Chicken, Sweet Potato and Bacon Casserole Recipe
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch, or a shallow 3-quart baking dish.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place a chicken breast on a work surface and, with a sharp knife held parallel to the surface, cut the breast in half horizontally. Repeat with the remaining breasts. You will have 8 chicken pieces. In a small bowl, mix together the thyme, sage, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Set aside 1 teaspoon of this seasoning. Season both sides of each piece of the chicken with the remaining mixture.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Stack several rounds on top of each other and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Peel the onion, halve through the root end and slice into 1/4-inch-wide strips.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until hot in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to the prepared baking dish. Add the chicken broth and wine to the pan and whisk to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom. Cook, stirring, until the liquid has reduced to 1/4 cup, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour over the chicken breasts.
In the same frying pan set over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and, when cool, chop coarsely. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings in the pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set the frying pan over medium heat, and when hot, add the sweet potatoes and onion and sauté, stirring, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and spoon them over the chicken. Sprinkle with the bacon. (The casserole can be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding.)
Melt the butter until hot in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and the reserved 1 teaspoon of seasoning. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, whisking constantly and cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with salt, if needed. (The sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate separately from the baking dish. Gently reheat over low temperature.) Drizzle the sauce over the ingredients in the casserole and sprinkle with the Gruyère. Cover the casserole loosely with a sheet of foil.
Bake the casserole until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool the casserole for 5 minutes.
If desired, garnish the center of the dish with some sage and thyme sprigs before serving.
From Sunday Casseroles: Complete Comfort in One Dish (Chronicle) by Betty Rosbottom.