Category Archives: chicken

All Fired Up

Roasted Harissa-Glazed Chicken Wings

When Pramod Thapa walked into the Sunburst Lodge at Sun Peaks Resort, the British Columbia ski hill I visited last weekend as part of a tasting tour of BC wine country, I recognized his gait immediately. He doesn’t have the typical cattywhompus walk of a kid with cerebral palsy; at 21, he’s been fortunate enough to progress into a more typical movement pattern that comes off as a young male swagger. Still, for someone familiar with CP, it’s evident. Yet Pramod also moves like a ski racer—shins pressing against the fronts of the boots when walking, using their natural support to avoid the awkwardness inherent to wearing ten pounds of metal and plastic on each foot.

Pramod (pronounced “promo”) stopped short when the woman I was skiing with, Canadian ski racing legend Nancy Greene Raine, flagged him down. She realized that as the mother of a budding adaptive skier with cerebral palsy, I might want to meet him. Pramod perched one Lange boot on its heel—a typical racer’s resting posture—and shook my hand. When he started speaking, I realized that unlike Graham, he has a major speech impediment. He can speak well enough to communicate, but only if the listener has had, say, a few years’ experience tuning in to how the general population with cerebral palsy communicates. Pramod struggles to hug his mouth around vowels, and stumbles over consonants. Listening to him speak requires intense concentration, but he has a lot to say.

As we huddled around the hot, cottony sticky buns the lodge pulls out of the oven mid-morning every day, Pramod and I talked about his ski racing history. About how after immigrating to Canada from Nepal as a kid, an adaptive ski instructor recognized that he might be the type to enjoy skiing. About how and whether we should go about transitioning Graham from a sit-ski guided by an instructor holding tethers to a sit-ski he guides himself using outriggers, which are like hefty ski poles with extra tiny skis at the bottoms. About how now, in a bid for the Canadian paralympic alpine team, Pramod is having to fight for the right to use kids’ skis, instead of the regulation (read: longer and heavier) men’s skis the other guys he competes against use.

Pramod comes from a long line of sherpas. He can’t be more than 5’2”, and he must weigh 100 pounds soaking wet. I can’t imagine a person his size racing on the same skis my six-foot-something brother and father use. As we talked through the issue, he used his hands—hands seemingly unaffected by cerebral palsy—to describe the methods he’d been using to pressure the smaller skis around the turns in that day’s slalom and GS training. Fingers straight, hands tilting in parallel to mimic the skis beneath his feet, Pramod looked like any other ski racer talking shop. I realized that in a world where his body and his speech likely often prevent him from participating in a typical way, he has found a sport where he can use his hands to communicate the same way everyone else does. He’s found his sport. I also realized that when it comes to my own kid, it’s more important to me that he learns to love a sport than that he learns to love what I’ve long considered my sport.

Which is why this weekend, along with something like a third of all Americans, we’ll be watching the Super Bowl. In an unpredictable combination of rare genetics, Graham has inherited a love of football. We don’t know how. We don’t know why. He “plays football” by knee-walking to and fro across the living room floor, hurtling his body against the couch or a chair or the dog occasionally, claiming touchdowns and wins according to rules we don’t understand in any way. But he loves it. So it seems like this year especially—when the Seattle Seahawks kick off their second consecutive Super Bowl—it makes sense to sit down and watch. And it makes sense for me to sit down and learn, the way Pramod’s parents are likely doing also, that it doesn’t matter what gets your kid fired up. What matters is that he’s fired up at all.

I’d have photographed this recipe on a Seahawks jersey if I could, but we’re not big enough fans to have that sort of thing. Nonetheless, when Super Bowl XLIX kicks off this weekend, we’ll be eating wings with millions of others, smothered, in our case, with butter and harissa. You can use a store-bought harissa for this, but the homemade kind from A Boat, a Whale and a Walrus works spectacularly. Note that each harissa will vary in spiciness, so you may need to adjust the heat to your own taste. I made this batch knowing there will be kids at our party on Sunday.

Now get fired up, people. Two days ’til game time.

Roasted Harissa-Glazed Chicken Wings (PDF)

Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 35 minutes

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup harissa, plus more if desired
1 1/4 pounds chicken wing segments or drumettes
Sea salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Stir the melted butter and harissa together to blend. Divide the mixture between two large mixing bowls. Add the chicken pieces to one bowl, stir to coat the wings, then spread them out evenly on the prepared baking sheet.

