Monday, January 31, 2011

Recipe Snapshot: Creamy Chicken Tetrazzini

I grew up in the Midwest (Ohio), and my family ate a lot of casseroles.    My husband grew up on the East Coast (New Jersey), and his family did not eat a lot of casseroles.  When we first met, I was concerned that his lack of love for all things casserole would spell the end of our relationship...but eventually I was able to bring him over to the other side with me.  Sort of.   You'll never catch me making tuna noodle casserole (complete with crushed up potato chips as the crust) for him.  Maybe because even I hated tuna noodle casserole?  But I did get him to love my chicken tetrazzini--and I think it's because I did a couple of things to bring it into the next century.

Mostly what I did was replace all of the canned/jarred veggies with their fresh counterparts.  It's a tiny bit more work, but totally worth it!  (Canned mushrooms and jarred pimento are not things my husband will eat, and I don't blame him.)  The base is still cream cheese and chicken broth, but some things should not be messed with.  (Though I have bowed to concerns about our waistlines and replaced the full-fat cream cheese with the reduced fat kind.)  Many recipes call for heavy cream or cream of chicken soup, and I think the cream cheese base is superior to both other options.  The heavy cream is, well, heavier.  And the cream of chicken soup just doesn't have the same tang of cream cheese.

I also use a short pasta instead of spaghetti noodles.  This is just a personal preference--I really like penne or farfalle.  If you use a long pasta, use something thin (e.g., no fettucine).

When I was growing up, we usually had tetrazzini made with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  You can do it this way, as well, but I really like tetrazzini and want to have it more than once a year!  The perfect solution is a rotisserie chicken from the deli section of your grocery store.  (You can also poach or bake a couple of chicken breasts yourself and then shred them, if you prefer.)  Just shred up a couple cups of the meat, and if there's more on the bird, you can save it for chicken salad or something else.

Recipe below the cut!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Mustard Sauce

This recipe is how I learned why stainless steel pots and pans really are different from nonstick.  The first time I made this recipe, I made it in a nonstick pan, and it did not come out right--because it's not advisable to try to make a pan sauce in a nonstick skillet.  This recipe is also how I learned to make a real pan sauce, and how easy it is!  It comes from my beloved Martha Stewart Everyday Food cookbook.  The dish has a mildly French feel to it, due to the mustard (soooooo good) and the tarragon in the sauce.  It's also really quick to make, and seems fancier than it really is.

As I said the other day, I made this chicken dish with the potato-fennel gratin.  I also sauteed some spinach on the side.  (Why?  Because sauteed spinach is delicious, and because if the sauces from either the chicken or the gratin mixed in with the spinach, it would be delicious.) 

Recipe and pictures below the cut!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Potato-Fennel Gratin

My only resolution for the new year was to try more vegetables.  I'm pretty brave when it comes to eating new vegetables, but I've been hesitant to try to prepare them myself.  I'd never tried to make anything with fennel before. But then a friend shared a recipe for potato-fennel gratin with me, and I thought, "well, why not?"  Anything covered in a creamy cheesy sauce has to be good, right?  Right.  The recipe is from the one and only Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa.  It is definitely not low-fat.  But it is delicious!

I served the gratin with sauteed chicken breasts with a creamy mustard sauce and sauteed spinach.  I'll share the chicken recipe later this week.  It was a nice pairing.  The chicken is lighter, but still rich in flavor.  Since I was just cooking for two (plus leftovers!), I cut the recipe for the gratin in half--we still have plenty of leftovers!

Pictures and recipe below the cut!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Recipe Snapshots: Breakfast Enchiladas and Hot Tomato Grits

I did not make these Breakfast Enchiladas.  Just want to be upfront about that.  My mom made them the morning after Christmas.  This was the second time we'd had these, and it was so yummy.  Many breakfast casseroles are too heavy...but this one, while being filling and hearty, just doesn't feel like a lead brick.  And when you serve it with Hot Tomato Grits on the side?  Perfection!

Recipes below the cut!

Breakfast Enchiladas, from Southern Living magazine, December 2004.
Serves: 6-8.  Time: 1 hour (30 minutes of baking).


