Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine had to take a drug test before being allowed to travel internationally for the J. Peterman catalog? She’d eaten a poppyseed muffin beforehand and tested positive for opium and so then she roped in Jerry’s mom to help her pass the next test. (Spoiler alert: she didn’t pass that time, either.) Oh, Seinfeld. I always think about that when I use poppyseeds.
You don’t find these tiny nuggets of flavor in many dishes nowadays. They were popular back in the ’60s and ’70s, as was Poppyseed Chicken casserole. I found this particular recipe while digging through my dear, deceased grandma’s recipe box which was more fun than it had any right to be. Just about every dish called for something called “Oleo” which is a throwback to a simpler time when everyone thought spread margarine was the answer.
This is a one-dish meal (sort of) that’s warm, hearty, and comforting…it can be made in mass quantities or a small batch for two. I’ve lightened it up a bit but it’s not particularly healthy, but it’s not too bad either. I serve mine with a green salad and tons of extra poppyseeds because I’m a freelancer and haven’t been made to take a drug test for work in years! And because I’m boring, all that really means for me is all the poppyseeds I can eat.
CLASSIC POPPYSEED CHICKEN
2 lbs. chicken breast tenderloins (or whole breasts cut into strips)
1 cup light sour cream
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup, low-sodium
1 sleeve plain Ritz crackers (low-fat is fine)
1/4 cup melted butter
3 tbsp. poppyseeds, divided (these are in the spice aisle)
1 lb. wide egg noodles + 1 tbsp. butter
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Grease or spray a large casserole dish then spread the chicken tenderloins in the dish in a single layer. In a medium bowl, mix together the sour cream and Cream of Chicken soup and season with salt and pepper. Put the Ritz crackers in a Ziploc bag and crush them up with a heavy glass or mallet – you don’t want powder, just small chunks. Mix the crushed crackers with the melted butter and 1 tbsp. of poppyseeds in a small bowl.
***Note: Sometimes I sear my chicken off in a skillet before I put it in the casserole (like in this picture), but that step’s totally optional. It will cook all the way through in the oven but feel free if you want to be sure, they won’t get overcooked or tough.
2. Pour the sour cream mixture over the chicken in the casserole dish and use a spoon to spread it evenly. Using your hands, sprinkle the cracker mixture over the chicken evenly. Now sprinkle the remainder of the poppyseeds over the top of the crackers. Bake the casserole for 22-28 minutes, or until the cracker topping begins to brown and the liquid is quite bubbly.
3. While the casserole is cooking, boil the egg noodles until al dente then drain. Put them back in the pot they were boiled in and add the 1 tbsp. butter and stir until melted. Serve the Poppyseed Chicken over the egg noodles with plenty of sauce on each serving.