Thursday, October 5, 2017

Broccoli-Cheese-Chicken Pasta

(with vegetarian option)

Photo by@joe foodie via Flickr

Got leftover chicken and looking for a new way to use it up? Try this!

500 gr (16 oz) pasta such as penne, rotini, or farfalle

1 cup broccoli florets, cut small

1 to 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized bits (optional)

3 tbsp olive oil
(or half olive oil, half butter)
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
½ cup white wine
1 cup seasoned chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 to 2 cups shredded white cheese (jack, cheddar, Tussers, etc)
½ cup crumbled gorgonzola or other strongly-flavoured cheese  (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan to top

Set pasta to boil in heavily salted water. When it is done reserve one cup of pasta water, then drain in colander and once thoroughly drained, return to the pot. Add chicken pieces and toss.

Steam or microwave broccoli until just tender. Drain thoroughly, then add to drained pasta and toss.

Peel onion and cut in half through the root; slice each half thinly, creating half-rounds
Peel and mince garlic

While pasta cooks, heat oil in large heavy skillet. Add onions and sauté until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about another minute.

Add wine, reduce heat, cook until liquid is reduced by more than half. Add chicken/vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat and add cream and milk. Simmer, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken. Add cheese, a handful at a time, and stir in; add more handfuls as the cheese melts. Add the strongly-flavoured cheese, if desired, at the end and stir until melted.

Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over pasta and stir in. It sauce is too thick to coat pasta easily, add some of the reserved pasta water, a little at a time, to loosen up the sauce.

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan to top

Serve hot or cold (like a pasta salad).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Minestrone Soup

Fabulous for chilly nights and a frugal way to use up leftovers! Nothing beats a bowl of hot, flavourful soup served with a thick slice of buttered ciabatta. It is so easy to prepare and can be made with or without meat. Any vegetable soup can be turned into minestrone with just a few additions: tomato paste, kidney beans or black beans (canned), pasta (I use small shells) and basil—plenty of basil, fresh or dried. Here is how to make the soup shown in the picture:

Leftover chicken, deboned, skin off, chopped small
            (see below if you have a chicken carcass
              that needs the meat removed)
4 quarts/litres water
8 stalks of celery, cut small
1 onion roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed or pressed
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp thyme (dried)
½ tsp marjoram (dried)
1 tsp Italian seasonings (dried)
1 tsp sweet basil (dried) OR 8 large basil leaves, chiffonade
2 bay leaves

1 cup white wine (red wine for beef or lamb) (optional)
250 g (8 oz) small pasta shells
½ cup carrots, cut small
½ cup baby peas
1 can (400 gr) red kidney beans or black beans
1 can (400 gr) crushed tomatoes
3 to 6 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt to taste

A.   If the chicken is already off the bone, chop it into pieces ½ inch (1.25 cm) or smaller.
1.      Heat oil and sauté onion, garlic, celery, herbs and chicken pieces until onion is translucent
2.      Add water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour.

B.   If the chicken is not off the bone:
1.      Heat oil and sauté onion, garlic, celery and herbs until onion is translucent
2.      Add chicken and water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken comes off the bone easily. Remove chicken from pot, keep pot simmering.
3.      Cool chicken until you can easily remove meat from bones. Remove meat and chop into pieces ½ inch (1.25 cm) or smaller.
4.      Return meat to the pot

C.   Add wine to the pot and top up with water as needed to have 4 quarts of liquid in the pot. Bring the pot to a full rolling boil and add pasta. Cook until done (see package directions for time needed)

When pasta is done, reduce heat to simmer and add remaining ingredients. Cook until carrots can be easily pierced with a fork.

Vegetarian/Vegan: Follow directions, just omit meat.
Red meat: If using leftover beef or lamb, cut into small pieces removing fat, cartilage and membranes. Follow directions for leftover chicken.

                   If using uncooked lamb or beef, cut into small pieces, removing fat, cartilage and membranes. Heat oil and sauté onion, garlic, celery, herbs and meat until onion is translucent and meat is browned on all sides. Add water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Then follow directions “C.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Roast Turkey

Just in time for the holidays…how to prepare the classic Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey.

If you purchase a pre-prepared turkey (pre-basted with a pop-up doneness thingy) you will find little of value in this. But if you have decided to go with a less expensive, less high-tech bird, here is how we used to prepare our holiday turkeys in the “olden days” of the Fifties and Sixties and before…

Large roasting pan (a 13in x9in x3in cake pan will do, provided your turkey will fit in it)
Heavy duty foil (or lid for roasting pan that will fit over turkey)
Meat thermometer (optional)
Trussing instruments (small, thin skewers and kitchen string)
Turkey baster, basting brush, and/or small ladle
Rack for bottom of the toasting pan (or make a stand of foil)
Turkey lifter
Oven mitts or hot pads
Pair of trivets, same height (optional)
Pliers (to remove skewers)
Close-fitting latex gloves (optional)

