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.

 

 

Breakfast Corn Muffins

I wanted something different for breakfast and I had been thinking about corn muffins recently. I decided to make a mash up that would have a hit of protein but still have corn flavor. These ended up tasting a little like cornbread stuffing (not a bad thing at all). They also freeze really well and can be rewarmed in a microwave.

Breakfast Corn Muffins

1 lb bulk breakfast sausage
1 small onion (1 cup)
2 ribs celery (1 cup)
½ green bell pepper (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon sage
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1/4 cup corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brown sausage over medium heat. Add celery, onion and bell pepper and sauté until softened. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in sage.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together corn meal, all purpose flour, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, chicken broth, sour cream, eggs and corn kernels. Add to the corn meal mix and stir to combine. Fold in meat mixture.

Using a ¼ cup measure, fill buttered muffin tins with the mix. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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.

Scarborough Fair Rub for Chicken

I soaked 10 lbs of chicken leg quarters overnight in a rosemary buttermilk brine:
2.5 quarts of buttermilk
4 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons kosher salt.

The next day I put on a dry rub that harkens back to that 16th century English folk tune – as the main ingredients are sage, rosemary and thyme. The parsley is added as a final step while the meat rests.

I grilled my chicken over indirect heat for about an hour. The chicken can also be roasted in the oven at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes to an hour.

Scarborough Fair Chicken Rub

2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground sage
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Sprinkle over both sides of the chicken. Store any unused in an airtight container.

Grill or roast the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Sprinkle on the parsley after the meat comes off the fire, while it rests for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Bacon Onion Cheeseburgers

Bacon is good on a burger but I’ve always wondered about putting bacon in the burger. There are a gazillion recipes out there – some say use cooked bacon crumbled in, other recommend cooking the bacon just a little, others just mix uncooked bacon in with the burger meat.

I didn’t want the burger crunchy nor did I want any bite of burger to have raw. I decided to do a quick par-cook of minced bacon so it could be well incorporated. You can definitely use more bacon – for three pounds of ground meat, I figured about a half of strip per burger as I didn’t want the bacon to overwhelm the burgerness of the meat, if that makes sense. I used thick cut bacon as I figured the thin stuff would be destroyed by the food processor. 

I also cooked the onions in the bacon fat to eliminate the taste of raw onion and up the bacon flavor. I ended up with almost caramelized onions that added a sweetness and depth to the final result.

Bacon Onion Cheeseburgers

3 lbs 80% lean ground chuck
8 strips thick bacon
2 medium onions
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
grated cheddar cheese, to taste

In a food processor, pulse the bacon until it is well and truly pulped. Place in a cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. In the food processor, chop the quartered onions. Remove the bacon from the skillet and set aside to cool. Add the onions to the pan and sauté in the bacon grease until soft and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, place the meat, the bacon and the onions and the seasonings. Mix with your hands to combine. Divide and form into quarter pound patties. Makes 14 patties.

Create a two zone area on your grill, so you can move the burgers to the cool side in case of flare ups. Make a small indention in each burger with your finger before setting it on the grates to keep the burger from bulging while it cooks. Grill over direct heat for about 5 minutes per side. Do not press down on the burgers during cooking – you’ll lose those precious juices.

Sprinkle on the grated cheese for the last few moments of cooking and serve with toasted buns.

We had grilled zucchini from the garden with our burgers.