I believe the recipe for California Chicken came from a magazine published sometime in the 1970s. During that time period recipes with California in the title were viewed as healthier and more modern than standard recipes.
Chicken was once served for special dinners because it was expensive. People who kept chickens didn’t not kill them until they no longer produced eggs so the birds were old and tough. The standard Sunday chicken dinner is an example. Roast chicken, stewed chicken with dumplings or noodles or creamed chicken made use of older birds. Chicken leftovers were turned into chicken salad sandwiches and minced chicken was mixed with other ingredients and fried or diced and turned into soup. Nothing went to waste. The feathers were washed, dried and used to stuff pillows. Once tender young chicken became available and affordable in super markets more chicken recipes appeared in cookbooks, woman’s magazines and in recipe handouts. Modern and more tender chickens don’t need to be cooked for long periods and what was once a special dinner only served once a week became common at any time.
As written the recipe will serve two. It is easy to double the amounts to make a larger casserole. The chicken and vegetable casserole can be served on bread as an open faced sandwich or with rice or noodles.
The recipe will serve 2. Increase the ingredients to make a larger casserole and bake in a 13x9x2 inch baking dish.
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 4 chicken breasts, skin and bone removed
- 2 avocados
- 2 tomatoes
- ½ cup of white sauce
- ½ cup of Monterey Jack cheese
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a medium casserole dish.
Make a white sauce from 2 tablespoons of butter, a pinch of salt and white pepper, 2 tablespoons of flour (the flour amount determines how thick the sauce will be, this is a medium sauce) and 1 cup of milk. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Whisk in the flour, salt and white pepper. Blend well until smooth and cook a minute or so (do not brown) then slowly pour in the milk while whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce has thickened. Use half of the white sauce in the recipe and refrigerate the remainder.
Cut the chicken breasts into ½ inch thick slices. Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken slices and sauté until they are almost cooked and lightly browned on each side. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Put the chicken slices in a layer in the bottom of a medium sized casserole dish.
Peel and pit the avocados. Cut into thin slices. Cover the chicken slices with the avocado slices. Wash and remove the stems from the tomatoes. Cut them into thin wedges. Add the tomatoes to the casserole. Pour ½ cup of white sauce over all. Cover with thin slices of the cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes. I usually cover the casserole.
Chicken thighs can be used. Leave the skin on and the bone in for more flavor. Cook the chicken along with 1 sliced onion until the chicken is browned. Put the chicken and onion slices in the casserole dish. Allow 2 thighs per person. Use more vegetables, white sauce and cheese. Bake in a covered 13x9x2 baking dish 30 to 40 minutes.
The white sauce recipe can be doubled. It can be flavored however you want. A bit of chicken stock in place of half of the milk or minced garlic and other seasonings such as tarragon, mustard or garlic can be added. Hot peppers can be added if you want.
Instead of avocados you could use pieces of green peppers, hot peppers or other vegetables.
I use the full amount of the white sauce.
Other cheeses can be used alone or in combination.