Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicken Tetrazzini

As a child, I remember eating turkey tetrazzini after Thanksgiving or Christmas, the most common times we had leftover turkey.  I figured, at the time, that it was an American concoction (Who else eats turkey?!) based on an Italian pasta dish, so imagine my surprise when Spaghetti Tetrazzini showed up in Jamie’s Italy!  His story goes that he was outside his parents’ pub and an elderly couple happened by. When they heard he was going to Italy, they told him to make sure he cooked turkey tetrazzini.  He had never heard of it.  Didn’t I feel smug, having enjoyed it on several occasions?  Eventually he found a recipe for chicken tetrazzini in an Italian cookbook.

After a little research, and by this I mean a Google search culminating at Wikipedia, it turns out that the original dish is indeed TURKEY Tetrazzini and it is named after an Italian opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini, who immigrated to the United States, making her US debut in San Francisco in 1905.  The recipe is most often credited to Chef Ernest Arbogast of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where Ms. Tetrazzini was a long-term guest.

Wikipedia says that Ms. Tetrazzini got quite stout as she aged but she could still “act effectively, especially in lively or comic roles.”  My favorite quote: “I am old and I am fat, but I am still Tetrazzini!”  When you see how much Parmesan and cream goes into this, you will know exactly how it happened. 

6 chicken breasts (about 1200g or 2 1/2 lbs)
500g or 1lb of ground (minced) chicken or pork
1/3 oz or 8.5g hot Italian sausage seasonings
1 egg
Olive oil
250g or 9 oz baby portabella mushrooms or other mixed mushrooms, cleaned
Sea salt
Black pepper
6 cloves of garlic
2 cups dry white wine
2 lbs or 1kg dried linguine
14 oz or 400g Parmesan
4 1/4 cups or 1 liter heavy whipping cream
2 sprigs of fresh basil, leaves picked

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 190°C.

Slice up the chicken breasts in thin pieces.  Salt and pepper them and add a good couple of glugs of olive oil.  Set them aside or in the refrigerator. 

Put your ground chicken or pork into a large mixing bowl. Add the sausage seasonings and one egg.  (Let me say at this point that I believe the sausage meatballs are tastier made with pork, if your religious sensibilities allow.) 

Drizzle some olive oil onto a baking tray. Mix your meat, egg and seasonings up thoroughly and, using a spoon or small scoop, divide the mixture into small pieces. 

This was a gift from my dear friend, Jacky. I think of her every time I use it!

Roll the pieces between your two palms until they are round.  Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring them around once, halfway through.

Meanwhile, in a pan big enough for all of your ingredients, add a little olive oil and brown the chicken.

As it browns, slice your garlic very finely and break up the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.   

When the chicken is browned, add in the garlic and mushrooms.  Give the pot a good stir.

Add in the wine.  Turn down to a simmer and put the lid on. 

By this time, your meatballs should be ready.   Add them into the simmering chicken and put a little of the juice from the pot into the baking tray so you can scrape the browned goodness off and into the chicken pot. 

Simmer until the chicken is tender and the wine is slightly reduced.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions and drain well.  

Add the cream to the pan of chicken and meatballs.  Bring to the boil then turn the heat off.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


That's boiling, folks!
Add the drained pasta to the creamy mixture and toss well to coat. 

I found it easiest to use two wooden spatulas. That much pasta and sauce is heavy.
Add three-quarters of the Parmesan and all of the basil and stir again.

Pour into an oven-proof dish and sprinkle with half of the remaining Parmesan.  

Bake until golden and bubbling and crispy on top.   Serve with the extra Parmesan on the side so everyone can help herself.  (I say herself, because, you might have guessed, Chicken Tetrazzini is what my Pokeno ladies ate tonight.)

We had crab cakes and corn cakes and a lovely dip for appetizers, green beans, two salads and two desserts: pumpkin and lemon meringue pies!  We eat good on Pokeno Night!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Baby French Bean Parcels

Once a month I get together with a great group of friends to play Pokeno, a game of chance most closely related to Bingo.  We take turns playing hostess, which means cooking the main course, and everyone else brings salad, side dishes and dessert.  And, of course, a gift for the prize pile. There is laughter and drink and sharing of secrets and home-cooked favorites. This month it is my turn to host but I have no idea what to make.  So I thought I’d share the side dish I brought to Pokeno last month.

1 generous handful of green beans per person
1 slice of streaky bacon per person
1-2 cloves of garlic (or more, depending on how many beans you are cooking)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375°F or 190°C.

Put a pot of water on to boil, adding some salt.  Cut the ends off of the green beans and pop them in the boiling water.  Cook for three minutes.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Drain the green beans and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking.

Once they are cool, drain again in a colander.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon gently over a low heat, in a non-stick skillet.  You want it still limp enough to bend comfortably.

Slice the garlic as thinly as you can.

Lay the bacon out in the baking tray and put one good handful of green beans on each slice.  Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and slice of garlic and wrap the bacon up and around the beans, overlapping the ends and securing them with a toothpick.

Drizzle the parcels with a little olive oil.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is a little bit crispy.  Use a flat metal spatula to remove the parcels to a serving platter.

Alternative parcels for vegetarians or Muslims (A couple of people I love dearly belong to each of those groups so I make sure to cater for them as well.)  Substitute shaved Parmesan for the bacon and use green onion tops to tie up the beans.  Don’t forget to include the garlic sliver!