Chicken and Stuffing Bake

I appear to be on a streak of nostalgia led cooking. I remember having a dish like this on a retreat in my late teens. Simple food, prepared well, with a lot of flavor.

Every recipe I found online for “chicken and stuffing bake” put the chicken on the bottom, added condensed soup on top of the chicken and then piled the store bought stuffing on top of that. That did not match my memory or desire so I made it up as I went. Not bad for a first pass though I missed a couple of things which I’ve corrected in the recipe.

This recipe has several components so I’ve written each component in its own section with a final set of directions at the end of combining everything together.

Chicken and Stuffing Bake
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Stuffing Ingredients:

  • 12-16 cups bread cubes (I used a mix of sourdough and multi-grain bread)
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. fresh sage
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp. rosemary powder
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (chicken broth is OK too)
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Stuffing Directions

  • Preheat oven to 250°F. Distribute bread cubes in a single layer across 2 rimmed baking pans. Bake for 20 minutes, swapping the position of the pans halfway through.
  • While the bread cubes dry out heat the olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrots, celery and onions, sprinkle with salt and stir to coat with oil. Cook for ~10 minutes until carrots begin to soften and onions are translucent.
  • Add the butter, herbs, and broth. Bring to a simmer, stir so the butter is spread throughout the vegetables and taste. Add salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.
  • When the bread cubes are done transfer them to the bottom of a large casserole dish. Add the veggie mixture and toss combine. Spread evenly across the bottom of the dish and set aside.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup milk (anything but skim)
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Sauce Directions

  • Put the mushrooms in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes on high. Drain liquid from the cooked mushrooms and set aside. Careful, that bowl will be hot.
  • Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the shallots. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for 5 minutes until the shallots have softened and are beginning to brown.
  • Add the butter to the pan. When it is melted add the mushrooms and cook for another 5-10 minutes until they are browned. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms, stir until all the flour is moistened. Cook for about 1 minute to drive off the raw flour taste.
  • Add the broth to the pan and stir until combined. Add the milk and combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. The sauce will be slightly thickened. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.

Final Ingredients:

  • 8 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Final Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts of excess fat and cut in half across the middle of the breast.
  3. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. Distribute the chicken pieces over the stuffing.
  4. Give the sauce a stir to reincorporate any “skin” that has formed on top. Pour the sauce over the chicken pieces. Use a spatula to smear sauce over to top of the pieces.
  5. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking.
  6. Remove the foil and continue cooking for another 10 minutes to lightly brown the top of the chicken. Check the chicken temperature; they should reach 160°F when fully cooked.
  7. If possible, allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve directly from the baking dish and enjoy.

Notes:
My estimates for total time here assume you don’t mind having multiple pans on the stove at one time. If you’d rather do everything in a serial fashion (make the stuffing, then make the sauce, then assemble and bake) add an extra 30 minutes.

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Farro and Cauliflower Salad

My introduction to farro might have been almost a decade ago however I was reintroduced to it earlier this year via the local megamart deli counter. They sell a farro salad with finely chopped vegetables that was quite tasty. Once I located a good source of farro I started experimenting with combinations for salads until I found one I liked.

Farro and Cauliflower Salad
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 20 minute
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 oz. shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs such as chives or parsley
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked farro
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the cauliflower into small pieces, no bigger than 1/2″. Toss with the tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Prep the rest of your veggies. I quarter the zucchini, removed the seeds and then cut it into 1/4″ pieces. Same goes for the red pepper. I also cut the shredded carrots into smaller pieces.
  3. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until just fragrant. Transfer to your serving bowl and set aside.
  4. Make a basic vinaigrette from the shallots, mustard, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Combine farro, veggies and herbs with the pine nuts. Toss to combine and then drizzle with the Vinaigrette. Toss some more until well combined. Enjoy.

Notes:
Both the farro and cauliflower can be prepared in advance, even the day before.

Slow-Cooker Barley & Lentil Soup

[Barley and Lentil Soup]The new year always brings an onslaught of “healthy eating” recipes. I suppose I’m not different as this soup is fairly healthy. Lentils and barley both provide a decent amount of fiber and carrots are good for you, right. I use a reduced sodium broth base and then add salt at the end via sriracha and/or a bit of Parmesan cheese.

As an aside, I like the concept of a slow cooker however in practice most of the recipes finish too quickly for them to be practical for me on a weeknight. When I work from home though I can take 10 minutes mid-morning, toss some ingredients together and then have dinner ready when I want to eat.
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Milk-Can Supper

I heard about Milk Can Supper on the America’s Test Kitchen Radio podcast in June 2014. It is a one pot meal, which I dig for efficiency sake, and it sounded intriguing. Basically you layer red potatoes, cabbage, corn on the cob, carrots, onion and bratwurst in a large pot and use a pale colored beer as the steaming liquid. I gave it a go and the results were delicious. I’ve made it, or parts of it, several times since with a couple of variations.

