Thursday, April 29, 2010

Parmesan Chicken Spaghetti

Posted by Picasa

Here's a good recipe for when you need to bring a meal to someone - comfort food that almost everyone would like. And if you can't eat it right away, it can be frozen.

In the picture above, I used whole wheat pasta, but you can obviously use regular. A week later I made it for a neighbor and reduced the amount of chicken and added a thawed, drained 10-oz. package of frozen spinach, making it a whole meal. Just remember to drain the spinach thoroughly!

Parmesan Chicken Spaghetti

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup chicken broth
(note: you can sub one can cream of chicken soup for the previous three ingredients)
1/2 cup half-and-half or light cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup dry white wine, apple juice or white grape juice, or chicken broth
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard or 1 teaspoon French's mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups cooked chicken breasts, cubed (see here for an easy way to roast chicken)
8 ounces cooked spaghetti
2 teaspoons paprika
extra parmesan cheese
chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a saucepan and add flour, stirring constantly. (Or sub cream soup.)

When mixture thickens, add chicken broth, half and half, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, wine, garlic, lemon juice, dry mustard and salt and pepper.

Stir over medium heat until mixture again starts to thicken.

Add chicken and spaghetti noodles and stir well.

Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with paprika and extra Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°.
Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pollo al Mattone (Chicken under a Brick)

Pollo al Mattone has a lot of potential - the bricks on top of the chicken flatten it, which makes it cook faster, and force it to come in contact with the very hot pan, which makes it crispy. I tried chicken breasts under a brick a few weeks ago and they were a disaster. I don't think they were totally thawed, so parts of them were undercooked while others were burnt. But I didn't want to give up, so I tried Mark Bittman's recipe which starts on the stove and finishes in the oven. A cast iron frying pan is great for this meal. The chicken turned out juicy and crisp - incredibly flavorful. It cooks very quickly, too. However, if you are not excited about getting your hands all up in the chicken's business, and if it bothers you to cut through bone with kitchen shears, this is not the dish for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend it!

You'll need to start with a whole 3-4 lb. chicken that you butterfly (cut the backbone out). I've given instructions in the first step here. If you want to get really fancy, you can do what I did this time and spatchcock your chicken. Yeah, that's right. You'll cut out the backbone and the breastbone, and your chicken will lie very flat and be easy to carve.

Prep the chicken ahead of time so you can marinate it (the recipe below will go into detail). Take some bricks, or a heavy tile, or another cast iron pan to weigh down the chicken. Wrap your bricks in aluminum foil. Once the chicken is in the pan and the bricks are on top, it will look like this:


1 whole 3- to 4-pound chicken, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed, dried and split, backbone removed
1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon peeled and coarsely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, optional
1 lemon, cut into quarters

1. Place the chicken on a cutting board, skin side down, and using your hands, press down hard to make it as flat as possible. Mix together the rosemary leaves, salt, pepper, garlic and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and rub this all over the chicken. Tuck some of the mixture under the skin as well. If time permits, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for up to a day (even 20 minutes of marinating boosts the flavor).

2. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Preheat an ovenproof 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron; nonstick usually is safe to 450) over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Press rosemary sprigs, if using, into the skin side of the chicken. Put remaining olive oil in the pan and wait about 30 seconds for it to heat up.

3. Place the chicken in the skillet, skin side down, along with any remaining pieces of rosemary and garlic; weight it with another skillet or with one or two bricks or rocks, wrapped in aluminum foil. The idea is to flatten the chicken by applying weight evenly over its surface.

4. Cook over medium-high to high heat for 5 minutes, then transfer to the oven. Roast for 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and remove the weights; turn the chicken over (it will now be skin side up) and roast 10 minutes more, or until done (large chickens may take an additional 10 minutes or so; cook the breast to 160 or the legs to 165). Serve hot or at room temperature, with lemon wedges.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Posted by Picasa

This is really good granola! It's based on Alton Brown's recipe. I doubled it and was able to fill four of the plastic dishes above, with a little left over. Add some homemade vanilla yogurt, and you have a great gift for a teacher, new mom, or sick friend.


3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup pecans (Alton uses cashews)
3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.

In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour (on separate racks if necessary), stirring every 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

Friday, April 2, 2010

More Easter Cupcakes

I made two kinds of cupcakes for Ben's Easter party at school, since parents and siblings were invited. I got the idea for the candy carrots here. I've seen lots of Easter cupcakes with coconut nests. But I thought most children wouldn't like coconut, so I made haystacks into nests - I formed them in a mini-muffin pan and put the jelly beans inside before they hardened. The nests need to be refrigerated if you make them ahead of time.

I used Martha Stewart's Devil's Food Cupcakes recipe with buttercream. For the carrot cupcakes, I made this one, which was new to me. Both recipes were great!

Cupcake tips: fill cupcake liners to just about 1/4 inch below the rim before baking to develop a nice cupcake top. Use a decorating bag and tip to frost; your frosting will look better and you won't tear up delicate cupcakes.

Posted by Picasa