Monday, October 29, 2012
No Soup for You!
These days we serve chicketti year round -- no need to wait for turkey to show up at Thanksgiving when the kids enjoy grilled chicken almost every weekend. But it's not the meal my husband remembers. To his horror, I don't buy canned cream of mushroom soup anymore. Between the BPA of the plastic can liners, the fact that soup cans are not recyclable in our area because they are a fused material (aluminum and plastic), and the unnecessarily extensive ingredient list*, I have determined that cream of mushroom soup is a product that doesn't deserve shelf space in my pantry any longer.
The product I offer these days is actually more upscale, just as tasty, just as delicious, and only two steps more complicated than my guy's childhood favorite.
My New Chicketti Recipe:
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2-3 tbls butter
2 tbls flour (optional)
2 tbls sherry (optional, but delicious)
1 tsp. thyme (optional, but delicious)
1 c. milk (to make this extra creamy and delicious, substitute up to half the milk with heavy cream)
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400F.
1/2 box pasta, cooked (I make the whole box and reserve some plain pasta for my sauce-phobic middle child)
However much pre-cooked chicken you might have on hand, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Saute the mushrooms in the butter with a little salt and pepper. When they are tender, sprinkle lightly with the flour and stir well until there are no lumps. (Proper chefs remove the mushrooms to make the bechamel, but I'm a home cook). Add the milk and sherry, if you're using it, and heat gently until the sauce has thickened. If you omit the flour from this step the sauce will be much thinner. I have seen roux recipes that call for whole wheat flour, but it's such a small amount I just go with all-purpose.
As you would do when preparing lasagna, put just enough sauce in the bottom of an 8x8 glass pan to lightly cover the bottom. Add 1/3 of the pasta, then toss 1/3 each of the chicken & cheddar cheese on top of the pasta. Repeat pasta, chicken and cheese layers for remaining ingredients, EXCEPT for the final cheese layer. Before laying down that last bit of cheese, pour the remaining mushroom sauce evenly over the entire dish, THEN lay the cheese down. Bake 20 minutes, and let cool 10 minutes or so, or until the dish is no longer nuclear hot.
NOTE That this is an excellent make ahead dish and freezes well. If you are only going to make ahead by a day or two, cover with foil rather than plastic wrap before refrigerating. Baking time is if you bake immediately after prepping the casserole.
If you prep and then freeze, defrost as completely as possible to protect the glass dish, and bake covered 40 minutes, then uncovered 15-20 minutes. If you oil the inside of the foil before baking, the cheese won't stick during the covered portion of the baking.
Variations include adding chopped broccoli or spinach, changing up the type of cheese (I would pay my family to let me make it with Swiss cheese, but so far I don't have any takers...), chopped bacon or high-quality ham, sun-dried tomatoes... basically, if it tastes good to you, odds are it will taste good in this casserole. If you're low on milk, I have made this dish with good homemade stock instead of milk, though it will be less creamy (or you can blend stock with half & half or heavy cream).
What other variations can you think of?
If this sounds like delicious comfort food in the middle of a busy week, please share with others!
*Ingredients in Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup:
CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP (Homogenized Milk, Water, Sliced Mushrooms, Roux W/ Oil (All Purpose Flour (Bleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Canola Oil), Water, Corn Starch (Derived From Waxy Maize), Roasted Mirapoix (Roasted Vegetables (Carrots, Onions, Celery, Garlic), Water, Dextrose, Salt, Onion Powder, Canola Oil, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Natural Flavors, Xanthan Gum, Disodium Inosinate/Disodium Guanylate, Potassium Sorbate, Soy Lecithin, Caramel Color, Ascorbic Acid, Smoke Flavor. ), Diced Onions, Canola Oil, Kosher Salt (Salt, Yellow Prussiate Of Soda.), Roasted Garlic Flavoring (Roasted Garlic, Water, Vegetables (Onions, Carrots, And Celery), Dextrose, Salt, Garlic Powder, Canola Oil, Onion Powder, Xanthan Gum, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Potassium Sorbate, Natural Flavoring, Corn Syrup, and Caramel Color. ), Vegetable Base (Sea Salt, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Dehydrated Vegetables (Parsnip, Carrots, Pumpkin), Dehydrated Parsley, Olive Oil, Spices (Pepper, Thyme, Coriander, Mace).), Ground White Pepper)