Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Suppers: Chicken Tetrazzini

For our make-more-to-store meal this week, I was looking to do a big, hearty chicken-noodle situation, and after numerous searches it became clear that the best bet for a rib-sticking casserole would be a dish named after the Italian opera star, Luisa Tetrazzini, for whom this was created circa 1910, legend has it, at the Knickerbocker Hotel in NYC.  Sweet!

There is no universal standard for this dish, but all recipes out there agree on a few general parameters: non-red meat (i.e. chicken), mushrooms, butter, cream, Parmesan, sherry or wine, and noodles.  My version is a slightly healthier version, with milk instead of cream and minimal cheese.  Even still, the aromas emanating from your oven will be as rich and palatable as a Puccini aria!

Chicken Tetrazzini (printable recipe)
serves 6

a 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 celery stalks, with the leaves
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large Spanish onion, peeled and halved
1/2 bunch thyme

1/2 pound broad egg noodles

5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) unsalted butter
8 ounces mushrooms, destemmed and sliced thin
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Sherry
1 cup cream/milk
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan


Prepare the chicken: Combine the chicken, celery, carrot, half of the onion, and the thyme in a large pot with enough water to cover it by 2 inches, and bring to a boil.  Salt generously, and reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is tender.  Remove the meat from the broth and let it cool on a plate.  Separate the meat from the skin and bones, returning the skin and bones to the broth, and shred the meat into small pieces, reserving it.  Simmer the broth until it is reduced by half, then strain it, discard the solids and skim the fat, and boil the broth until reduced to about 2 cups.

While the broth reduces, cook the noodles in a kettle of well-salted boiling water until just al dente and drain well, reserving a cup of the pasta water.

Prepare the sauce: Chop the remaining half onion.  Melt the butter over medium heat and add the chopped onion and sliced mushrooms.  Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle in flour, mix well, and cook about 2 minutes longer.  Add sherry and turn heat to medium-high to burn off the alcohol.  Stir in the reduced broth, milk and nutmeg, and simmer until slightly thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Warning: your broth will already be well-salted, so don't go crazy.  Generous pepper is recommended, though.)

Assemble the dish:  Preheat the oven to 350 and oil a 3-quart casserole dish.  In a large bowl, toss together the chicken, noodles, and sauce.  If the mixture seems too dry, add a little reserved pasta water, just a splash at a time, to your liking.  Turn the mixture out into the prepared dish and sprinkle the top with the Parmesan.  Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is slightly golden.

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