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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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

Baked White Cheddar Mac & Cheese With Smoked Sausage

White Cheddar Mac & Cheese With Smoked Sausage (1)

White Cheddar Mac & Cheese With Smoked Sausage (2)

My friend Kim went on home for a week to visit her parents. I knew she’d be celebrating her birthday while she was gone so I thought I’d have something special waiting for her when she returned home. You know after traveling you’re always tired once you get home, no one really wants to cook. I thought, how about a Baked White Cheddar Mac & Cheese With Smoked Sausage waiting for her at home. All she’d have to do is to follow the reheating instructions that I attached to the pan. Happy Birthday, Kim!

You know, it’s just as easy to make two pans of Mac and Cheese as it is to make one. One for her family and one for ours. This recipe will yield two 9 x 9 pans of Baked White Cheddar Mac & Cheese With Smoked Sausage.

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Roux (2)

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White Cheddar Mac & Cheese With Smoked Sausage (3)

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White Cheddar Mac & Cheese With Smoked Sausage (1)

 

 

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Yields: 2 pans, 6 to 8 serving per pan
Equipment: 2 rimmed baking sheet pans, 2 6-quart stock pots, 12-inch sauté pan, 1 4-quart saucepan, 2 disposable deep-sided 9 x 9 casserole pans.

Note: Ingredients below are doubled to yield 2-9 x 9 disposable pans

Ingredients:
2 16-ounce boxes Barilla Cellentani, corkscrew-shaped pasta (or elbow macaroni)
3 sticks unsalted butter, reserve 1 stick for topping, plus butter for greasing pans
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts milk
6 cups of diced smoked sausage sliced and quartered, 3 cups for each pan
2 8-ounce packages, extra-sharp white cheddar, shredded
6-ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups of Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup dried parsley flakes

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
Butter each of the 9 x 9 disposable pans

Into each one of the two (6-quart stockpot) pots of boiling salted water, add 1 box of Barilla Cellentani. Cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well into separate colanders.

In the meantime, heat the milk in a 4-quart saucepan, just under the boiling point. In another (6-quart) stockpot melt 2 sticks of butter, add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, continuously whisking. While whisking, slowly add in the hot milk, then 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg. Switch to a wooden spoon, continue to stir until sauce thickens. Do not rush this process, cooking times may vary, anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes. Once the sauce coats the back of a spoon remove the pot from the heat. Add all the white cheddar and 3-ounces of grated Parmesan. Stir to combine.

Divide the bechamel sauce, equally into each of the (6-quart) stockpots. Divide equally the diced smoked sausage into each pot. Add one colander of the cooked, well-drained pasta into each pot. Stir to combine then transfer to the buttered disposable pans.

Breadcrumb Topping:
Melt the remaining 1 stick of butter into a large sauté pan, on low heat, add the Panko crumbs, stir until all the butter is absorbed.  Off the heat, add the remaining grated Parmesan cheese, and dried parsley flakes. Stir to combine. Divide evenly, then sprinkle the bread crumbs on evenly on top of each of the pans. Place each of the disposable pans onto a rimmed baking sheet pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and macaroni and topping are a beautiful golden brown.

Tip For Freezing:
Make sure the pan of Baked White Cheddar Mac & Cheese With Smoked Sausage is at room temperature before freezing.

If you plan to freeze one of the pans, DO NOT ADD the breadcrumb topping until you’re ready to bake. Cover the pan tightly with foil then wrap the whole pan again in plastic wrap. Freeze up to 2 months.

When you’re ready to bake, remove the foil and plastic wrap. Add the breadcrumb topping. Spray the dull side of a piece of foil with non-stick cooking spray. This will prevent the topping from sticking to the foil.  Cover the dish tightly with the sprayed foil and bake frozen for 1 hour at 350-degrees F. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown around 5 to 7 minutes, times may vary slightly.

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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 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 sauce pot, on 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 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 together.

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 3-5 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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Maple Bourbon Brined Turkey

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This is my traditional turkey recipe and the one my family insists on year after year. My Maple Bourbon Brined Turkey. Echoing those flavors, I finish, with a Maple Bourbon Gravy.

The brining process starts 24 hours before the bird goes into the oven. There are three parts, all of which are necessary, to have the most flavorful, juicy, and tender turkey you’ll ever have. It’s really all in the planning.

Before starting the whole brine process, the turkey must be completely thawed. My recipe is listed in 3 parts. Part 1 is the brine. Part 2 is the prep of the turkey for the oven. Part 3 is cooking the turkey and making the gravy.

 

Part 1. The Brine
Prep Time: 40 to 45 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 24 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time: 7 to 10 minutes
Equipment: 1 8-quart plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, 1 large stockpot

Ingredients:
12-pound turkey
2 quarts water
2 orange peels
1 lemon peel
3 cloves of smashed garlic
1/4 cup of Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of bourbon
1 1/2  12-ounce bottles of pure maple syrup
15 sprigs of thyme  (no need to strip leaves)
1 large sprig of Rosemary ( no need to strip leaves)
5 bay leaves (dried)
2 tablespoons of tricolor peppercorns
1 1/2 cups of organic apple juice
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

Directions:
Prep all the ingredients for the brine including measuring out the water. Place all the ingredients listed above in a large stockpot. Turn stove on medium-high heat and bring everything up to a boil, 7 to 10 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat source. Let the brine cool down, then place it into the frig, uncovered to chill, for around 30 to 35 minutes or until completely cool.

Remove turkey from its packaging and remove the neck and innards from the cavities of the bird. The only part I keep is the neck to make turkey stock from. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Completely pat dry the turkey really well. Place the bird into the brine container and back into the frig until the brine liquid has cooled.

