Arlene's Chicken and Rice Casserole - well sort of...

My mother, dear Arlene, made this chicken and rice casserole often, and I mean often.  I swear we had it once a week, at least.   It wasn't until I was a single parent that I really understood why it was such a staple.  It was easy, it fed a lot of people (and there were a lot of us) and it tasted pretty good.   It was one of her signature dishes - well signature casseroles.  She even included it a family cookbook put together many years ago by my cousin Todd.   However, the recipe in the family cookbook, just never was right.   Something was off.   Night before last, my daughter called and wanted me to remind her how to make the casserole.  I rattled off the process and thought, ya know, I need to work this all out, cause it just doesn't work that way and here I am perpetuating a not so very good recipe.  Last night, I went to work on figuring out what the issue was with this recipe and what I could do to make it really good.

Mind you, this is a casserole.  It is easy and it can feed a lot of people.  The recipe below is an adaptation from the original and it is in a smaller quantity.  You can double it easily!  In the original recipe, there was Lipton Onion Soup Mix.   I eliminated that ingredient.  Kept most of the other "make it easy" ingredients and then added a few for taste.  Let us know what you think.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

4 chicken thighs or breasts (I use thighs with bone and skin)
1-1/2 c uncooked rice (short grain or sticky rice works the best)
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c half and half (can use milk)
salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder
Lawry's seasoning salt
Fresh cracked pepper
4 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix the soups, milk, uncooked rice, salt and pepper and 2T of melted butter.  Blend thoroughly.   Pour into baking casserole or baking pan.   Clean and pat dry the chicken thighs.  Place on top of rice mixture.  Brush with remaining melted butter.  Season with seasoning salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Cover casserole with lid or tight fitting sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Place in oven and cook for 2 hours.  Leave the lid/aluminum foil alone!   It needs the 2 hours to absorb the liquid into the rice, so that your rice will be tender and soft.