I use our 20-quart stock pot when I make this for a crowd. If I’ve halving it then I leave out the cabbage and cook it in the dutch oven we use for stews and tomato sauce.

Give this a try sometime. You won’t be sorry.

Milk-Can Supper
Servings: 10-12
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 lbs. fresh bratwurst (15 sausages)
  • 3 lbs. small red potatoes, unpeeled, rinsed
  • 1 head Napa cabbage, cut into quarters
  • 6 ears corn, cleaned and cut in half
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut into ~2″ pieces
  • 2 onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 12 oz. bottle light ale
  • 2 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1″ squares

Directions:

  1. Cut brats in half. Heat the oil in the stock pot over medium heat. Working in batches, brown brats, about 2 minutes on each side. Set browned brats aside. Drain the oil from the pot.
  2. Dump the potatoes into the pot. Cover these with the quartered cabbage followed by the corn, carrots and onions. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Tuck the bay leaves and thyme springs in among the vegetables.
  3. Arrange the brats on top of the vegetables. Pour the beer over everything, pop on the cover and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; you want to see a bit of steam come out when you take off the lid. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes. You can temp the sausages if you are worries they aren’t cooked through (160°F being the magic number). I try to stab a potato and a carrot to make sure they aren’t still hard.
  5. If you have a big enough bowl or platter you can carefully dump everything into it. For a large group I prefer to separate out the sausages, corn and cabbages (which I cut into smaller pieces after cooking) into separate bowls. The potatoes, carrots, onions and peppers end up together in another bowl. This allows the food to be passed around the table more quickly. I try to put at least some of the cooking liquid into a measuring cup to pass as well.

Notes:
The original recipe calls for a “light-bodied American lager, such as Budweiser”. I’m a bit of a beer snob and don’t have Bud in the house nor will I buy it just for the recipe. I’ve used Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale in the past and most recently I used Sam Adams Porch Rocker. Both worked well. Use what you enjoy.

As I suggested in the intro, this recipe can pretty easily be halved if you aren’t serving a mob. I leave out the cabbage, reduce the rest of the ingredients by half except the amount of beer. How many sausages you cook is really up to you. I’d go for at least 10 (that’s 2 packs were I shop). I honestly should just increase the number of sausages to 20 for the full recipe; they are the best part.

Saffron Carrots

Sometimes you want to take a humble vegetable and amp up the flavor. This side dish comes together quickly and you’ll be wowed by the intense flavor a little saffron will bring to the party.

This recipe is based on one from Chef Ana Sortun.

Saffron Carrots
Servings: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • pinch of saffron (about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and split in half lengthwise
  • 1 generous Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Vietnamese cinnamon
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 2 tsp.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • juice from a half lemon

Directions:

  1. Soak the saffron in the 1/3 cup of water for at least 15 minutes. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and toss in the heated oil to coat.
  3. Add the cinnamon sugar mixture, garlic, pinch of salt and 10 grinds of pepper. Stir to coat evenly.
  4. Add the saffron water. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for approx. another 6 minutes. The water should be absorbed by the carrots and they should become lightly glazed.
  5. Add the lemon juice, toss to coat and serve.

Vegetable Curry

This recipe takes some time to prep and assemble. Once you get it in the pot you can mostly concentrate on other things though. I think it is worth the time and effort.

Vegetable Curry
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 60 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 lg. red onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 3 Tbsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 heaping tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. peanut oil
  • 3 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices (on the bias)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15 oz. lite coconut milk
  • 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place onions in a food processor and pulse until finely cut. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Place peppers in the food processor and pulse until finely cut. Transfer to a strainer to remove as much moisture as possible.
  3. Combine the spices in a bowl and stir until well blended.
  4. Prep remaining vegetables and set aside.
  5. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until smoking.
  6. Add the onions and drained peppers along with a good pinch of kosher salt. Stir in the oil to coat and allow to cook for ~5 minutes until softened. Add the ginger and garlic; cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds, a minute at most.
  7. Add the spice blend and stir into the onions/peppers. Allow to cook for about a minute, stirring a few times to prevent burning.
  8. Add the carrots and vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes
  9. Add the coconut milk, cauliflower and drained tomatoes. Bring back to a simmer, recover and cook for 15 minutes
  10. Add the frozen peas and cook to heat them through, about 5 minutes.
  11. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley (if desired).

Notes:
You may ask why I process the the onions and peppers separately. I found that the peppers produced so much liquid when chopped in the food processor that I wanted to strain that off so the dish didn’t have to work at evaporating the liquid. I actually took the pepper liquid, and the drained tomato liquid, combined them in a small pan, and simmered them until they reduced to about 1/3 of the original volume. I added that into the curry along with the coconut milk. I really didn’t notice them in the final product so I left that out of the recipe text.

This recipe is adapted from a great book I picked up years ago named Something for Everyone. The premise was to provide recipes that would make a dish for a family of vegetarians and non-vegetarians from one recipe. It appears to no longer be in print.