the quinoa mixture (not stirring them in).

Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top and bake, uncovered, for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the top has browned slightly. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: If you don’t have an ovenproof frying pan, use whatever pan you’ve got up through stirring in the quinoa. Then, transfer the mixture to a shallow 2.8L (22-by-33cm) baking dish and bake as instructed above.

Nutrition information per serving | Calories: 374; total fat: 19g; saturated fat: 5g; cholesterol: 31mg; sodium: 527mg; carbohydrates: 36g; dietary fibre: 5g; sugar: 8g; protein: 17g.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

© The Washington Post