Roast the wings for about 20 minutes, or until the wings are bubbling and crisp at the edges. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for just a moment, then add them to the fresh bowl of harissa butter. Stir to coat the chicken, then transfer the chicken to a platter and shower with sea salt. Serve hot, with the yogurt on the side for dipping.

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Filed under appetizers, chicken, gluten-free, Lunch, travel

Shake it off

za'atar-crusted chicken 1

Sometime in January, I started a list in my music files called “Inspiration 2012.” I imagined it being a sort of year-long anthem for life, with songs landing on the list every few days, but so far, there are only two: “Shake it Off,” by Florence + The Machine, and “Don’t Carry It All,” by The Decemberists. They’re very different songs, about very different things, but they both send me a very simple, portable, digestible message. They say let go.

The first, sung by a woman who tends to perform dressed much more modestly than the average pop-ish beltress, is the one you’ll find me singing in the car with the windows down. There’s a line in there that’s always gotten me, deep down inside, behind the heart, between the shoulder blades. She says, “it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off.” She’s right, you know, and I think she gets righter the louder I sing. And it’s her voice that’s followed me around these last few (busy) weeks. I can’t say who the devil is—not because I’m being cagey, but because I really don’t feel like I know—but he’s there, clinging. He needs to cut his fingernails.

I haven’t been very still lately. We spent a week in March in Whistler, for our anniversary, skiing with old friends. We flew immediately back east, to celebrate the life of a dear, close family member I’m still not sure how to miss and love and cherish properly. We came home for a few days, then I went back east again, for a conference in New York. There was drinking and eating and learning and exploring and cursing myself for being so bad at New York, but there wasn’t much sleeping.

spring recipe card sets

I came home, and Hannah and I finalized the printing on the spring recipe card sets, and tied them all with pretty yellow bows. (They’re here!)

Then a certain little boy turned three, and there were turtle cupcakes and a Thomas the Train cake and parties and family. Then there was a za’atar-crusted chicken for Passover, and there was Easter breakfast, and now it’s Monday. And as much as I’d like to think I have the power to stop it, I know Tuesday is coming. I’ve felt like I’m fluttering, darting around in a way that feels fabulous and mostly fun but not entirely human.

This week needs to be calmer. This week, I think I just need to shake it all off and start over. Every time my mind wanders, to Pike Place Market Recipes (which comes out in—eek!—just over a month), or to starting Benlysta infusions in a few weeks, or to Graham, or to passing loved ones, or to my sister moving away from Seattle, the song will come back. Maybe these are my devils–not devils, any of them, but things I carry with me all the time these days.

There’s an important distinction here, I think. Shaking off does not equal forgetting. It’s not ignoring, or procrastinating. It’s simply a setting down. An equalizing. It’s looking at your own life as it sits beside you, sipping coffee, rather than carrying it around like oversized luggage. (I don’t know about you, but when I pack for a trip, I stuff every single bag too full, every time.)

It’s looking life in the eye, and listening to what it has to tell you.

It’s letting someone else’s life inspire you, rather than letting it bury you in sadness.

Za'atar chicken for dinner

So here’s what’s coming on Hogwash: a look at what’s outside of me, so I can stay inside for a few weeks. A glimpse at Pike Place Market Recipes, and the recipes in it that I’m most excited about—starting with the roast chicken I made for Passover (yogurt sauce and all, Kosher schmosher), one of my favorites (and one of the simplest) in the book.

Come to think of it, roasting chicken is the culinary embodiment of the shake it off policy. It’s starting from scratch. It’s the easiest thing to do—olive oil, salt, and za’atar, smeared with bare hands in the sunlight and roasted in a hot oven—but it’s somehow completely grounding.

