Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

I like chicken Cordon Bleu but I don’t like all the steps that go to making it. That’s why this casserole is so good – no pounding chicken, no making filling, dredging, breading, frying. In fact, with the cheese sauce covering everything, this might actually be better than traditional. You can even make it easier by buying already cooked chicken. You’d need about 3 cups of cooked chicken.

This is a recipe that can be made ahead – make it and put it in the casserole dish and you can refrigerate it until ready to cook. Add in time to take in account that it is going from cold.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup cooked ham, diced
2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
10-20 Ritz crackers, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat oil in cast iron skillet. Cut chicken breasts into strips and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown all sides in the skillet, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat to a plate. Wipe out the pan.

Melt butter in the skillet. Sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring constantly. Add the milk in several small batches – whisking well after each addition to make sure there are no lumps in the sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer. Add all but a half cup of cheese to the pan and stir to melt.

Cube chicken. Add it and the ham to the skillet and stir to combine. Spoon it into a casserole dish.

Add remaining cheese to crumbled crackers. Mix with your fingers and then sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes, depending on how deep your casserole dish is. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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Pecan Cream Chicken and Mushrooms

We had more mushrooms and cream and this time we upped the flavor on chicken. Giving the pecans a whirl in the food processor to chop them fine made it so every bite tasted nutty.

Pecan Cream Chicken and Mushrooms

Pecan Cream:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauce:
1 tablespoon sherry or another deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine)
1 teaspoon olive oil, as needed
1 small onion, finely chopped
½ pound mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

Prepare pecan cream by grinding pecans in a food processor, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add water and cream and salt to taste; process until combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside.

Pound chicken to ¼ inch thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat olive oil a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté about 5 minutes per each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, keep warm.

Add sherry or other deglazing liquid to pan and stir up any browned bits. Add oil if necessary and sauté the onions for 5 minutes to soften. Add mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh rosemary to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add chicken back to pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes until reduced slightly.

Place rice among serving plates. Add the chicken and then place a spoonful of the mushroom pecan sauce on top. Garnish with a pinch of chopped pecans if desired.

I served this with rice although pasta would work well, too.

Herbes de Provence Pork Chops with Mushrooms

Tired of the same old pork chops? Switch things up a bit by using Herbes de Provence. I used store bought but it is easy to make up your own blend – see here or here. The chops were browned in a skillet and then braised in a hot oven with a sauce of chicken stock and wine. That sauce was added to the skillet with mushrooms and cream and those lovely herbes and reduced down to deliciousness.

Mushrooms in cream sauce are delectable anyway but once you’ve had them Herbes de Provence, you’ll wonder why anyone would have them any other way.

Herbes de Provence Pork Chops with Mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 thick cut pork chops
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1/2 pound mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Add pork to the skillet and brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to a baking dish. Add the chicken stock and white wine to the skillet. Boil until reduced by half, scraping up browned bits, about 10 minutes. Pour over the pork. Bake pork chops until they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, about 25 minutes.

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Heat butter in the pork skillet. Add mushrooms to the skillet and sauté until softened. Remove skillet from heat until pork is done.

Transfer pork chops to serving plates. Pour sauce from baking dish into skillet with mushrooms and heat over medium high heat. Whisk the cream and Herbes de Provence into the sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer until thickened. Spoon mushrooms and sauce over the pork chops.

I served the pork chops with applesauce and a baked sweet potato.

 

 

Pepper Jack Mac

I was clearing out the fridge and I had a cup of cream and a bag of shredded pepper jack cheese so I put my thinking cap on and decided the best use of my ingredients was to make baked mac and cheese.

As an aside, the cheese sauce is pretty darn tasty on tortilla chips, if you wanted nachos instead of dinner.

If you do make it into mac and cheese, this recipe serves three (or me and a friend and lunch tomorrow). Of course, had I served a salad with this I probably could have served four but those who know me, know that isn’t happening.

Pepper Jack Mac

1 1/2 cups elbow noodles

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cream or milk
1 1/2 – 2 cups pepper jack cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 adobo seasoning or cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 1 quart casserole.

Boil the elbow macaroni in salted water for a little less than al dente (I did them for 9 minutes).

Toast the bread crumbs in a small skillet in which you’ve melted the butter. Set aside.

Melt butter in saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes to cook off flour taste but not so much as to darken the roux. Slowly whisk in the milk or cream. Don’t pour it in all at once or you will have lumps. Cook the milk mixture until it coats the back of the spoon, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to low. A handful at a time, add the pepper jack cheese. Stir well after each addition until the cheese has melted. Once cheese has melted, add the salt and for a touch of heat add adobo or cayenne pepper. Stir well.

