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How can I lighten this chicken bake recipe

Here's a recipe from another thread. I'm planning to make it ahead of time for an event this weekend.

Think I can lighten the top layer? Want the texture to be right with the swiss cheese in there.

Think I can use more milk in place of the light cream without hurting the texture and taste?

Here's something different that I haven't actually made or eaten, but a discerning friend had it at a potluck and liked it enough to fwd the recipe around:

Chicken Swiss Bake

First Layer

1⁄4 cup butter
1 1⁄2 cup long grain rice
1⁄2 cup golden raisins
3 cups chicken stock
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 375. Grease 9X 13 glass dish. Saute rice in butter in large frying pan until it is golden coloured. Add raisins, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid is gone. Spread the rice in the glass dish.

Second Layer

6 tablespoons of butter
1 1⁄2 cups of sliced fresh mushrooms
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1⁄2 teaspoon of ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon of salt
1⁄4 sherry
5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximate)
or equivalent amount of shrimp and scallops

Pre cook chicken, cube it and set aside. Saute mushrooms in butter. Add spices, sherry and chicken. Put this mixture in the pan over the first layer.

Third Layer

6 tablespoons of butter
1⁄4 cup of flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon of dry mustard
3 cups of light cream
1 cups of grated swiss cheese.

Melt butter and gradually add flour then spices. Gradually add the cream over medium heat. Stir constantly. When the sauce has thickened add grated cheese. Stir until cheese is melted into sauce. Pour over the 2nd layer. Sprinkle with additional grated swiss cheese. Top with a dash of paprika.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serves 6-8 people.

(Thanks to Julesrules who got this recipe from a friend who had recommended it.)

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  1. I think you'd be better off subbing evaporated milk for the cream than regular milk - evap is closer in texture to cream, and won't break. If you halve the amount of butter in each layer you should still have a tasty dish. That would still be a whole stick of butter for the completed dish. You could add in one of those butter-flavored sprays or powders (does Molly McButter still exist?) if you really want a strong butter presence despite reducing the amount of actual butter used.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious

      AHHHHHH! no artificial butter. that has a (noticeable, horrible) taste all it's own. If you don't want to use all butter, use half olive oil and half butter. I say, if it's for a pot luck, don't worry about lightening it. It's a one shot deal and the hell you pay for trying to make something the first time out without being sure if it will work or not, isn't worth the calories. fayefood.com

    2. this is an easy one! :)

      First Layer:
      -reduce the butter to 2 Tablespoons, adding stock if necessary to ensure that the rice is thoroughly coated with moisture for browning
      Second Layer:
      - see instructions for first layer ;) saute mushrooms in 2 Tablespoons butter, adding stock as necessary to achieve desired doneness
      Third Layer:
      - replace cream with low fat evaporated milk
      - use light Jarlsberg cheese in place of Swiss

      3 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        I was thinking along the same lines. I would replace the 2 Tbsp of butter w/ 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp olive oil, though for two lower layers. Also, I'd use chicken stock for some of the cream to make it more gravy-like and give it more flavor. I'd use half grated swiss and a few Tbsp of a stronger cheese, like Parmegiano. I don't like how light cheeses melt/taste.

        1. re: chowser

          i'm usually not a fan of light cheese, period, but Jarlsberg is surprisingly good.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I agree, with that about the taste of that one in particular. Most are just awful. But the texture in a melted dish might suffer.

      2. Use low or non-fat evaporated milk in place of some or all of the cream. I think your cream sauce should still turn out fine since the butter provides lots of fat. You could try low-fat Swiss, but in my experience, it doesn't melt well and doesn't do much in terms of flavor

        In the second layer, you could cut way back on the butter and use olive oil instead. In a good non-stick pan, you won't need much at all. I also don't see why you'd need that much butter in the first layer.

        1. There are several ways to lighten up this recipe. As a Weight Watchers member, here's how I would do it.

          1) wherever it calls for butter, substitute with Smart Balance
          2) use fat free chicken stock
          3) use brown rice (doesn't lighten per se, but increases fiber)
          4) use chicken breast instead of scallops or shrimp
          5) use reduced fat milk (or even fat free). You can still make the roux, it just won't be as rich as with cream. I make mac and cheese using this method.

          16 Replies
          1. re: sheilal

            chicken would have fewer calories than scallops or shrimp? Just asking because of #4 above. I always thought that scallops & shrimp were pretty diet friendly.

            1. re: sparkareno

              Shellfish contains more cholesterol than white meat chicken. I don't know about the calorie count.

              1. re: sheilal

                Scallops are actually quite low in cholesterol. Shrimp, on the other hand, are astronomical.

                http://www.fatfreekitchen.com/cholest...

                  1. re: sheilal

                    don't want to get too off-topic here, but dietary cholesterol doesn't have much of an impact on serum cholesterol - saturated fat is the real culprit. and chicken breast is higher in saturated fat than shellfish...so if it's cholesterol you're worried about, the *shellfish* is actually a better choice.

                    of course when we're talking about a recipe that also calls for 2 sticks of butter, several cups of cream, AND cheese, it's pretty much a moot point ;)

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Thanks for this. The cholesterol info out there is so confusing. I've been avoiding shrimp, maybe unnecessarily.

                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                        my pleasure - it's not just the cholesterol info that's confusing :) i spend a good chunk of my time with clients setting them straight about all the nutritional misinformation they've picked up along the way!

