Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dorm Life and Dinner: Chicken Tarragon Casserole


It was a decision that made all the sense in the world. As residence directors at a small, Christian college, Mark and I chose to open our home to our staff for dinner every Thursday night. College students value a home-cooked meal more than you might guess.

The first year, I did the cooking and Mark did the cleaning and the students just showed up to eat. One Thursday night, they were kind of testy with each other during the meal and I realized they needed to accomplish a task together.

"Tonight, we'd like you all to do the dishes." we announced.

Our well-loved students grumbled and groaned and then headed to the kitchen to clean. Within a few short minutes, laughter echoed, bubbles flew and our staff felt strangely united.

From that night on, for six amazing years, I cooked dinner every Thursday night and our residence assistants cleaned the mess. They each took turns and while they worked, Mark and I sat in the nearby living room listening to the fun they were having. It was a great time for us... two small children at our feet and 200+ freshman and sophomore students living all around. The RAs I cooked for every week came to feel like family and we loved, truly-deeply-loved, the time we spent with them.

I learned a lot as we listened in... and those lessons have impacted my parenting over the years. Watching the wonder that washes forth from a task that is happily shared taught me that there is value in having my children not only do chores, but share them. When Mark and I listen to others working together, the voices we hear now are those of our children at home. They are learning and we are remembering and all of it is good.

I have thought about this a lot this week. When I used to cook for college students, one of their favorite meals was Chicken Tarragon Casserole. This week, I have made 5 of these casseroles and given 4 away to my kid's teachers to help celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week at school. As I stood in the kitchen and made these meals, I was lost in thought and memory. As the casseroles baked and the aroma arose, I was brought back to those days at Trinity when our family was small and our community was huge. This dish was a favorite to us, as well... economical and filling, it was perfect for a crowd!

I would like to share the recipe with you... and encourage you all to hand the dishes job off to somebody else! Listen a while and let the soap fly and store up the memories for another day. Today might be kind of busy... but someday, the voices you store up now will really make you smile.

Blessings on your day!

Chicken Tarragon Casserole

Ingredients

2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
2 cups half-and-half cream
4 teaspoons dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 package (16 ounces) linguine or spaghetti, cooked and drained
6 cups cubed cooked chicken
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Paprika, optional

Directions

In a large bowl, combine soup, cream, tarragon and pepper. Stir in the linguine and chicken.

Transfer to an ungreased 4-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and paprika if desired. The cheese will create a crusty topping that is an amazing addition to this dish.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30 minutes or until heated through.

(We sometimes add frozen chopped spinach to this dish and/or mozzarella cheese.)



2 comments:

Laurie Gates said...

Nadia, this brought back such great memories... I remember that I couldn't believe you didn't have a garbage disposal and I had to learn how to handle that while washing the dishes :) I loved those Thursday nights, and I also remember the late-night on-duty times (10 years later, I can't remember what it was called) when we would stop in at midnight for a snack and some speed scrabble. Thanks for all your love and support during those years! Now it's time for me to hand those chores off to my kids :)

Holly Renee said...

Great recipe and beautiful post! What a cool thing that you guys did. I bet they loved those dinners. How nice that they so willingly did the dishes too. Opening up your home to them is just incredible. It warms my heart to hear about people like you and your husband.

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