Drain macaroni and return to pan. Pour cheese mixture over and stir to combine. Pour into buttered casserole and top with toasted bread crumbs. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Pickle Schnitzel

Pickle juice makes a wonderful brine for grilled chicken but I also love it with breaded cutlets, better known in my family as schnitzel. The soak in the pickle brine doesn’t make the chicken or pork taste like pickles, it adds a salty tang and leaves the meat super tender and juicy when pan fried. Just don’t soak it for too long (1 hour is sufficient) or it will get overly salty.

Chicken schnitzel

I mix my bread crumbs with an equal amount of cracker meal so that my schnitzel has a good crunch, especially when warmed up the next day for sandwiches. Who needs to go to a fast food restaurant anymore?

Pork schnitzel

I use boneless pork loin and the relatively short cooking time means that this low fat cut doesn’t get overcooked. I wait for the whole loin to go on sale and have the butcher cut it in 3/4 inch pieces for me.

2 large chicken breasts or boneless pork loin
1 cup pickle juice
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten with one teaspoon olive oil
1 cup breadcrumbs (or in combination with cracker meal)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cover meat with plastic wrap and pound to about ¼ inch thickness. Place pounded meat in a zip top bag and pour pickle juice on top. Seal and toss in juice and refrigerate for 1 hour.

When the meat is ready, remove from pickle juice and dry well. Place the flour, egg beaten with a little olive oil and breadcrumbs/cracker meal each in separate shallow bowls. Season the flour with the salt and black pepper.

Coat each cutlet in flour and shake off excess. Then dip in the beaten egg before dredging in the breadcrumbs/cracker meal. Place on a wire rack in the refrigerator while the oil heats.

Bring about ½ inch oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat to 375 degrees F. Fry in oil about 3-5 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Blot on a paper towel and serve hot with lemon wedges.

Tacos de Carne de Cerdo

This weekend was the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. I had a great time, as I was on a couple of panels and even did a reading from my latest book, Bitter Heart. On one of the days that I knew I was going to be busy all day at the conference, I put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker with some spices and a bit of citrus juices for us to have meaty tacos for dinner and for me to have delicious leftovers.

I was joined for dinner by my fellow author, Mercedes Lewis, who read from her book of poetry (Glimpses of a Fractured Soul) at Saints and Sinners and also participated on a poetry panel.

Tacos de carne de cerdo

Dry Rub

1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix dry rub together and store until ready to use in an airtight container.

Carne de Cerdo

5-8 lb pork shoulder, bone in preferred
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 cup chicken stock
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed

Cut off the large fat cap and any other spots of hard fat. Rub spice mixture on the meat. Heat a skillet and brown the meat on all sides.

Remove meat from the skillet and place on a bed of onions and garlic in a large crockpot. Pour the juice and stock into the skillet to deglaze the pan. Scrape up any fond on the bottom and then pour over the meat.

Cover and cook on low in the slow cooker for 6 to 8 hours. Remove when the meat is falling off the bone. Let cool for 15 minutes before attempting to shred for tacos.

For the tacos, I had both hard corn taco shells and soft flour tortillas, guacamole, sliced red and green bell peppers, black beans, grated pepper jack cheese and salsa to go with the shredded meat. We built our tacos based on our own taste and ended up eating more than planned as everything tasted so good.

I will use the leftovers in quesadillas, burritos or even with a little BBQ sauce for a pulled pork sandwich.

Immune Boosting Roast Chicken

My Facebook feed is full of people suffering from the flu. I’ve so far escaped but, with all the parades and events heading into Mardi Gras on February 13th, I need all the immune boosting I can get.

I had thawed a chicken and decided that I’d do something that contained a lot of natural antibiotics – ginger, garlic, oregano, lemon juice. I altered my lemon oregano roast chicken recipe – the original called for dry white wine, for example and I replaced that liquid with ginger ale. If you can’t eat garlic, replace it with a tablespoon of minced ginger instead.

Immune Boosting Roast Chicken

4 to 5 lb whole chicken
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup ginger ale
1/4 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons crushed dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

4 russet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

Remove the backbone of the chicken and reserve for another use. Cut chicken into quarters and place in a zip top bag. Whisk together the lemon juice, ginger ale, olive oil, oregano, garlic, ginger, salt and black pepper. Pour over the chicken. Seal and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss the cubes of potatoes with a little olive oil and spread them out in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir the potatoes around and add the chicken with its marinade, balancing the chicken on top of the potatoes. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the thickest part of the thigh reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before dividing among dinner plates.