Cooking spray
Cleaned, plucked and singed turkey with head and feet removed
One recipe of Poultry Stuffing (optional)
½ cup melted butter
¼ lb (1 stick) of butter, sliced into squares ⅛ inch thick (25mm x 25mm x 3mm thick) (optional)

Prepare the turkey
1.    Remove centre oven rack and move remaining rack to the bottom-most position
       —Preheat oven to 325F (160C)
2.    Spray the inside of the roasting pan well with cooking spray and set aside
3.    Remove turkey from its packaging
       —Remove neck and packet of giblets from the cavity
       —Wash turkey inside and out with cold running water, pat dry, and put in prep space, breast-side up.
       —Put gloves on (optional)
       —(Optional step) Starting at the opening of the cavity, gently lift the skin away from the meat of the turkey, sliding your free hand under the skin up towards the breast and wings. Loosen as much of the skin as possible on both sides of the bird’s breast side, being careful not to tear the skin     
—(Optional step) Place the slices of butter between the skin and breast meat of the turkey and smooth the skin into its place over them. This will ensure the breast meat is tender and juicy
Skip to Step 7 if you are not stuffing the turkey
4.    Stuff turkey neck cavity
       —Turn bird onto the breast (a couple of wadded up kitchen towels on either side of the bird will help stabilize it)
       —Unfold the flap of neck skin and spread it out
       —Using your hand, scoop up some of the prepared stuffing and compact it slightly in your hand, then press the dressing into the V-shaped opening where the breasts meet.
       —Continue adding handfuls of stuffing until the skin has to be stretched to cover and contain it all
       —Stretch the skin to cover the stuffing and secure it to the bird’s upper back by pinning it with a small skewer or toothpicks.
5.    Stuff the turkey body
       —Turn the bird onto its back again
       —Using the same technique, scoop dressing from the bowl and put it into the main cavity, packing slightly as you go along
       —When the dressing is bulging out of the cavity, it is time to truss the bird
6.    Truss the bird     
—Tuck the tail up towards the stuffing
       —Insert skewers into the skin on either side of the cavity opening. Use at least 6 skewers for a 18lb (8 kg) or larger bird.
       —Using the kitchen string, run it across the skewers in an X pattern as shown in photo, pull snug, and tie in a bow (for easy removal)
       —Using skewers, pin the turkey wings to the body of the bird so they don’t come loose and burn during cooking
7.    Prepare the pan for roasting
       —Place the roasting rack in the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a roasting rack, tear off a long length of heavy duty foil, roll it in a tight tube, lengthwise, then compact with your hand until you have a “rope” of foil. Shape this “rope” into an oval-shaped coil in the bottom of the pan
       —Put the turkey lifter in the pan. If your bird came with a turkey lifter, it will look like four pieces of string with a button connecting them. If your bird did not come with a turkey lifter, make your own by cutting two lengths of kitchen string about 18 inches (46 cms) each; hold them together and make a knot halfway down the length of the pair of strings. Now, spread the turkey lifter over the roasting rack, the button/knot in the centre, the four strings hanging over the sides of the pan in an X configuration
8.    Get the turkey in the pan
       —Lift the turkey and place it in the pan, breast side up, making sure the turkey lifter strings are all out where you can grab them
       —Brush or ladle melted butter all over the skin (this will help it brown)
       —If you are using thermometer, place it in the thickest part of the thigh, being careful not to touch bone or the side of the pan
       —Tear off a large sheet of foil and spray one side well with cooking spray so the foil won’t stick to the turkey. Tent it loosely over the top of the turkey, making sure not to touch the thermometer
       —Place the turkey in the centre of the oven and roast according to the time table below. Allow up to an hour additional (total) if you are above 5000 feet (1500 meters) in altitude. (2.2 lbs = 1 kg)

Stuffed Turkey                                               Unstuffed Turkey
6-8 lbs                  3-3.5 hours                           2.5 to 3 hours
8-12 lbs                3.5 to 4.5 hours                    3 to 4 hours
12 to 16 lbs          4.5 to 5.5 hours                    4 to 5 hours
16 to 20 lbs          5.5 to 6 hours                       5 to 5.5 hours
20 to 24 lbs          6 to 6.5 hours                       5.5 to 6 hours

 9.    Basting and finishing
       —After the first hour, baste the turkey with melted butter and pan juices every hour to keep the meat juicy
       —In the last half hour of cooking, remove the foil and discard, and baste well with melted butter and pan juices
       —If using a thermometer, look for an internal temperature of 165F (75C) to indicate doneness. If you are not using a thermometer, wiggle the drumstick (grasp the end of the bone with your fingers and wiggle it up and down, back and forth). If it moves easily, the bird is done.
       —Remove the turkey from the oven (be sure to have plenty of padding to protect your hands from the heat) and place the pan on the trivets to cool.
       —Gather up the four strings of the turkey lifter and lift the bird from the roasting pan and transfer it to the serving platter
       —Remove all string and remove skewers. If they are stuck, use the pliers to get them out.
       —Allow the bird to rest from 10 to 20 minutes before carving so that the juices aren’t lost

Put a little greenery around the bird…some parsley or sprigs of rosemary…and serve.

Happy Holidays!