Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Have Apron Will Travel: Tetrazzini with Mom

Several years ago, I began packing an apron in my suitcase when I traveled to visit friends and relatives. I’ve become so accustomed to my shield against vigorous slopping that I can’t leave home without it. This Easter holiday, during which I visited my family in Upper Michigan, was no exception.

There really weren’t very many opportunities for me to contribute in Mom’s kitchen, since we spent much of our time on mini-trips visiting relatives (including my 89-year-old grandmother who sent us home with some of her freshly-bake cinnamon rolls, which are THE BEST IN THE WORLD!). Mom also has a good handle on things (ie, she’s a great cook) and usually doesn’t need my meddling. Or perhaps she has enough help without me.

One day, though, she pulled out a recipe clipped from a magazine and said, “I thought we could make this.” And on Saturday, we did. It was a makeover of tetrazzini that included vegetables: bell peppers, artichoke hearts and spinach. The accompanying photo alone suggested it would be a winner. I figured I could help with some of the prep work and take photos of all the steps along the way.

Well, this whole thing came together in a sort of charmingly unorganized manner. Some of the steps were out of order, we started with too small of a pan, we replaced this and that, and I didn’t get many good photos after all. It turned out really fabulously, however, and even Dad, who cried, “Why are you putting that grass in there?” as he witnessed us adding the spinach, ate at least his fair share.

This recipe has a lot of steps, but they are all pretty simple. The trickiest part is whisking the broth and flour together to make a thickened sauce. This kind of technique is what was replaced by the dubious condensed cream-of-something soup that seems to have defined family casseroles for quite some time. The addition of the cream cheese to the sauce makes it creamy and tangy and that tang is further enhanced by the artichokes, which bring a bright and special flair to an otherwise stodgy casserole.

I guess I was feeling a bit lazy since I was on vacation, but I didn’t write down this recipe or even take notes on it. The following recipe is from memory, which is now a few days old, so I hope I didn’t miss any important details. I tried to edit it to make more sense than what we actually did in some cases, so there are a few steps that I haven’t actually performed as written, but think they will be better that way.

The traveling apron didn’t get particularly messy, but it did its job. It contributed to the creation of a yummy dish that, along with some dinner rolls (also from Grandma) and a green salad, fed us all very well (and left Mom and Dad some leftovers). My work there was done, and I’ve moved on to other adventures (thank ya, ma’am). Okay, so I’m just back at home, but if you’ve been reading over the last (nearly whole!) year, you know that I can get into plenty of trouble right here, too.

Chicken and Vegetable Tetrazzini
We used chicken broth that had standard sodium content, so if you use a reduced-sodium variety, you might want to taste the dish for salt before giving it a final stir and putting it in the oven.

You could also use cooked turkey in place of the chicken.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil, divided
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
½ teaspoon seasoned salt (such as Lawry’s brand)
8 ounces angel hair pasta, broken into thirds (or smaller)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
8 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 can (about 14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
6 cups baby spinach, any tough stems removed

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large kettle or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with seasoned salt and place in the pan. Cook 10-15 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked through, turning about half way through the cooking time. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut the cooked chicken into bite-size pieces.

2. Cook the angel hair pasta according to package directions until it is just tender. It should still have some bite to it, because it will continue to cook in the casserole. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in the same pan in which the chicken was cooked. Add the onion and red bell pepper. Saute about 8 minutes, or until the onion and pepper are tender and beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Push the contents of the pan to the side, leaving a space in the center. Place the flour in that space. Slowly add the chicken broth, whisking or stirring vigorously to incorporate the flour without forming lumps. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture will be fairly thick.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

6. Add the cream cheese to the broth mixture. Increase the heat to medium and stir until the cheese has melted into the mixture. Stir in the parmesan cheese, cooked chicken, artichoke hearts, and spinach. Cover and cook until the spinach has wilted down, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Remove from the heat and stir in the cooked pasta.

8. Oil or spray with cooking spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Spoon or pour the pasta mixture into the pan. Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes or until the top is beginning to brown.

Makes about 8 servings.

Note: The photo of Smokey the cat was taken by Harry

No comments:

Post a Comment