And ahhh. Grounded. That’s just what I want to feel.

za'atar-crusted chicken going into oven

Za’atar-Crusted Chicken with Harissa-Yogurt Sauce (PDF)
From Pike Place Market Recipes: 130 Delicious Ways to Bring Home Seattle’s Famous Market (Sasquatch, May 2012)

Although walking into The Souk, on the north end of the Pike Place Market, may be intimidating for those less familiar with Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African foods, it’s actually a haven for ingredients for quick, creative dinners. On its shelves you’ll find za’atar, a dried herb and spice mixture often made with thyme, oregano, savory, dried sumac, salt, and sesame seeds—you may find it lends itself well to other dishes you make regularly, like roasted potatoes. You’ll also find harissa, a North African chili sauce, which lends gentle heat to the ultra-simple yogurt sauce that accompanies the chicken here.

Active time: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
Equipment: Kitchen string, for tying legs

1 (5-pound) whole chicken, patted dry with paper towels
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons za’atar
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 to 3 teaspoons harissa

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rub all parts of the chicken with the oil. Place on a roasting rack set over a roasting pan. Blend the salt and za’atar together in a small bowl, then sprinkle the entire chicken with the spice mixture. Fold the wings behind the chicken’s back, tie the legs together, and sprinkle any remaining spice on any bare spots.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour, or until the breast meat measures 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. If the skin is dark golden brown before the meat is done, slide a baking sheet onto an oven rack above the chicken.

Meanwhile, stir the yogurt and harissa together in a small bowl, and let sit at room temperature while the chicken roasts.

When the chicken is done, let rest 10 minutes, then carve and serve hot, with the yogurt sauce.

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Filed under chicken, gluten-free, Pike Place Market Recipes, recipe

Preparing for No Thanksgiving

Spiced Chardonnay Chicken Liver Pate 3

Last weekend, we turned our lives off. It wasn’t really intentional, to be honest. We packed everything up for a weekend of lazing and hiking on the Olympic Peninsula – everything except our computers – but when we arrived at our rental house, our telephones didn’t work either. For 36 hours, we suspended time. We spoke to no one but each other. My husband and I each read a book, and our son slept soundly through the nights. It was, by every definition, a vacation.

I also took a little break from cooking. I know it sounds crazy, for me to take over a rental kitchen with not much more than the makings for a simple pasta sauce and sandwiches, but after the doughnut book, it was just what I needed.

The house peeked out over Freshwater Bay and the Straight of Juan de Fuca, which separates the Peninsula from Canada. It had a sprawling living room, and a kitchen that would comfortably fit the cook and ten onlookers. I was in the middle of a fantasy about hosting a Thanksgiving there one day when it hit me: This year, I will not be cooking for Thanksgiving. I came home wanting to do nothing but cook for a crowd.

Every year, my family celebrates Thanksgiving somewhere different. It’s traditional in its pure lack of tradition. There’s usually Ken’s Eggnog (which would normally be made this weekend), but everything else is up to the cook. But I am always in someone’s kitchen, somewhere.

This year will be different. This year, my grandfather is hosting in Colorado, which means Thanksgiving will be catered. I’m confident it will be delicious, but there will be no menu planning. There will be no grocery shopping. There will be no oven scheduling. There will be no sneaking garlic into the mashed potatoes while Grandma’s not looking. There will be no forgetting to put the sugar in the pumpkin pie filling, or still-frozen turkey stock, or last-minute market runs for more butter.

In theory, this is fine with me. My oven broke (again) this week, which means I could be fighting with repairmen for a few weeks. No one needs to roast a turkey in an oven that’s 100 degrees off. And we’ll get to see much of my extended family, which is always great.

But honestly, part of me is struggling. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s not the turkey, it’s all of the above – planning, shopping, scheduling, cooking, problem-solving – that I love. It’s all of the things some people hate about Thanksgiving. Frankly, I’m a little nervous. Cooking Thanksgiving is a yearly ritual I can’t imagine living without.

Spices for Pate 2

When Edible Seattle asked me to cook up some bites for an event at a Seattle Eileen Fisher last night, I figured it was my chance to get the ritual out of my system. I made polenta squares with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and crispy shards of kale. There were wild mushroom tartlets. I wanted to make a version of the chicken liver pate that seemed more popular than anything else on last year’s Thanksgiving table, one infused with spices and white wine. The only problem, I discovered, was that I had no idea where I’d found the recipe. All I remembered were the shallots and some cognac . . .