Once the brine is ready and completely cooled, take the turkey in the brine container out and pour the liquid over the bird. The bird should be completely submerged in the liquid. Place the lid on and refrigerate for 24 hours. A quick note: Take notice on what time you place the bird into the brine. This will give you an idea of when the bird will be going into the oven. Allow an extra 20 minutes for rinsing the brine off the bird and letting it soak in clean water for 15 minutes. This will remove any extra salt flavor still on the bird. Then once again you will need to dry the turkey completely before part 2.

 

Part 2. Prepping Turkey
Prep Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Total Time: approx. 2 hours 40 minutes
Total Time: approx. 3 hours
Equipment: Roasting pan with rack

Ingredients:
1 stick of softened unsalted butter
zest of an orange
zest of a lemon
2 cloves of grated garlic
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 onion, skin on and quartered
1 head of garlic cut in half lengthwise
10 sprigs of thyme
4 sprigs of rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock- generally 2 cups (enough to fill the bottom of the roasting pan with liquid, having the level of liquid about 1 inch high). 1 quart is used to make the turkey stock

Preheat oven to 450-degrees F.
Once the bird has come out of the brine and well dried, it’s time to make a *compound butter for the turkey. In a medium-size mixing bowl prepare the *compound butter. Add softened butter, the zest of both the lemon and orange, freshly grated garlic, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, mix to combine. Moving on, release the bird’s legs from their packaging position as you see in the pictures.

With my clean hands, lift up the skin on the breast area and slather as much of the butter underneath the skin as possible. Reaching as far around with breaking or tearing the skin. Next, I fill both cavities of the bird with flavorings.

Next, cut the same lemon and orange that have already been zested, in half, placing half of each one into each of the cavities. Same with the halved head of garlic, and the quartered onion in both cavities. Finally, divide the sprigs of herbs up and place them into both cavities.

Now I rub the compound butter underneath the skin, reaching as far as you can without breaking the skin. Next, rub the olive oil all over the outside of the bird. Then sprinkle the  Kosher salt and black pepper all over the turkey. Finally, add the 2 cups of broth to the bottom of the roasting pan.

Part 3. Cooking Turkey:
Reduce oven temperature to 350-degrees F.

Place the turkey on the center rack in the oven. Every 30 to 45 minutes remove the turkey from the oven. Close the oven door to keep the heat in, and baste the turkey, using the juices from the bottom of the pan. About halfway through the cooking process, take the temperature of the turkey using a meat thermometer. Place the thermometer between the thigh and the breast meat for the best reading. This allows you to see how fast the bird is cooking and to gauge the time better. If you see the top is browning to quickly, place a foil tent over the turkey for the time remaining. Keep in mind,  you still need to baste the turkey every 30 to 45 minutes. Once the turkey’s temperature reaches 165-degrees F. around 2 hours 40 minutes, take the bird out of the oven.

While the turkey is in the oven, this is what I’m doing on top of the stove.

 

Equipment: 5-quart saucepot, fat separator

Ingredients For Turkey Stock:
Turkey neck
1 quart plus 2 cups of unsalted chicken stock
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
3 sprigs of fresh thyme

Ingredients For Maple Gravy:
1 turkey neck
3 tablespoons of bourbon
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
12 sage leaves (reserve 4 leaves chopped for the finished gravy)
1 1/2 cups of homemade turkey stock
1 cup of unsalted chicken stock
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup of flour
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Part 3 Continues.
Directions For Turkey Stock:
In a large saucepot add the turkey neck and cover with 1 quart of unsalted chicken stock, Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and 3 sprigs of thyme. Turn the heat up to med-high heat, bring this up to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook, on medium-low heat, for 1 /1/2 hours.

Once finished, strain the liquid, using a mesh sieve, over a bowl to catch this delicious stock. Now I have a container of turkey stock along with a container with my leftover unsalted chicken stock (remember I only used 2 cups for the bottom of the roasting pan) to make my gravy.

At this point, remove the bird from the pan. I like to tilt the bird slightly over the roasting pan so that any juices that are in the cavities will fall to the bottom of the pan. Place the turkey on a large board and cover with foil until you’re ready to carve. Leave all the ingredients, in the cavities.

First, add 8 sage leaves while the juices are still really hot. Allow the sage to steep in the juices for a couple of minutes, then remove them. I use one of those gadgets that separate the fat from the juices that accumulated in the bottom of the roasting pan. I discard the fat and pour the juices into a bowl.

I return the empty roasting pan to the stove, over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup of the homemade turkey stock, I made earlier. Scraping the bits off the bottom (*deglazing) until they all release. I combined these juices with the pan juices in the bowl. Now my pan juices have no fat but the extra flavor from the bits that came off the bottom of the pan.

Start by making a *roux for the gravy.
Working with a clean roasting pan again, over medium heat. Add butter, let the butter melt before adding the flour. Whisking continuously until all the raw flour has cooked out. Next, add the pan juices (I reserved in the bowl) along with bourbon, maple syrup, chicken stock, and the turkey stock. I turn the heat back up to medium-high, still whisking, and let all those ingredients come up to a bubble and thicken. I also add in the reserved chopped sage leaves for color and flavor in the gravy.

This is my Maple Bourbon Brined Turkey With Maple Bourbon Gravy.

*Compound Butter is a mixture of butter and other supplementary ingredients, such as herbs, seasonings, acid or and other flavorful and aromatic ingredient. Used to enhance flavor.

*Deglazing is a cooking technique for removing and dissolving browned food residue from a pan to flavor sauces, soups, and gravies.

*Roux is a mixture of fat (especially butter) and flour using in making sauces.

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