Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baked Stuffed Chicken

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The birth of this dish came about when we were trying to put together bacon, butter, cheese and chicken into one dish. A quick search on the internet came up with a stuffed chicken recipe that was both simple as well as tasty. However, given my penchant for making any recipe a bit more personal, I tweaked the recipe once again until I came up with a winning formula. By then, the butter and cheese bits were no longer included in the recipe. This was a big hit during my Christmas lunch celebration with family and friends and for the literary folks, it has a bit of 50 shades thrown in for good measure. I should really call this dish 50 Shades of Poultry but then again, I better not.

A few things to keep in mind if you plan to try this dish are: one, learn how to partially debone a chicken. By partial, I meant leaving the drumstick intact. It saves you time when baking it and two, you need to learn how to sew and tie up a chicken. No worries however, as both can be easily learned and once perfected, it will only take about 15 minutes to debone a chicken and stuff it with any filling that suits your fancy.

Baked Stuffed Chicken

2 2-lb whole chicken, deboned
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
8 strips of bacon, diced
salt and pepper

1. In a skillet over medium high heat, brown the bacon. Once browned,
    remove to a plate and set aside. 

2. In the same skillet, saute the onions and garlic in the bacon drippings. 
    Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened. Let cool. 

3. Prepare the filling by adding the cooked rice, crisped bacon, parsley and 
    bread crumbs with the sauteed onions and garlic. Mix well. 

4. Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff with half the
    filling and secure both ends of the chicken with a twine. Further secure
    the chicken with more twine to retain the shape of a whole chicken. Do 
    the same for the second bird.

5. Set both birds in a baking pan cut side down and season with more salt 
    and pepper. Drizzle enough olive oil to baste the chicken. Sprinkle the 
    Herbes de Provence and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 
    an hour or until the skin is golden brown.

6. Let rest for about 5 minutes before carving. 

Baked Macaroni

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Baked Macaroni, is the quintessential favorite of almost every kid in America, my nephew and nieces included. They love the boxed variety from Kraft and even though I always try to prepare them food made from scratch, they never seem to appreciate the reasons why I do it. Anyway, this dish is not for my nephew and nieces who are miles away across the globe in Illinois. This adult version of baked macaroni is for our batch Christmas party this year. It was assigned to a friend but she thought I will do a much better job at it so she relegated the cooking to me.

Truth be told, it has been some time since I made this dish and well, baked macaroni is cooked differently here in the Philippines. The sauce that they use is almost always tomato based and is flavored with either ground beef, hotdogs or sausages. Thus, I am torn between the traditional American baked macaroni dish I have come to love and the one that is commonly served here during special occasions. I ended up combining both recipes sans the meat to satisfy both my desire to stay true to the dish and to have it look a bit familiar to my Filipino friends.

Baked Macaroni

Marinara Sauce:

4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 30-oz canned whole tomatoes
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
salt and pepper

Cheese Sauce:
1/2 cup salted butter
8 tbsp flour
6 cups milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 cup shredded Monterrey Jack
salt and pepper

1 1/2 lb macaroni, cooked as per packet instructions
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
Herbes de Provence

1. To prepare the marinara sauce, heat the olive oil in a pot over medium 
    heat. Add the garlic and saute until slightly browned. Add the chili flakes 
    and saute for a minute. 

2. Crush the whole tomatoes with your hands and pour into the pot. Rinse the
    can with about a cup of water and add to the sauce. Season with salt and 
    pepper and the dried oregano. 

3. Bring the pot to a boil and lower the heat to low and simmer covered for 
    about 30 minutes.  Check for flavor and set aside. 

4. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the flour and 
    mix until a smooth paste is obtained. 

5. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking the roux (butter and flour mixture). 
    Continue to whisk until all the milk has been incorporated. This will prevent
    lumps from forming. 

6. Season with the nutmeg and continue to cook the sauce for about 5-10 
    minutes. Add more milk if it gets too thick. 

7. Add the cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese and stir until fully incorporated
    into the sauce. Check for flavor and correct with salt and pepper. 

To assemble, mix the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce and combine until the pasta is evenly coated. Spoon about 2 cups of the marinara sauce into a 9x13 baking dish and top with the macaroni. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs and dust with a little bit of the Herbes the Provence. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before serving. 

Chicken ala Providence

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This is a favorite chicken dish of ours when we were living in Florida as graduate students. It was my friend Celeste who actually loved cooking this dish. My part was always relegated to the desserts. The recipe is taken from the Women's Day cook book that we bought for 25c in a book sale. I have known of this dish but never prepared it myself and it was a surprise how much work it took to complete the dish.The dish is prepared in three steps but I decided to extend the last step and baked it a little bit longer to bring the flavors together. 

The dish uses chicken pieces that gets poached, then deboned and then browned in butter. I decided to use chicken thighs to maximize the flavor and that it tends to retain it's shape during the cooking process. The lemony sauce pulls the whole dish together and I prepared it a bit differently so it looks less yellow and more like brown gravy. Definitely a meal for Sunday lunch, it is best served with rice pilaf or a good piece of crusty bread. 

Chicken ala Providence - Adapted*

2-3 lbs chicken thighs
2 bay leaves
1 stalk of parsley + extra for garnish
4 medium-sized carrot, cubed
2 medium onions, quartered
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
4 tbsp olive oil
6-8 cups chicken broth
1 cup flour + 2 tbsp flour
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp unsalted butter
8 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch strips and fried
2 tbsp chopped parsley

1. Poach the chicken pieces in a small pot at medium heat with enough broth
    to cover them. Add the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook 
    until the chicken is tender but not falling off the bones. Remove the 
    chicken pieces and save 2 cups of the broth. 

2. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and the bones.
    Dredge with flour and brown in a skillet over medium low heat in 4 tbsp 
    butter in batches. Add olive oil if more is needed to brown the meat. 

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Saute the onion and carrots in the pan 
    drippings and cook until slightly browned on the edges. Season with salt 
    and pepper and the Herbes de Provence. Remove from the heat and set 

4. In the same skillet, melt the remaining unsalted butter over medium heat 
    and add the 2 tablespoons of flour. Add the reserved broth and continue 
    stirring until thick and smooth. Add the lemon juice. Turn off the heat and
    whisk in the two egg yolks quickly to prevent them from being scrambled. 
    Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. In a 9x13 baking dish, arrange the browned chicken pieces and scatter the 
    onions and carrots all around. Pour the lemon sauce over and bake for 
    about 20 minutes. 

6. To serve, garnish with the crispy bacon and the chopped parsley. 

* Eileen Tighe: Editor, Woman's Day Encyclopedia Volume 3, Fawcett Publications Inc., New York: 1966.