One Thanksgiving when I was in high school, my mom got tired of trying to keep all the different foods she needed to get on the table hot. She said she felt like she worked all morning, only to sit down and have cold turkey. So she invented a recipe in which she put the carved turkey on the bottom of a casserole dish, then poured a mixture of cream of chicken soup and sour cream over it, then topped it with the stuffing and baked the whole shebang.
When she put it on the table, she apologized to us, explained her reasoning, and said she hoped we wouldn’t mind too much. After one bite each, we all proclaimed that we NEVER wanted turkey the old way again! It was not only nice and hot, but moist and so yummy!
So now, every Thanksgiving, my mom bakes the turkey whenever she feels like it, usually the day before, takes her time carving and deboning it, and then we have this casserole for our feast together. It’s so nice that she’s not running back and forth to the kitchen anymore and is able to just sit and enjoy our family and our guests and a piping-hot meal!
When I started my own family and began celebrating holidays with other expats living abroad, this casserole was the thing I missed the most! So I called mom, got her recipe and set out to adapt it to my context – one in which there were no cans of cream of chicken soup, no sour cream to be had, no stuffing mixes, and turkey was a rarity. Daddynificent and I quickly found that this casserole was the best way to make chicken feel like holiday food! In this casserole full of Thanksgiving flavors, we usually forget it’s not turkey!
Over the last eight years, I’ve gone through times of needing to be dairy-free and cleaning up our eating, and this recipe has been wonderful because it’s very versatile and always feels like the holidays. This year for Thanksgiving, we invited our Malaysian Indian neighbors over to celebrate with us, and I made this casserole. But, being much lazier than my mom, I decided to put the mashed potatoes on the bottom of it, thus giving myself one less thing to keep warm and get to the table.
It turned out so well! We loved it but wondered if the flavors would be too weird for our friends. We knew they were good sports though and would enjoy tasting authentic “American Thanksgiving flavors” just like we enjoy their festival foods, so we went ahead and served it. I knew they’d be too polite to tell me if they didn’t like it, but they all seemed to enjoy it so I deemed the dish a success.
You can imagine my surprise and delight today when the mom called me to ask for the recipe because her kids keep begging her for it! I mentioned it to my family, and they all said they were craving it too, and could I please make it tonight?! I figured since I’m typing up the recipe for her, I might as well share it with you too! Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!
- 10 potatoes, peeled, chopped, and boiled
- salt and pepper to taste
- butter or dairy-free substitute
- yogurt, milk, or dairy-free alternative
- cooked turkey or chicken, deboned, deskinned, and cut or torn into pieces
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil, butter, or other substitute
- 1 cup chicken or turkey stock - homemade, canned, or from bouillon
- 1 cup milk, dairy or otherwise, divided
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch or other thickener
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup yogurt or dairy-free alternative
- ½ cup butter or dairy-free alternative, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup turkey or chicken stock - homemade, canned, or from bouillon
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 9 cups of soft bread cubes (approx. 15 slices of bread)
- optional celery, carrot, and other stuffing flavorings
- Add salt, pepper, butter and yogurt to your potatoes and mash. I like to use a hand-mixer for this. I add a little butter and just enough yogurt or milk to reach a smooth and fluffy consistency. Spread these into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan.
- Spread the turkey or chicken over top of the mashed potatoes. Use as much as you want. Set aside.
- For the gravy, heat the coconut oil or butter in a saucepan with the stock and ¾ cup of the milk. Dissolve the cornstarch into the remaining ¼ cup milk, then add to the hot mixture in the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir constantly until the mixture thickens. This may take a few minutes of boiling.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the yogurt. Spread this over the turkey or chicken in the casserole pan and set aside.
- Finally, for the stuffing, put 2 Tbsp of the butter in the pan and cook the onions and garlic until caramelized. Add the rest of the butter, the stock, and the seasonings. Mix and pour over the cubes of bread. Toss until the bread cubes are coated.
- Put the stuffing on top of everything in the casserole pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the stuffing is crispy on top.
One thing I love about this recipe is that it’s so customizable. You can use your own favorite stuffing recipe, including gluten-free, grain-free or cornbread ones. You can use your favorite gravy instead of the tangy cream of chicken and yogurt combo that we love so much. (We often make regular gravy to pour over top of it too!) It’s easily made dairy-free. And we’re so thankful to be able to use chicken instead of turkey without it tasting like just another chicken dinner! I would love to hear how you customize this casserole for your family! Please share in the comments below! And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!