So I started from scratch. Chicken liver pate seems fancy, but it’s astoundingly simple to make. (If you’ve never done it before, know that the most difficult part is buying the livers. They can be intimidating, but treat them just as you would chicken, trimming away any tough parts.) I tossed them into a simmering mixture of chardonnay, star anise, allspice, clove, cinnamon, and pepper, along with garlic and shallots. I transferred the cooked mixture to a food processor, along with an amount of butter that you might want to keep secret, and found myself with a silky spread fancy enough for pre-Thanksgiving appetizers. Or hungry shoppers. Or writers with with the 10 a.m. munchies.

The best part? The recipe made much more than I anticipated. So I served hordes of hungry shoppers, and I still have a little pot left over for myself. I might just have to throw a party.

Spiced Chardonnay Chicken Liver Pate 2

Spiced Chardonnay Chicken Liver Pate (PDF)

Here, chicken livers are simmered in chardonnay, with cinnamon, anise, allspice, and cloves, then whipped into a mousse-y pate perfect for spreading on crackers or baguette slices. It’s easy, and a little work goes a long way—this recipe makes enough for 4 pots of mousse, each of which should satisfy a crowd of 6 to 8 before dinner. Serve with cornichons and pickled onions.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 large ramekins

2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
2 cups dry chardonnay
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 whole allspice berries
3 whole cloves
3 whole black peppercorns
2 pounds chicken livers, fat and veins trimmed away
3/4 cup water
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 chunks
Sea salt
Ground white pepper

Combine the shallots, garlic, chardonnay, and spices in a large, wide saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the garlic is soft. Add the chicken livers and 3/4 cup water, bring back to a simmer, then cook for about 5 minutes, turning livers once or twice, or until they’re barely pink in the center. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the livers and onions to the work bowl a food processor, picking out any spices as you see them. Carefully remove the remaining spices, then add the rest of the liquid and onions. Puree the liver mixture until smooth.

With the machine on, add the butter one chunk at a time, and puree until smooth, scraping the sides of the work bowl as necessary. (The mixture will seem thin.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pass the mousse through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, then transfer to 4 large ramekins or bowls. Let the mousse cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight, covered with plastic wrap, and serve chilled.

Mousse can be cooled, then double-wrapped and frozen up to 2 weeks before serving. To serve, thaw for 24 to 48 hours in the fridge.

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Filed under appetizers, chicken, gluten-free, recipe

Promised: Chicken Salad

IMG_3491

A few weeks ago, I promised you a new chicken salad.

There’s no story here – just plump chicken, chopped and blended with a spunky vinaigrette made with my new best friend, a lemon-infused olive oil. If you’re in a rush, fold in chopped rotisserie chicken. If you’re looking for a thinly-veiled excuse to eat the crisp, peppery skin off an entire bird you’ve just roasted perfectly on the grill (not that I would know anything about that), double the recipe. Try it in sandwiches or scooped next to a big green salad, or serve it inside endive spears or lettuce wraps.

Lemon-Spiked Chicken Salad (PDF)

TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: Enough for 2 big sandwiches

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped leftover chicken
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a mixing bowl, whisk the lemon zest and juice, shallot, salt, pepper, and mustard to blend. While whisking, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and whisk until all the oil is blended in. Stir in the chicken and parsley and serve.

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Filed under appetizers, chicken, gluten-free, Lunch, recipe, sandwich

A new thing

Lemon-Chive Chicken Salad 1

There’s a clear order of operations to my conversations these days. You know, like how in 8th grade math class you looked through an equation to find all the additions you had to do, then the subtractions, then . . . or wait, was it the multiplications first? (This is why I’m not a math teacher.)

But yes, it goes like this: First, people ask how the baby is doing. (He’s great, by the way. More than ten pounds!) Then, they ask how I’m doing. (Fine also.) Finally, always the third question:

Are you writing?

Honestly, this one sort of cracks me up – first, because going back to work is really still nowhere near the top of my list of priorities, and second, because when I was working regular full-time hours, people in general assumed I wasn’t writing. I’m not sure if this applies to all freelancers, but most of my friends with normal jobs have always called at, say, 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, when they’re on their lunch break on east coast time. They say something brilliant, like Hey, what are you doing? Like Tuesday morning is popcorn hour for all freelance writers. It always seems to come as a big surprise that I’m working. Sometimes I make things up, just for shock value. Oh, you know. Getting a pedicure before my dog’s Botox appointment. Normal Tuesday stuff.

