- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2011

Delicious often doesn’t cut it during the holidays.

Many of us seem to spend the entire month of December on the move, going from one work or family gathering to another. That means the food you make for these events needs to feed a crowd and be portable, in addition to tasting great.

Cue the holiday casserole.

This dish takes the flavors of a creamy crab dip (that near-ubiquitous offering at holiday gatherings) and turns it into a meal. It serves 16 as a hearty dinner, but can feed many more at a potluck, where diners tend to take smaller portions of each dish.

CREAMY CRAB AND RICE CASSEROLE

Start to finish: 45 minutes (25 minutes active). Servings: 16

 

For the first layer:

1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 medium red onion, quartered

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

3 cups cooked long-grain white rice

 

For the second layer:

1 pound Neufchatel cheese, room temperature

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup milk

2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

2 pounds lump crab meat

½ cup chopped fresh chives or scallions

 

For the third layer:

3 tablespoons butter

1½ cups panko bread crumbs

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon salt

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse together the red pepper, celery and red onion until finely chopped.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped vegetables, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the corn and rice, then spoon into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the Neufchatel cheese, mayonnaise, milk and Old Bay Seasoning. Gently stir in the crab and chives. Spoon over the rice mixture.

For the third layer, return the skillet to the burner over medium heat. Add the butter and melt, then remove the skillet from the heat. Add the panko, paprika and salt, then stir until well-mixed. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the crab mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbly and golden. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.