Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chicken Divan - my way

Ok, there are a few casserole dishes that are my standard go-to dishes for company, to take, or just to use up whatever is in my fridge.  For this reason, there are two things that are always in my cupboard, at all times, guaranteed.

Before I confess, I will say I hate (seriously hate hate hate) canned soups and in particular that mushroom soup pap.  The two things I always have in my cupboard is two cans of Campbell's cream of chicken soup.  Not diet soup or sodium free or healthy or fat free just regular, straight old, cream of chicken soup and frankly, the few cents extra for Campbell's makes it worth it, as much as I hate to admit it, it's better.

THAT being said, let's make us some fake chicken divan!! 

Get some leftover cooked chicken, as much as you'd like that will cover the bottom of a 9x13 dish.  I usually save 1/2 of my roasted chickens and shred it to make one giant dishful.  You also need one small bag of frozen broccoli, either florets, small pieces or whole, your choice.  I prefer to use fresh of course but the frozen works fine and we are cheating all the way around on this recipe so go for the frozen bag next time you're in the freezer section.  At my HEB it's $1.29 I think so it's a cheap investment to keep in the freezer.  You do have to have broccoli here, I've tried other vegetables and they just don't work.  


You'll need :

About 1/2 cooked chicken or 2 cups cooked
15 oz bag frozen broccoli
tube ritz crackers
about 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a 9x13, buttered, dish, spread the frozen broccoli, breaking up any giant chunks that are stuck together.
Cover the broccoli with the cooked chicken either shredded or cut into chunks. 

In a large bowl, combine: 

2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can water
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp curry powder
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt, pepper

Stir and taste!!  depending on your curry powder and lemon you may need to adjust up.  The sauce should be tart yet have a depth from the curry.  

Spread the sauce over the chicken. 

Grate cheddar cheese in a light layer over the sauce.

Crush 1 tube of Ritz crackers, toss them with a little melted butter or olive oil and cover the cheese. 

Bake at 375 about 45 minutes or until it's bronzed, bubbly and you can smell dinner! 

Serve with steamed basmati.  This is one of my favorite 'fake' dishes and I make it often!  I hope you enjoy it!! 

Before it went into the oven and when it came out.  The bubbly crunchy bits around the end are the absolute best ;)

Scoop it out and serve it on mountains of steamed rice.

Make this, often.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Roast Chicken

This is my 1 hour chicken.  Ok, it takes longer than an hour but if I call it 1 hour chicken it feels faster. 

I always cook two of them when I do this.  There is nothing wrong with a "spare" cooked chicken.  I have plans for it in the week since these are only about 4 lb birds, an entire bird generally is inhaled on roast chicken night.  Although I HAVE made a full dinner of leftovers from the bones, one thigh and one wing which always seems be left, I prefer the luxury of a full bird!

HEB had whole roasters on sale for .85/lb so both of these only cost me $7 and we'll eat for a week.  Not a bad deal at all.

My "recipe" is as follows:

Dry the chickens, plunk their innards in a pot with some fat and fry them dark brown, cover them in water, a piece of celery, a piece of carrot and salt and pepper and set it off to simmer.  Use this stock in any gravy you make or seal it up and put it in the fridge for use later in the week.

Set the oven to 400. Season the birds with salt and pepper, sage, herbs de Provence and thyme.  Use any herb you want here, these are just my favorites.  Season them liberally inside and out, toss 1/2 a lemon inside, squeeze it too and truss them up tightly.

Put a scrape of butter on the bottom of a roasting pan and put the birds in, on their sides.  Add a large pat of butter on the top of each bird and roast for 15 minutes.
Remember to baste on each flip a few times.
After 15 minutes, flip the birds to their other sides and add another pat of butter.
After 15 minutes, flip the birds onto their breasts, butter them!.
After 15, flip them onto their backs, turn the oven to 425 and cook the birds through, maybe 20-25 minutes?  Cook them till their juices run clear or the breast is at 160 if you are a temperature taker.
Baste them frequently, they'll get crispy and buttery and crazy good.

*in total it's only 1/2 stick for 2 birds (1/4 cup) it just sounds like way more!

Take them out of the oven, put them on a dish covered loosely with foil for about 15-20 minutes.  This resting time really matters.  I cut it up with scissors, put it on a serving dish and serve it with peas, mashed potatoes and gallons of my delicious gravy.  You can also just de-grease the pan (pour all the juices in a heat proof jar or any tall vessel and shove it in the freezer for 10 minutes, the fat will rise and start to harden so you can remove it.  SAVE the fat in the freezer, sealed, for when you want to fry anything and have it taste much better) and serve it with the juice as a light sauce which is also painfully good.

It may take a little work but it's easy work and you can be preparing the vegetables and having a glass of wine in between bird flip intervals ;)  It really does make a world of difference flipping a bird around, it browns much more evenly and I think the juices are distributed and it's very very moist and fabulous.

Roast one, be happy.



Friday, August 5, 2011

Salmon Cakes and Asparagus

It's been 106+ in Austin for weeks.  And weeks.  And weeks.  As much as I love to cook, it's just too hot.  To cook anything.  Inside or outside.  I had to kill a couple of hours while Connor was in band camp so I wandered the local grocery, use their air conditioning!  They had asparagus on sale and I had a hankering.

I remembered I had left over mashed potatoes in the fridge, some romaine and a can of salmon.  Voila, dinner for 3 for nothing basically.  

I splurged and bought the asparagus.  Even though it was skinny I knew I could enhance it's "asparagus-y-ness" and have myself one heck of a feed for $1.99/bunch.  I found the biggest bunch ;) 

I made my Nana's hot water hollandaise.  It's rich and creamy and induces less guilt due to the fact the butter is reduced and boiling water is added.  I add black pepper and a smidge of tarragon to mine which makes it my own version.  I'm all about the futzing.

I don't know if it's a family recipe so I will hold off putting the recipe out here for the moment and check with the current matriarch. I made it in the blender, transferred it to a pot to thicken and moved it into a jar, sat in hot water, and it waited for me.


The salmon cakes are the 1 1/2 cups of left over mashed potatoes, a drained tin of salmon, one green onion, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs soaked in the juice from the salmon tin.  I formed them into 9 1/3 cup balls and tossed them into the fridge until I was ready for dinner. 

I rolled them in 2 beaten eggs then into Panko breadcrumbs and fried them in peanut oil until they were brown, crispy and heated through.  


I drained them on paper towel quickly then put them in the pan with the cooked asparagus to keep warm.  The asparagus got a reasonable dose of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  I cooked it in the toaster oven!!  to avoid heating the house and they were great!!  I cooked them at 450 for 8 minutes.  They came out crisp tender with a roasty flavor and just perfect.

oh yummy roasty goodness.  I grated a few passes of lemon zest on them fresh out of the oven, I could have eaten nothing else.

Connor opted for the salmon cake, hollandaise, salad combo.


I thought the simple approach best, a couple of crispy cakes and a generous helping of the crisp tender roast asparagusy goodness.  Naw, who are we kidding, hollandaise me baby!  Yes, we all know that after the photo shoot, I slathered the hollandaise on my salmon cakes too.  Painfully good.

It has the illusion of health and the rich decadence of a hollandaise that's light yet flavorful!