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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Chicken, Broccoli, And Rice Casserole

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What a great weeknight meal!  Casseroles are a magical thing. Everything baking together in one dish. Hot and bubbly, with a golden brown cheesy top. What’s not to love about that?  My cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole will set you on the path to “Comfort Town”.

Not as traditional as most of the chicken, broccoli, and rice casseroles you may have encountered, I like adding mushrooms and a combination of a yellow and English white cheddar to this dish.

Why an English white cheddar you’re wondering? I’ve compared all kinds of white cheddar cheeses in the past, English white cheddar is the best.

I’m fortifying the flavor of my poached chicken for this dish. All that means is that the poaching liquid I’m using is an unsalted chicken broth to enhance the chicken flavor.

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Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Yields: 6-8 servings
Equipment:  9 x 11 x 2 baking dish

Ingredients:
1 quart of unsalted chicken broth (poaching liquid)
4 boneless- skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon of good olive oil
1 cup diced onions
1 pint of cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon of a Fresno chili (approx. 1/2 a Fresno chili, seeded and minced)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups of cooked white rice (Success, boil-n-bag rice, 2 packets, now available in brown rice)
2 1/2 cups of thawed frozen broccoli florets, roughly chopped
3 cups of cooked diced chicken (4 boneless skinless chicken breasts)

Cheese Sauce:
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the topping
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup (8-ounces) Philadelphia Whipped original cream cheese, room temperature (or substitute 1 cup sour cream)
2 1/2 cups of whole milk, heated
1 3/4 cups of grated English white cheddar
1/4 cup of grated yellow cheddar
2/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, plus 4 tablespoons

Directions:
Spray a 9 x 11 x 2 baking dish with cooking spray.

Note: Make sure the frozen broccoli florets are completely thawed. Transfer the broccoli florets to a large plate lined with a paper towel and pat dry as much as possible. Transfer the florets to a cutting board and give them a rough chop. Place into a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepot, over medium heat, add 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (in a single layer), dried thyme, Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Pour 1 quart of unsalted chicken broth, enough to cover the chicken. Once the liquid comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover. This process should take anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken is poaching, start with the boil-in-a-bag rice. Follow the instructions on the box. Once the rice and water are brought to a boil, boil for 8-10 minutes, remove the rice from the bag and transfer to a large bowl, set aside.

The chicken should be opaque in color and have an internal temperature of 165-degrees. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and transfer to a plate. Next, dice the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Transfer the diced chicken to a bowl and set aside.

Next, in a large sautè pan on medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the diced onions, cook 3-4 minutes, until soft and translucent. To the onions add the sliced mushrooms, minced Fresno chili, and dried thyme, cook for another 4-6 minutes. Continue sautèeing until all the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are nice and brown. This is the time to add the Kosher salt to the pan, stir through. Finally, add the broccoli florets and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Transfer the broccoli, mushroom, and onion mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add to that the cooked rice and diced (cooked) chicken. Toss all the ingredients together and set aside for the time being.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

Directions For Cheese Sauce:
In a 3-quart saucepan,  over medium heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter. Add 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt and whisk. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the mixture turns blonde in color. Start by slowly whisking the hot milk in about 3 tablespoons at a time, until smooth and combined. Continue by slowly adding the remaining hot milk and whisking until the sauce thickens.

Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to low, switch to a wooden spoon and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

First, add the cream cheese, stir until smooth and combined. Next, add the grated Parmesan, white, and yellow cheddar, again stir to combine. Transfer the cheese sauce to the large bowl containing the chicken and vegetables, mix to combine.

Pour into a 9 x 11 x 2 greased baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle 4 tablespoon of the grated Parmesan cheese over the top. Dice 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into tiny cubes. Take the tiny cubes of butter and *DOT the top of the casserole.

Bake for 25 minutes or until completely heated through. Turn broiler to the ON position and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

*DOT: a food process involving the placement of small bits (butter) and/or pieces of food to evenly distribute particles over the top that are to be melted or absorbed.

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Slow Cooker Pot Roast

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I have to believe that one of the most beloved dishes ever made is Pot Roast. I’ve never come across anyone who didn’t adore this one-pot meal until now. That’s right until now! Steve doesn’t like stews of any kind. I thought… how can I turn him around? This is one challenge I’m up for!

This is my Slow Cooker Pot Roast.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 50 minutes
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Equipment: 12-inch cast-iron skillet,  7-quart Crockpot, chef’s knife

Ingredients:
3-pound chuck roast, room temperature
2 tablespoons of Canola oil
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper

2 onions, quartered
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 quarts plus 1/2 a cup of beef stock, unsalted (reserve 1/2 cup for *slurry)
1 pound of organic colored carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
5 medium-size Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
2 pints of whole Cremini mushrooms, cleaned
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
3 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch

Directions:
I needed to start with a pan that could take this 3-pound piece of chuck roast over the top. Yes, an affordable yet so forgiving piece of chuck roast. I compare this piece of meat to the Boston pork butt of the beef family. Lots of marbling and fat running through it. Cooking low and slow, this fat will melt and add so much flavor to the finished chuck roast.

Sart by allowing the meat to sit out on the counter until it reaches room temperature, about 30 minutes. Next, season the chuck roast, on both sides, with 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper. Pour 2 tablespoons of Canola oil onto a sheet of paper towel. Wipe the bottom of the skillet down using the oiled paper towel.