But now, six weeks after Graham’s come home, it seems everyone expects me to be writing writing writing. And, well, what can I say? I sort of expected I might be, also. It’s not that I don’t want to write. And the words still come – only now, they flood my brain at the most inconvenient times. I do my best to contain them, while I’m nursing or walking or rocking a baby in the middle of the night, but it’s marbles on an ice rink, and I’m not even wearing skates. Heck, I don’t even own skates.

Before Graham was born, I had a very clear-cut creative process. I wrote in violent storms, usually in the morning. They were never any more predictable than that, but when they came – always with mental lightning and thunder, some sort of warning that got me sitting in front of a keyboard before the rains came – I was usually available. Now? Not so much. I’m often whole rooms away from a keyboard. The rains come, and they drench me, and then they pass, and I’m left sitting there in a big puddle of words.

Someday – who knows when? – I’m going to have to find a new creative process, for the days when I’m not in charge. Not an umbrella, per say, but maybe gutters, or a good, dependable catchment system for all these thoughts. A new thing, for this new life. I don’t think it will necessarily be a better way of writing, or worse. Just different. I’m really looking forward to it, whatever it is.

For now, since all those words about my neighbor’s birthday party have long since dried into puddle crust on the kitchen floor, just a recipe for the chicken salad I made for a group of giggly women. If nothing else, I beg you: Make the herbed mayonnaise. It goes a long way to make things exciting when you’re slapping turkey sandwiches together in the middle of the night.

Lemon-Chive Chicken Salad 3

Lemon-Chive Chicken Salad with Herbed Mayonnaise (PDF)

My neighbor recently had what she called her first 49th birthday party. I volunteered to bring chicken salad. I wanted something summery and light and herby, but didn’t want to make any presumptions about how gooey guests liked their sandwiches. (Goodness knows there’s nothing worse than eating the wrong rank on your mayonnaise scale.) I think I found the ultimate solution: I mixed the chicken up with about half the dressing—a mixture of mayonnaise, plain yogurt, bright lemon zest, and handfuls of herbs from my porch garden—and let people slather the rest on baguette halves, along with tomatoes, avocado slices, and pickled onions, as they assembled their own sandwiches.

Save any extra herbed mayo for bartering; it’s worth its weight in gold. (And if you make your own mayonnaise, it’ll be worth whatever’s more expensive than gold.)

If you’re pressed for time, substitute pre-roasted rotisserie chicken (2 large or 3 small) for the chicken breasts.

TIME: 45 minutes
MAKES: About 10 big sandwiches’ worth

4 cups chicken broth
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
2 cups chopped celery (from 4 big ribs)
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1/2 cup finely chopped chives, plus 1/4 cup coarsely chopped chives
1/3 cup finely chopped tarragon
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley, plus 1 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large shallots, finely chopped

Bring the chicken broth to a bare simmer in a wide, shallow pan. Add the chicken breasts, and poach, turning occasionally, until cooked through (about 15 minutes). Transfer chicken to a cutting board to cool. Add the celery and raisins to the hot broth, and let sit for 5 minutes. (This softens the celery a bit and plumps up the raisins.) Strain celery and raisins (reserving broth for another use, if you’d like), and set aside to cool.

Herbed mayo

In a medium bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 cup finely chopped chives, tarragon, and 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shred or chop the chicken, and transfer to a large mixing bowl, along with the celery, raisins, 1/4 cup coarsely chopped chives, 1 cup coarsely chopped parsley, chopped shallot, and 1 cup of the herbed mayonnaise. Mix well, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and mayonnaise. Serve on lettuce or in sandwiches, with additional mayonnaise on the side.

Lemon-Chive Chicken Salad 4

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Filed under chicken, gluten-free, Lunch, recipe, sandwich, snack

Crash

Creamy Chicken Casserole close

It’s been a tense week, here in this house. My hard drive crashed.

It wasn’t ahead-on collision. More of a series of fender-benders, repeated with such dependable idiocy that I could have told you, one year ago today, that total disintegration was inevitable. Like that concrete post in the parking garage you always narrowly miss, until the day you don’t.

She’s a drama queen, this one. Every time she misstepped—I hate to be sexist, but this computer has to be a she—she’d give me this whole back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead song and dance about being worked so hard, when really, her extra memory was just installed wrong from the beginning.

