Sometimes, you just want to eat comfort food. No muss, no fuss. It’s not the prettiest dish in the world. It doesn’t require the most effort. But, it’s delicious. It warms your heart in a way that some fancy beef roast or rack of lamb just can’t.
This week, I needed that warmth. I craved that warmth. Mostly because it’s freezing in my apartment. Sure, it’s a little chilly outside,but I’m not outside that much. I’m inside. And it’s way too cold. You see, last month (in my personal opinion) the power bill was astronomical. (It wasn’t really astronomical, but there was a significant jump between months, which simply will not be tolerated). I absolutely hate to spend money on bills. Can’t stand it, actually. So when the monetary amount on my utility bills start to move in the wrong direction, I take drastic action. This means wearing sweat pants, sweatshirts, and socks around the apartment because heaven forbid I turn the heat on for one solitary second. And it’s during times like these that I need some food that sticks to my ribs. Some comfort food that is creamy and, frankly, a little bit fatty so that for a moment, I feel all toasty inside.
The dish to bring me this feeling was chicken tetrazzini. It’s a dish my mom would make growing up and quickly became a favorite amongst us siblings. It’s simple to throw together and is quite tasty.
THE INGREDIENTS. Most of the ingredients for this dish I usually always have in the kitchen and you probably do, too.
- 2 small chicken breasts, cooked and diced
- sliced button mushrooms
- diced onion ( Shockingly, I didn’t have an onion so I used shallots. Worked splendidly. Honestly? I liked the switch better).
- Spaghetti, cooked (Make sure your water tastes like the sea! Bland pasta will make for a bland dish)
Now, usually there is some cooking sherry thrown in there, as well. I don’t have cooking sherry at the moment so I just leave it out. Guess what? Tastes pretty damn good without it. Remember, cooking isn’t about following a recipe. It’s about being creative. If you don’t have an ingredient (an unimportant ingredient that is), use a substitute or leave it out. Think outside the box!
THE METHOD. To make this dish, we will be making a béchamel, which we have made before (the chicken enchiladas, anyone?). Then we will layer the pasta, the sauce, and the cheese to make a delightful casserole.
- Throw some butter (let’s say 3 tablespoons) in pot over medium heat.
- Add your mushrooms and onions. Sauté until the onions are translucent.
- Add 3 tablespoons of flour and stir around, creating a roux. (Fun Fact: When you sprinkle flour in a pot like this to create a thickening agent it’s called singer, which is French.) Cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add 3-4 cups of milk and stir.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. This activates the thickening power of the flour. Cook for 5 minutes or so to allow it to thicken. If it’s too thick, add some more milk or water. If it’s too thin, make a slurry (equal parts flour + water) and pour it in while the mixture is boiling until the desired thickness is reached. (Rule of Thumb: It’s best to not make sauces too thin because it’s much harder to thicken them back up. Add your liquid a little at a time until the desired viscosity is reached).
- Now, season the sauce pretty liberally with salt and pepper. Every single layer needs to be seasoned perfectly or else the end product won’t come out tasting that great.
- Add you cooked and diced chicken. You can boil it or used a store bought chicken. I personally seasoned them up and roasted them in the oven.
- Take a baking dish and spray it with nonstick spray. Take a ladle or so of the sauce and pour it in the bottom of the dish. Spread it around. Sprinkle this layer with parmesan cheese and paprika. If you’re feeling zesty, sprinkle it with some cayenne, too. Add a layer of pasta. Add another layer of sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and paprika. Add another pasta layer…Continue this until it fills up the dish. Make sure you finish with a layer of sauce.
- Sprinkle the top with more parmesan and bake in a 375 F until bubbly and delicious.
ENJOY IT. Forget about the calories. Forget about the carbs. Forget about the fat. Just forget about it all. It’s almost the holidays, anyways. Plus, it’s comfort food. Take some time and enjoy a dish like this every once in awhile.
Until next time…