Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chicken Tetrazzini

(Printable Recipe)
Creamy and rich, this is a special occasion dish and if you're going to do it right. Skip the recipes that call for canned cream soup and take the little bit of extra time to make a really good cream sauce. It's not rocket science, y'all - I can show you how to make it come out right.
For starters, I brown the vegetables to develop I nice rich flavor layer (fond) in the pan so the cream sauce will taste fantastic. (Before we start, put on a big pan of water to boil for the pasta.) In a wide skillet, starting with 8 oz of mushrooms, drizzle a tablespoon or so of oil and melt in 1-2 tbs of butter, then layer the mushrooms with a little space in between or they'll steam instead of brown. First they'll soak up all the fat like a sponge and the pan will look quite dry. Be patient and leave them alone. As they start to brown they'll release all that fat along with their own liquid and really get a beautiful golden brown and that's when you flip them so the other side repeats the process.

While they're cooking, thin slice one really big sweet onion and a red bell pepper. I like to use a mandolin for speed and uniformly thin slices. Move the mushrooms to a plate and add a little more oil to cook the onion and peppers.
I also like to use the mandolin for paper thin garlic slices. Slice up 4 or 5 cloves of garlic (watch your fingers! just toss the little garlic nibs that are left over). When the onion/pepper mix is slightly browned push it to one side and add just a drizzle of oil to quickly toss the garlic in. It will cook very quickly so keep it moving for a minute or so and you're done. Empty the pan again.

Have ready: 2/3 C Flour, 1/4 C Sherry, 2 C Warm Milk, 4 C Broth
Now is the time to throw the pasta, about 1/2 pound spaghetti, in that water you put on a few minutes ago which should be boiling by now. And back to our sauce - melt about 5 Tbs of Butter over medium/med low heat until it foams. Quickly sprinkle in the flour and rapidly whisk together. It will thicken very quickly and within about about a minute the floury smell should turn to a nice nutty scent which means it's time for the liquid.
Keeping it moving, gradually pour in the milk and don't worry if it doesn't look smooth. Just keep whisking steadily. It won't take long for the sauce to smooth out from this:
To this:

Now add the sherry and broth and whisk smooth. Let it bubble gently for 8 or 10 minutes to thicken a bit, but lower the heat if it really starts to boil. You just need a gentle bubble so it doesn't scorch.
Finally, add the cooked pasta and all vegetables into the sauce along with 1-1/2 cups parmesan cheese and stir together well. Add salt and pepper to taste now.  I'm using a heavy dutch oven that can go straight into the oven, but you may turn this all into a large casserole dish if you prefer.
[I have not listed it here, but the original chef's recipe from the early 1900's for Chicken Tetrazzini included almonds. Feel free to add some, I have never included them but they would only improve the dish and I think I've just talked myself into adding them next time.]
Top with another 1/2 cup of Parm and move to the 350 oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Serve with plain crunchy french bread and a side of green salad with vinaigrette to balance all this rich and creamy deliciousness. And if you'd like to kick up the flavor element even more, click that broth link above and make your own super-tasty homemade that beats the canned kind all to bits.

This week at Food Network's Comfort Food Feast we're blogging about Comforting Casseroles.  Check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends. 

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