Preheat the skillet over medium-high heat. Just as it starts to smoke, lay the meat right into the skillet No matter what, don’t fuss with it. The meat will let you know when it’s ready to flip. How can you tell? Take your tongs, and try to lift up the roast. If it gives you no resistance, then it’s ready to flip, 3 to 5 minutes. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes on the other side. Once both sides are beautifully caramelized, transfer the roast to a plate. Set aside.

Note: While the meat is searing, quarter the onions and roughly chop the garlic.

To the Crockpot add the quartered onions, sliced garlic, and tomato paste. Next, place the roast nestling it right on top with two sprigs of fresh rosemary. Add enough beef stock to the Crockpot where it comes 3/4 of the way up the sides of the roast. Place the lid on, and set the timer for 4 hours on high.

Note: The liquid may vary depending on the size of the slow cooker. You want the liquid to come up 3/4 of the way up the sides of the roast.

Three and a half hours in, remove the roast, transfer it to a cutting board. Add the carrots, cremini mushroom, potatoes, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper.

What I like to do at this point is… the meat is starting to become somewhat tender. It’s easy enough at this point to remove any connective fatty pieces. Trim those all off and cut the meat into large chunks. Place the meat back in over the veggies and continue cooking for another 2 hours.

During this part of the cooking process, the veggies will release their water and the meat will submerge back into the juices.

After six hours the slow the Crockpot is at a slow boil and it’s time to make the *slurry.  In a small bowl add 1/2 cup of beef broth with cornstarch, whisk until paste-like and combined.

Add the *slurry to the Crockpot, give a gentle stir to combine. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Set the Crockpot on warm until your ready to serve.

To serve, I like to add the potatoes and vegetables to the bottom of the bowl. Place the meat on top and ladle that delicious sauce over everything. This dish does not require a knife. The meat is so tender that it will break apart using only a fork. After Steve took his first bite, he said, “This is the best Pot Roast I’ve ever had!”

*Slurry: A thin paste of water and starch (flour, cornstarch or arrowroot), which is added to hot preparations (such as soups, stews, and sauces) as a thickener. After the slurry has been added, the mixture is typically stirred and cooked for a few minutes in order to thicken and lose any raw taste.

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Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata

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Strata just mean a layered casserole. They can be sweet or savory. I guess you could say it’s almost like a type of bread pudding. Anytime I’m looking for a recipe that will feed at least six people my Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom And Asparagus Strata is perfect. Not to mention, it’s comfort food in every sense of the word. Let’s start from the beginning…

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Anytime I made Homemade Ciabatta Croutons I always make extra. Once they’ve cooled, I store them in an air-tight baggie and then I know I have them whenever I need them for soups and salads.

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Homemade Croutons

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Prep Time: 30 to 40 minutes (time includes the cooking of all the ingredients going into the Strata)
Cook Time: 45 to 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 12-inch sauté pan, 9 x 13 baking dish, 2 rimmed baking sheet pans,  1 medium-size mixing bowl, 1 large mixing bowl, chef’s knife, non-stick cooking spray.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 cup for the top
1 Fresno chili, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, finely chpped
1 pint of button mushrooms sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 (5-ounce) package of fresh spinach leaves
1 (8-ounce) package of frozen asparagus spears, thawed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 loaf of Ciabatta bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (approx. 6 to 8 cups)
12 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup of half-and-half, room temperature
4 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (2 tablespoons for the top)
4 ounces grated Fontina cheese (2 tablespoons for the top)
1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated (reserve 1/4 cup for the top)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.
Spray casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Cut the Ciabatta into 2-inch cubes, spreading them out onto 2 rimmed baking sheet pans. Divided evenly, drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of Kosher salt, and 1 1/2 teapoons of fresh ground black pepper. Using your hands, toss each pan of bread cubes until coated. Bake for 15 minutes or until dry. Set aside and cool for 10 minutes

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Next, add the minced Fresno chili and garlic, cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Next, add the sliced mushrooms, agian stirring frequently, cook until they’ve released their water and brown, around 5 minutes. Season with Kosher salt and pepper to taste.

To the pan, add the sweet Italian sausage. Using a wooden spoon, break the sausage up with a wooden spoon. Add the rosemary, fennel seeds, dried oregano, dried thyme, Kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Cook until all the sausage is brown and no longer pink, around 10 minutes.

Next, add the fresh spinach leaves. I like spinach to retain its beautiful green color, so I immediately remove the pan from the heat and continue tossing until all the spinach has completely wilted down. Next, add the asparagus, stir to combine.  Set the filling aside.

Remember this dish still has to go into the oven.

Adjust oven temperature to 350-degrees F.
Start the custard by adding to the medium-size mixing bowl the eggs, milk, grated cheeses, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, whisk until combined.

In another large mixing bowl add the sausage mixture and cooled bread cubes. Gently toss to combine. Pour the custard over the sausage and bread cubes.

Gently fold the ingredients with the custard. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes giving the bread cubes a chance to absorb, most if not all, the custard. This will make it easier for the strata to come out later.

After the 10 minutes, pour the mixture into the greased baking dish and sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top. Drizzle (1/4 cup) olive oil all over the top to ensure the bread browns evenly.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until you can see no more liquid coming up on the sides or up through the center. Once a wooden skewer comes out clean, the dish is done. The Strata should be nice and golden brown on the top.

Allow the Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata to rest for 20 minutes before cutting.

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

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