Comfort food

Over at Maggie's Farm, they're featuring a series of old favorites like chicken pot pie. Today's topic is chicken tetrazzini, which inspired me to write about the difference between the turkey tetrazzini I once whipped up using an undistinguished recipe off of the net, and the immensely superior one my husband made up shortly thereafter. It was like a demonstration from a cooking school: how a real cook makes even ordinary dishes something special. His didn't even take longer to make. It left mine in the dust.

This recipe is pretty close to what he did. It starts with a light roux, which is just flour stirred into butter in the saucepan until it thoroughly dissolves. You add equal parts cream, stock, and white wine and cook them down a bit. In the meantime, cook your noodles and hold them to one side. Also, start sauteeing the vegetables, whatever's handy, but a good mixture is celery, onions, carrots, garlic, and mushrooms. Add some salt and pepper as well as some herbs; he used thyme and sage. Grate up some parmesan and get your bread crumbs handy. Then all you have to do is mix up the diced turkey or chicken with the veggies, sauce, 1/3 of the bread crumbs and cheese, and the noodles. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish, then top it with the rest of the bread crumbs and cheese and bake it until golden brown and delicious.

This is a forgiving dish, but it will be better if only read food goes into it. That means actual butter, actual parmesan, stock you made yourself, crumbs made from actual bread, and dry wine you wouldn't object to drinking on its own. On the other hand, most of these ingredients are leftovers. We make stock whenever the pile of chicken carcasses and leftover chicken bones, innards, and necks gets too big in the freezer, and stock freezes just fine in conveniently-sized containers until you're ready to use it. While it takes several hours, it's not like you have to be doing anything to it while you wait. It would be a fine thing to leave bubbling away in a crockpot while you're away or busy. It's nice to add vegetables or herbs to the stock while it's cooking, but you'll get a fine stock even if you dump in nothing but the chicken parts. When the chicken is cooked to pieces, strain it and reserve the liquid. Our dogs love to eat the mush that I pull off the bones. With the chicken bits in the dogs and the stock in the freezer, all that's left of many chicken carcasses is a tiny pile of bones.

As for the wine, it's a great way to use up any wine that's sat out overnight; this year we used the tag-end of a bottle of Champagne that sat out in the back yard overnight after New Year's Eve losing its fizz. It goes without saying that the bits of fowl are leftovers, and the veggies can be anything you have handy: peas or whatever. For bread crumbs, we keep a bag of heels from loaves of bread in the freezer and periodically pulverize them.

When this "leftover" dish is finished, you'll wish you had more.


Grim said...

All right, you talked me into it. I'll give that a try.

DL Sly said...

"...we keep a bag of heels from loaves of bread in the freezer and periodically pulverize them."

Noooooooooooo!!! Poor bread heels will never know the joy of being toasted to a deep brown and then smothered with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Or the soothing warmth of hot creamed beef poured being poured over them.
You, you.....breadist.

Why, yes, I do like the heels. Why do you ask?

As to the recipe, it sounds great!