Stovetop Mac and Cheese

I spent the afternoon at the Fairgrounds Race Course New Orleans, where my quasi cousin, Nancy, had a horse racing. Here is a picture of He’s Dann Good (number 6) going full out but too far back to be in the money.

Unfortunately, none of my horses won, placed or showed. As it was a bit windy, I went home needing to warm up with some comfort food. For me, that means lots of melty cheese. I made a stovetop version of mac & cheese that is very creamy and delicious.

I recommend going to the deli section of your grocery store to get a block of white American cheese. It gives the perfect texture to the dish. For the rest of the cheese, I went with Gouda to bring it up to a pound of cheese but cheddar is equally delicious.

For me, this is a main course that serves three to four. If you’re using this as a side dish, you can serve at least six.

Stovetop Mac & Cheese

2 large eggs
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
10 ounce block American cheese, grated
6 ounces Gouda or sharp cheddar, grated

Whisk together in a small bowl the eggs, 1 cup milk, hot sauce, salt, black pepper and mustard mix. Set side.

In a large pot, place 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add in the elbow macaroni and a generous pinch of salt and cook until tender but still firm, about 9 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

Toss the butter in the pot with the macaroni and melt over low heat. By the handfuls, add 3/4’s of the cheese and stir until melted, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining milk and cheese and cook, stirring constantly for 5 to 10 minutes. Mac and Cheese should be smooth and creamy.

Serve immediately.

Reheat over the gentle heat of a double boiler.

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Turkey Tetrazzini

I had turkey left over from the grilling so I made up a recipe of Turkey Tetrazzini. This was always the way we used up leftover turkey after Thanksgiving.

I was raised on a version that starts with Cream of Mushroom soup but I think the sauce on this one is a pretty good updating of it. Of course, I was also raised on peas being in it but I figured since Charlotte was bringing kale and Nancy brought a salad, those that wanted veggies were covered.

This recipe makes a 9×13 casserole or 10 large ramekins (that you can then freeze what you’re not eating for later meals).

 

Turkey Tetrazzini

1 pound short pasta, such as rotini or gemelli
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups chicken or turkey stock
2-3 cups leftover turkey, shredded
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
salt and pepper

Topping:

1 cup regular bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter your baking dish or spray with vegetable oil. The full recipe uses a 9×13 pan but you can make a smaller amount and freeze the rest.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until it has softened a bit but is still not quite cooked all the way through. (The pasta will absorb the liquid from the sauce as it finishes cooking in the oven.) Drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter and sauté the sliced mushrooms. Once they have released their liquid and most of it has evaporated (about 10 minutes), remove from pan and set aside.

Add the remaining butter to the skillet and melt it over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Whisk constantly until the flour has cooked but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the milk slowly, whisking to avoid creating any lumps. When it comes to a simmer, add the chicken stock, cayenne and nutmeg and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the sage and season with some salt and pepper. Fold in the mushrooms, turkey and pasta, making sure it is all well coated with the sauce. Pour into the prepared pan.

To make the topping, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan and moisten with the melted butter. Spread topping evenly over the tetrazzini, put the pan into the oven, and cook until the top is golden brown and the mixture is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

To cook from frozen, place the ramekins in the oven while it is preheating to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes or until it is bubbling.

Sticky Sesame Drumsticks From the Slow Cooker

I bought a 10 pound bag of leg quarters and butchered the contents – grilling the thighs and setting the drumsticks aside for dinner during the week. I decided to use the slow cooker so it would cook while I’m at work. When I came home, I just had a few more things to do (make rice, thicken sauce, etc) to get it on the table. Further, the slow cooker gave time for the connective tissue in the drumstick to melt away to make for falling off the bone, tender meat.

It took me a few times to get this recipe ready for posting – I originally left the skin on and it came out rubbery, even after I put it under the broiler. This version delivers tender, well flavored chicken that is reminiscent of take-away, sesame chicken.

Because I was using the chicken from a 10lb bag, I doubled the marinade (but not the sauce) to ensure plenty of flavor. If you’re using less than 10 drumsticks, just use the recipe as written below.

Don’t worry if you have leftovers – it makes really terrific chicken salad!

Sticky Sesame Drumsticks

4-6 drumsticks

Marinade:
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Cooking Sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce, optional

Whisk together the honey, soy sauce, garlic and oil. Remove the skin from the drumsticks and place them in a zip top bag and add the marinade. Massage the marinade into the meat and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Place the chicken drumsticks in the slow cooker and discard the marinade. Combine all the cooking sauce ingredients together and pour over the drumsticks. Set the slow cooker on low for 3 to 5 hours or until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees F. If you’re around, about midway through cooking, turn the chicken to coat with more sauce.

When the chicken is done, pour the sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until thickened. Baste chicken and serve the remaining sauce at the table.

I served this with white rice and a spinach salad with grated carrots.

Asian inspired Spinach Salad Dressing

3 tablespoons minced onions
3 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (use white vinegar if you don’t have rice wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (if you don’t have light, omit the salt later in the recipe)
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Whirl everything together in a blender at least four hours (and up to 5 days) before using for the flavors to meld together. Pour over baby spinach leaves and grated carrot and toss. Store any remaining in an airtight container.

Thanks to my guinea pigs, Michelle, Charlotte, Linda and Robert, for coming over and helping me refine this recipe and eat all the food!

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.

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.