                      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        I am glad you clarified on the shellfish/cholesterol point, GHG. My doctor told me the same thing--that shellfish is a healthy option, cholesterol-wise--and I've read as much on some diet/nutrition sites, but I'm alwatys reading/hearing contrary info. (Not that it's stopped me from eating it . . . .)
                        But, my doctor also told me that at some point, cholesterol levels are more about genetics than anything. My mom and sister--both extremely thin, active, and follow low-fat diets (my sister to the point of unhealthy extreme, imo)--both have high cholesterol and can't seem to get it down much. My late father, who ate poorly, by most people's standards, was somewhat overweight, and smoked, never had elevated cholesterol. Go figure. I seem to have inherited Dad's cholesterol, thankfully. I eat whatever I want in moderation--love butter, cream, cheese, but also grains, fruits, and vegetables--don't smoke, do drink, do exercise. So far, no cholesterol problems.
                        I hate seeing people who love shellfish deprive themselves.

                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                          Genetics give you a disposition, but diet is overwhelmingly determinative of results. I was told the same thing, yet cut my heart disease risk from the highest decile to below average with diet alone.
                          My genetic heritage is as bad as it gets for lipids.

                          1. re: mcf

                            I'm really glad you were able to, but my mother and sister just haven't been and seem to deprive themselves a lot. (My sister has even tried a raw food diet.) What are some of the specific dietary adjustments you made?
                            And where do you come down on the shellfish issue?

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              It's what your liver does in response to high glycemic load (carbs) and excess calories that produces dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome. My modifications were to first reduce starches by half, and eventually over years, pretty much entirely. The initial reduction completely, radically reversed my dyslipidemia and diabetes complications. So much so that the doctor who warned me not to low carb switched to it himself. Fat is about 50% of my diet, protein about 30, and carbs from high fiber veggies/salads the rest.

                              I don't know what you're asking about shellfish, the cholesterol? Dietary cholesterol is not what raises serum cholesterol, it's the high insulin levels from carbs that interfere with adrenal steroid synthesis. Those hormones are all made from LDL cholesterol, so your body raises LDL to overcome the effects of post carb insulin spikes. This is way too medical for these boards, but if you're interested, you can post an email and I'll share citations and info with you.

                              1. re: mcf

                                One of the earlier posters wondered about whether cholesterol in shellfish was good/bad, but I'm guessing from what you're saying that that wouldn't be an issue.
                                I do recall reading a long article some years back (NYT magazine, maybe?) that made similar points to yours. I've never paid close enough attention to the science because (so far) moderation seems to be the key for me. 50% fats sounds high to me, but to tell you the truth, I've never really measured what percent of my diet is fat. And I was commenting only on anecdotal/individual cases in my family--admittedly unscientific. So thanks for sharing your information and personal experience. The whole question of cholesterol and diet is interesting (and obviously very complex); many people I know really worry--a lot--about cholesterol in food.
                                And, yes, I realize we're steering off-topic. My curiosity about shellfish, from a chow perspective, is because so many people limit their intake of shellfish, or won't eat it at all, for cholesterol concerns--and I just hate for them to deprive themselves needlessly, especially when we have so much delicious shellfish available here.

                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                  I agree that it's foolish to avoid shellfish or any food due to cholesterol content.
                                  So much good nutrition AND taste in them. The only ones I'm careful about are mussels, scallops and clams due to some carb content, but I eat shrimp with abandon. All the calculators in the studies I've read put my risk extremely low, pretty great for a middle aged diabetic on no meds.

                        2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          LOL, I wrote that and deleted it, not wanting to get into the medical mode. ;-)

                          Dietary carbohydrates cause dyslipidemia, not saturated fats, which, in the absence of carbs, improve it.

                          It's not the burger; it's the fries, bun and the Coke.

                          1. re: mcf

                            i remember you posting that link once before, and while it's certainly worth considering, i'm not willing to toss out everything i've learned just yet. i suspect it's a combination of factors, not *just* the carbs or sat fat. i do know that i have several clients who have lowered their serum levels by making no other dietary changes besides reducing their intake of saturated fat... so having seen the results first-hand, i'm going to maintain that there is a connection.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              I think we've strayed really far from the CHOW topic, into medical territory again.

                  2. Looking at it, and thinking about flavor and mouth feel, I'd go a very different way than others have suggested. I'd eliminate the first layer completely to save calories, and keep the light cream and the butter. I think if you have to compromise to the point of stuff like evaporated milk in place of light cream and stock in place of butter, you may have an inferior result on your hands. Since it's boneless, skinless chicken breast, it's already very low fat in terms of the bulk of it.

                    I think you could lighten the whole meal by serving the creamy goodness and chicken over a bed of vegetables in place of the first layer. Maybe fauxtatoes (pureed cauliflower puree) or mashed rutabaga or chopped, cooked cauliflower?

                    1. For the first layer, just use 1 tablespoon butter and brown rice or a mix of white and brown.

                      For the second layer, sautee the mushrooms in a dry, non-stick pan until they give off their moisture, then use about 1-2 tablespoons butter to complete instead of 6 (also, use half the amount of sherry called for and taste before continuing; many recipes can overwhelm on the sherry).

                      For the third layer, you can leave out the butter & flour, sub in 2% cottage cheese for the cream, puree with the other ingredients and add enough skim milk to make it thick-but-pourable. Reserve a bit of the cheese to sprinkle on top for nice browning.

                      1. Too funny, I still have never attempted this, in part because it's so over the top. So let us know how your revision turns out! Fwiw it remains the only recipe that friend has ever sent me.

                        1. Thank you one and all.

                          I was going to be making this main dish to fill in for someone who was called out of town -- but now is back and wants to resume her cooking assignment.

                          I am squeamish about using canned milk. I think I taste a tinnyness. Maybe I'm imagining it.

                          So I was going to cut back on butter a bit whereever I could.

                          Or serve over vegetables.

                          I will be making this in due time. Thanks again.