This week, she just couldn’t take it any more. We’ve been talking, since she came out of the ER, and she explained it was the technological version of a complete mental breakdown. Sometimes a black screen and a white blinking cursor are all one can muster.

I know what’s done is done, but I can’t help thinking that maybe it’s all my fault. That after months and months of feeding this computer recipes and photographs, without actual flavors, she finally cracked, with a close-up of what to her just looked like creamy mac and givemesome.

Anyway. I’m giving her a second chance, because without her, I simply felt naked. I’m depending on her, even though last night, she was nothing more than a paperweight. (That’s when Jim picked her up and shook her. Sort of like a defibrillator, I suppose.)

I’m trying to go easy on her—trying not to get mad when I have to reload all my applications, like one does with a new machine. Even though I can still only see my photographs in miniature, and I can’t seem to edit them. Even though I have to find passwords to everything all over again. Even though I haven’t installed Office yet, and the temporary version doesn’t have a print function. (Why would one want to use a version of Word that doesn’t print, I ask?)

So for today, just a recipe, the very warm, gooey, comforting recipe whose photographs may or may not have sent her into the coma. If I could open up the CD slot and shovel a bite or two in, I’m sure she’d be happy, but alas, it’s not the kind of drive that slides out, and my husband would be so angry if I fed pasta casserole to the computer he’s spent two late, late nights fixing.

So for now, I’ll focus her little eye on me, eating the leftovers of a recipe sparked by the one for modern turkey tetrazzini in Food & Wine. I’ll be her seeing eye human—or wait, would that be tasting mouth human, then?—and tell her how the goat cheese-spiked sauce slides over roasted chicken, mushrooms, peas, and caramelized onions with just the right speed, lingering only as long as it takes for me to dig another crunchy-topped piece of rigatoni out of the bowl. She’d recommend stirring in a sprinkle of crispy bacon, I think. (I can’t imagine her skimping on anything.)

“Why didn’t you put something red in?” she’ll ask, when you’re not here. I’ll explain that it might have looked better, but when you’re making Cream of Refrigerator Casserole, with all the things that need to be used, there isn’t always something red available. (Like memory, I’ll remind her, if I can’t leave well enough alone.)

And besides, if it’s going to be called “casserole,” peas and mushrooms are the rule. At least, they’re my rule, for my first (ever) homemade casserole. And they made it just what it needed to be: Creamy. Filling. Comforting. A little old-school. And quite delicious.

For a version as creamy as the top photo, substitute crushed potato chips for the breadcrumb topping and bake just 10 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Casserole bowl

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom, and Green Pea Casserole (Word Doc)

Updated a bit with goat cheese, whole wheat pasta, and caramelized onions, this casserole (inspired by a recipe for Modern Turkey Tetrazzini in Food & Wine magazine) skips the can-of-soup approach, to good effect.

This recipe requires doing a few things at once—please read through it before beginning, so you don’t miss a step.

TIME: 1 hour active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

For the casserole:
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, halved, cut into 1/4” slices
2 whole chicken legs (legs and thighs together, about 1 1/2 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 pound whole wheat rigatoni, or other bite-sized pasta
6 ounces goat cheese
1 cup frozen peas

For the topping:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then the onion slices, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until the onions are soft and golden brown.

Once the onions have started, rub the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil onto the chicken’s skin. Season with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, chop the meat (reserving bones for stock) and set aside.

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

Make the sauce: Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan. When melted, add the flour, and stir and cook at a bare bubble for a minute or two. Add the broth in a slow, steady stream, while whisking—the sauce will first thicken, then thin out. Add 1/2 cup of the cream, then slowly bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 minutes at a simmer, until the sauce is thick and velvety. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the onions are golden, add the mushrooms and herbs to that pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook another 20 minutes, until the onions are a deep brown and the mushrooms have given up all their water. Add the remaining 1/4 cup cream, and stir for a minute, scraping any brown bits up off the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente, according to package instructions. While it’s cooking, mix the topping ingredients together in a bowl until moist. (I find fingertips work best.)

Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and stir in the onion/mushroom mixture, along with the sauce, the goat cheese (crumbled), the peas, and the reserved chopped chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer the mixture to a 9” x 13” pan (or two 8” x 8” pans). Top with the breadcrumbs, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling bubbles and the topping is lightly browned.

Let cool until the bubbling stops, then serve warm.

Creamy Chicken Casserole pan

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Filed under chicken, leftovers, Pasta, recipe

A way with leftovers

thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving really was was all that: Four women, more or less, buzzing around in the same in same six square feet in an otherwise very large kitchen, like bees in a blender with the top wide open. We chopped and spooned and buttered and mixed, smelled and tasted and barked and laughed. In a fit of last-minute organization, my mother taped all our recipes to an easel, which was genius, because it prevented people from actually entering the kitchen to find out what we were making, or how much garlic we planned to sneak into the mashed potatoes, or whether we really did have all the ingredients for sweet potato pie. We limited our six trips to the grocery store to before noon on Thursday, which seemed like a major accomplishment, and round about 4 p.m., the turkey came out brown and beaming.

the thanksgiving board

My brother didn’t help much, unless you count plying people with scotch and herding them out of the kitchen, which, come to think of it, is about as important a job as any. (Thank you.) He also lead the pie attack. Twelve of us polished off three pies in not much more than 24 hours, which makes me proud to be a Howe.

pie line-up

But he saved his culinary efforts for leftovers.

Josh doesn’t cook by the book. (He couldn’t. He doesn’t own a single cookbook.)

There’s no problem there – his food is delicious, and he clearly loves making it. And instead of teaching himself to cook in a methodically guided way – picking, say, one ethnicity to learn about, or one dish to perfect – he scampers from country to country, digging into favorites without any regard for how much knowledge he might have previously gathered about a given cuisine.

I think it’s admirable. No one should need a passport or a pedigree to cook new food.

The day after Thanksgiving, he and my sister woke up with a mission: They were determined to make congee with our turkey leftovers.

I, for one, had never had congee. Ever. I get to a dim sum restaurant, and the call of fried or strangely wiggly food far outstrips any curiosity about plain ol’ rice porridge. But Josh is apparently a new devotee, and my sis, who’s started weekly pilgrimages to discover all of Seattle’s dim sum, isn’t far behind.

It was 9:30 last Friday morning, and we’d already had breakfast. (Not that that matters to me these days. I can eat three or four breakfasts without blinking.) I left for a walk with my cousin and grandmother, and by the time we came back, the house smelled like he’d put a turkey in a rice cooker – all the starchy heaviness of a permeating rice aroma, plus the deep, almost fatty scent of dark meat turkey, and a whiff of ginger.

I won’t lie. I didn’t do a thing. I just walked right over to the pot, and scooped some into one of the bowls my sister made recently. It tasted calm and comforting, like a bowl of slow-cooked oatmeal with Thanksgiving stirred in.

For the record, I hear this is much more fun to make if you call them shit-talking mushrooms.

turkey congee 2

Post-Thanksgiving Congee (PDF)

It’s a week after Thanksgiving, and the only thing you have left to show for it is half a container of dried out dark meat and the turkey stock you don’t really want to save ‘til next November? Don’t throw either out. My brother’s congee, patterned after the rice porridge frequently eaten as breakfast in some Asian cultures, is a bit unorthodox – but delicious, and ideal for weekend brunch on a cold day.

TIME: 2 hours, start to finish
MAKES: 8 servings

1 1/2 cups long grain rice
8 cups homemade turkey stock
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 bunch scallions, white and stiff green parts
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into quarter-sized rounds
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, quartered
2 cups shredded leftover turkey (preferably dark meat)

Place the rice in a large liquid measuring cup and add water to measure 5 cups. Transfer the rice mixture to a large, heavy soup pot, add the stock and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Cut 3 of the scallions into 2” lengths and smash them flat with the side of a heavy knife. Add them to the rice, too. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger and garlic, plus a cup of water, and cook another 30 minutes. Add the shiitake mushrooms, and another cup of water, and cook 30 minutes more.

Slice the remaining scallions into thin rounds. Stir the turkey into the congee and cook for 5 minutes or so (just long enough to warm it through). Serve the porridge hot, garnished with scallions.

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Filed under Breakfast, chicken, chinese, grains, kitchen adventure, leftovers, recipe, soup