Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini

Rosemary Bread sticks ready to go out.

Chicken Tetrazzini.  It isn't the first thing that comes to mind when menu planning.  I have yet to be tempted to put it on a client's menu or our own.   For me, it has connotations of gloopy gloppy canned cream of something mixed with frozen bits of something and slopped up. It sounds pretty gross and I'm not sure where this peculiar vision came from, but it is what I think of when the words chicken tetrazzini pass my way.  When it was requested by a favorite client who loves to entertain, who am I to say no?  I said yes, of course! For 30 people?  Sure. Why not?
Cheese Platter prep
The crowd was pretty casual and were all friends, a group of avid bicyclists as a matter of fact (I guess they bike off all the pasta and bechamel calories or something because these people can seriously eat.).  Last year, I cooked for the same gathering and provided a gi-normous 50 lb white lasagna so full of cheese and butter that I'm still not completely over the ordeal.

Prep for tetrazzini recipe x 5.  That's a lot of tetrazzini!

In recipe research I learned that there are gloopy gloppy versions of chicken tetrazzini that are sort of 'instant' where you mix together some cans of stuff and boil chicken, but there are also some 'from scratch' recipes that involved fresh veggies sauteed, pan-cooked chicken breasts in butter, fresh parsley, and bakery bread crumbs.  It's a little more (okay, a lot more) work, but, in my humble opinion, totally worth it.  I choose bechamel any day over a can of pasty gelatinous 'stuff'.  I served a huge Boston and Red leaf lettuce salad, a big vegetable saute, assorted fresh bakery rolls, as well as a serious appetizer/cocktail hour and dessert from The Little Red Hen Bakery on the upper east side (chocolate layer cake and ice cream for this crowd).

It all went off without a hitch and everyone had a good time.  The recipe I ended up using was one from Giada de Laurenttiis, who tends to make very decadent 'Italian' food.  I trust her when it comes to something like this, since she doesn't head for the canned goods shelf in the pantry every time she cooks.  She does it right, and for this chicken tetrazzini, so did I.  I multiplied her recipe times five for this crowd (which hilariously brought the first ingredient to 45 tablespoons of butter.).  Here is the recipe with some changes and additions, as I deemed necessary.  I added the chopped roasted red peppers and changed just a bit of procedure.
...and there it is.  This one wins the award for biggest tetrazzini

I just had a flash!  This would be the perfect answer to all of those turkey leftovers you just don't know what to do with!  Turkey tetrazzini a few days after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season?  I don't could be a new tradition...

Chicken Tetrazzini
recipe adapted from one by Giada De Laurentiis

9 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound white mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cups chopped fire-roasted red peppers, medium dice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 ounces linguini
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1/4 cup bakery breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spread 1 tablespoon of butter over a 13x9 baking dish.  Melt 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil in a deep large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Add the chicken to the hot pan and cook until golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.  Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool slightly.  Coarsely shred the chicken in to bite-size pieces and into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil to the same pan.  Add the mushrooms and saute over medium-high heat until the liquid from the mushorooms evaporates and the mushrooms become golden, about 12 minutes.  Add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add the roasted peppers and wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 2 minutes,  Transfer the mushroom mixture to the bowl with the chicken.

Melt 3 more tablespoons butter in the same pan over medium-low heat.  Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes.  Whisk in the milk, cream, broth, nutmeg, remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper.  Increase the heat to high.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the linguine and cook until it is tender but stilll firm the to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes.  Drain.  Add the linguine, sauce, peas, and parsley to the chicken mixture.  Toss until the sauce coats the pasta and the mixture is well-blended.

Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish.  Stir the cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl to blend.  Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the pasta.  Dot with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter.  Bake, uncovered, until golden brown on top and the sauce bubbles, about 25 minutes.

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