Even though Luke is in grad school, I haven't felt beholden to the back-to-school schedule since graduating college (to be fair, he only takes one class a semester and is still working full time). That said, I still love the excitement this time of year brings and love seeing friends post B2S pictures of their kids - it's just a few years away for us now!
Last week Whole Foods Market (I work for them, but this post is all my idea) had a big sale on roasted chickens on Friday, so when I asked Luke how many I should buy and when he jokingly said "five" I wasn't far off - I grabbed four. I love using one or two straight away in recipes, pulling the meat off the others and freezing in convenient bags for future soups, stews and CHICKEN POT PIES, then making a huge pot of chicken stock with the bones and any extra meat I was too lazy to pick off for aforementioned meals.
The other inspiration behind the dish is the awesome crop of spaghetti squashes we grew in the garden this summer. The peaked early and we got about 6, but luckily they last a while so we've enjoyed one every other week or so. I tend to always want to enjoy them spaghetti-style with tomato meat sauce, so I wanted to mix it up. The thought of the oh-so-90's chicken spaghetti casserole with cream of mushroom soup came to mind, but this is SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT.
I made all the ingredients the night before and mixed it together to leave in the fridge for two reasons - I could easily just top with panko and parm and bake off on a work night, and the flavors would get to meld together. Luke was commenting on how you could really taste the mushrooms, and I think that's due to the overnight resting period. But, it would still be quite delicious if you baked it off after making all the components - and you could reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes.
Chicken Mushroom Spaghetti Squash Casserole
1 medium spaghetti squash (about 2 1/2 - 3 pounds)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups whole milk (room temperature is best)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 bunch lacinto kale, rinsed and torn into 2 inch pieces.
3 cups cooked chicken (for me, this was one rotisserie chicken)
1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Half spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove seeds in the middle (I love using a grapefruit spoon for this task). Place cut-side down in a baking dish and fill with 1/2 cup water. Roast for 35 minutes. Remove to a plate and let cool at least 10 minutes. Using a fork, scrape out the squash flesh to form spaghetti-like pieces. Place in a bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, warm a medium-large sauce pan (I used my small Le Creuset Dutch oven which is the perfect size because I baked the final dish in this - one less pan to clean!) over medium heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter (reserve the extra tablespoon) then whisk in flour. Let cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds - 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and lower heat to medium-low. Cook to thicken and reduce, 10-15 minutes, whisking every 20-30 seconds (this will depend on the temp of the milk when you added, the cooking surface size of the pot and the heat on the stove). The goal is a thickened sauce-like state (but not SUPER thick). Season with salt and pepper and add 1/2 cup parm (reserving other 1/4 cup).
While you cook your sauce, warm a large skillet (I used my 12-inch cast iron) on medium heat and warm olive oil. Add mushrooms and saute 5-7 minutes. Add kale to the pan along with a couple tablespoons of water. Stir to combine and then place a lid on top for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Combine the spaghetti squash, mushroom mixture and milk sauce along with cooked chicken pieces in a casserole dish. Top with panko and remaining Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes if you bake it immediately, or 30 minutes if you refrigerate the mixture. Then, turn on the broiler and let it go for 2-3 minutes, depending on your oven, until panko begins to brown. Enjoy!