Cheese Sauce
  • 1/3  cup  butter
  • 1/3  cup  flour
  • 3  cups  milk
  • 2  cups  (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1  (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained
  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt

  • 1  (1-pound) package hot ground pork sausage (could substitute turkey sausage)
  • 2  tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 4  green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2  tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 14  large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon pepper
  • Cheese Sauce (see above)
  • 8  (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeños
  • Toppings: halved grape tomatoes, sliced green onions, chopped fresh cilantro


Tip: Make the cheese sauce before scrambling the eggs; it should take about 8 minutes. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and whisk in remaining ingredients.
  1. Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove from pan; drain well, pressing between paper towels.
  2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add green onions and cilantro, and sauté 1 minute. 
  3. Add eggs, salt, and pepper, and cook, without stirring, until eggs begin to set on bottom. Draw a spatula across bottom of pan to form large curds. Continue to cook until eggs are thickened but still moist; do not stir constantly. 
  4. Remove from heat, and gently fold in 1 1/2 cups Cheese Sauce and sausage.
  5. Spoon about 1/3 cup egg mixture down the center of each flour tortilla; roll up. Place, seam side down, in a lightly greased 13- x- 9-inch baking dish.  (Note: I think my mom only used 6 or 7 tortillas, and baked them in a smaller dish, since there were just 4 of us.)
  6. Pour remaining Cheese Sauce evenly over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with Monterey Jack cheese.
  7. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Serve with desired toppings.

Hot Tomato Grits, from Southern Living magazine, December 2008
Serves: 6.  Time: 40 minutes.

  • 2  bacon slices, chopped
  • 2  (14 1/2-oz.) cans chicken broth
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 2  large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2  tablespoons canned chopped green chiles
  • 1  cup  (4 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Garnishes: chopped fresh parsley, shredded Cheddar cheese

  1. Cook bacon in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon, reserving drippings in pan. Drain bacon on paper towels.
  2. Gradually add chicken broth and salt to hot drippings in pan; bring to a boil. 
  3. Stir in grits, tomatoes, and green chiles; return to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in Cheddar cheese until melted. Top with chopped bacon. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Step-by-Step Recipe: Potato Leek Frittata

In honor of the new year, I  am trying to introduce the occasional lighter dish into my repertoire.  But being me, I refuse to compromise on taste.  So when the January issue of my Everyday Food magazine arrived chockfull of lighter recipes, I was interested to see if anything sounded good.  Luckily, it seems to have a lot to offer!  My usual practice on Sunday nights is to make a more elaborate meal that yields leftovers to start off the work week.  But this Sunday, I decided to take it a bit easier on myself, and chose a recipe for potato leek frittata.  Sounds like breakfast?  Well, frittatas are like omelets--quick, easy, and good for any meal of the day.  Also, I had potatoes and leeks on hand, sooo... 

Pictures and recipe below the cut.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Help Me Help You

Happy New Year, all!  My apologies for my long absence from the blogosphere. My husband and I were in Kentucky over the holidays visiting my parents, and our trip was unexpectedly extended a couple of days when our flight home was canceled. When we were able to get home, we were swept up into work, New Year's events, and a sick cat.  Everything is okay for now, and I hope to be a better food blogger in 2011.  I'm not going to make that an official resolution, though, because that's a surefire way to make sure it doesn't happen! 

I received a totally adorable pink netbook computer as a Christmas gift from my dear husband, which should increase my ability to blog in the new year (allowing me to do so from any room in the house!).  Unfortunately, the screen is defective, and we're having to ship it back for a replacement. In the meanwhile, I thought I'd ask for some help from you, my dear readers (all three or four of you), and share a New Year's-themed recipe (sorry, no pictures!).

First, my request.  What do you want to see in this blog in 2011?  Recipes for specific dishes?  How-to's on specific things (the proper way to dice an onion, how I prefer to peel garlic quickly, etc.)?  Just pictures?  Please be specific if you can--I can keep going posting some of my favorite recipes, but I'd feel less self-indulgent if I knew my posts might be helpful for useful!

Now back to cooking.  Growing up in my family, it was a tradition to have a pork roast and sauerkraut on New Year's Day.  I never quite got into the southern tradition of black-eyed peas, despite all my years living in the south, so I needed to figure out my own pork and sauerkraut.  Last year I tried to the recipe from my edition of Joy of Cooking, and let me tell you--it was a winner.  I'm told this recipe only appears in the most recent edition, as my mom had never heard of it.  What makes this so yummy is that is pleases both those who like sauerkraut (me, in smallish doses) and those who don't!  The kraut in this case is made up of half fresh cabbage (which is braised along with the pork in broth and beer and herbs) and half rinsed sauerkraut.  It still has a tang, certainly, but it's much milder and not as vinegary as what many of us expect.  I made the same recipe again this year, and was once again very pleased (and so were my dinner guests!).

And so, here is the recipe.  Enjoy!  (Below the cut.)