Friday, May 14, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini

When I was growing up, our school hot lunch menu boasted chicken or turkey tetrazzini every week. I remember trying it once and nearly gagging at the overly-salty thick sauce and the texture of the mushy peas and limp slivered almonds. I swore never to eat anything tetrazzini ever again.

Then, a few years ago, I hosted Christmas for the first time and despite having a houseful of dinner guests, I found myself staring at a plate of leftover turkey meat piled high. There was no way, I thought, that we could possibly get through all of that meat just by eating turkey sandwiches, so I delved into my then-new copy of The Joy of Cooking, desperate for recipes for leftover turkey.

I recall shuddering when I turned the page and glanced down at "Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini," but as my eyes strolled over the ingredients I thought that it didn't sound half-bad. Why not, right? After all, even though the school lunch pizzas were among the worst I have ever had, I certainly do not shun pizza. Perhaps I had just never had good tetrazzini.

Well, it was delicious, but really, with a luscious sauce made from heavy cream, milk, broth and freshly grated parm, how could it be otherwise?

I make this quite often after I have made a roast chicken, and I have made some adjustments to suit the palates of my kids:
  • no almonds - they are not fans of random nuts in their main dishes;

  • rotini instead of spaghetti or fettucine - if it si a baked pasta dish, they prefer elbows, penne or twisty pasta shapes

  • individual dishes - this goes straight back to Hell's Kitchen. They are mightily impressed by individual baking dishes; they said that it looks fancier and fancier is usually better. :)

Chicken Tetrazzini

  • Cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • 4 oz. cremini mushrooms (baby bellas/Italian brown mushrooms), sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • fresh thyme
  • sherry
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg
  • cooked pasta (I cooked up 1/2 of a 1-lb box)
  • green peas (cooked)
  • freshly grated parm
  • panko

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

  2. Melt 1 T butter and 2 T olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the mushrooms over medium-high heat until the mushroom liquid evaporates, about 8 minutes.

  3. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes,

  4. Add the sherry and stir well until the liquid reduces. Turn off the heat and add the shredded, cooked chicken to the skillet, mixing to coat well. Fold in the peas, set aside.

  5. In a sauce pan, melt 1 1/2 T butter over medium high heat. Add about 3 tablespoons of flour to make a roux. Add the broth, milk, cream, nutmeg salt and pepper, cover and bring to a near-boil. Uncover and reduce heat to low and simmer until thick, about 10 minutes.

  6. Add 1/2 cup grated parm and stir well.

  7. Divide the chicken and mushroom mixture into 4 mini casserole dishes, and ladle the sauce over the mixture. Top with panko and more grated parm.

  8. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the top starts to brown.

If you double this recipe, it should fit into a 2-quart casserole dish and serve 6 quite nicely.

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