Martha Len Nelson / Food

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Tasty casserole worth extra effort

If you were there — and scores of thousands were — then I don’t have to tell you that the beautiful weather brought out a huge crowd for the entire Denton Arts & Jazz Festival.

The City Federation of Women’s Clubs baked goods booth made record sales — although we ran out of cookies early Sunday afternoon.

One woman from Illinois came to our booth and said her daughter from Corinth, who was selling homemade soaps and lotions for the first time, was extremely busy; she couldn’t believe the crowd!

Yes, we have so many unique and enjoyable goings-on in Denton: great food, wonderful art and music, successful athletic events at Texas Woman’s University and hopefully, this fall, at the University of North Texas.

I always look forward to the public book reviews started 43 years ago by our longtime city librarian, Joella Orr, held at the Woman’s Club Building on Oakland Street, next to Emily Fowler Central Library.

This month’s review sounds particularly good, and the menu sounds spectacular.

Judy Keith, former director of Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home, will review The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp, a novel about Russian prima ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska, who was also the mistress of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II.

Judy’s PowerPoint presentation will feature beautiful music with photos she and her husband, J.B., took on their recent trip to Russia.

The Creative Pursuits Department of the Ariel Club will serve a menu of Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole, Italian Green Beans, Frozen Waldorf Salad and Banana Pudding Cake, accompanied by Mary Earp’s homemade yeast rolls.

What a deal at $15 per person!

For reservations, e-mail Peggy Capps at or call 940-391-8332.

Thought you might like the casserole recipe, adapted from a recipe on (find the original by visiting

Don’t let the number of ingredients deter you from making this dish because it’s delicious!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Diced or shredded meat removed from one whole cooked chicken (such as a rotisserie chicken), about 5 to 6 cups

1/2 pound honey ham, very thinly sliced

1/4 pound baby Swiss cheese, thinly sliced

For the sauce:

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

3 1/4 cups milk

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the topping:

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

3/4 teaspoon seasoning salt

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried parsley

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Layer the shredded or diced chicken in the baking dish. Rough chop the ham and scatter it over the top of the chicken. Lay the Swiss cheese on top of the ham.

To make the sauce, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepot over medium heat.

Whisk in the flour to form a smooth roux — don’t let it brown.

When the roux is smooth and bubbly, slowly pour in the cold milk while whisking constantly to make a smooth sauce.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.

Stir in the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, smoked paprika and pepper.

Bring sauce just back to a low boil and turn off heat. Pour sauce evenly over the casserole, being certain to get some of the sauce around the edges of the pan.

To make the topping, use a microwave to melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized microwaveable bowl.

Heat for just 30 seconds at a time until melted.

Stir in the bread crumbs, seasoning salt and parsley. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.

Bake casserole uncovered for 45 minutes, until casserole is hot and bubbly throughout and topping is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

MARTHA LEN NELSON can be contacted at 940-382-9597 or e-mail


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