I know Thanksgiving has long since gone, but since I just finished eating the last of the re-purposed leftovers, I don’t feel like I’m too out of the loop posting a turkey recipe. After all, even though chicken tetrazzini doesn’t have the same ring, it will taste just as good so really this recipe shouldn’t be stuck as a once-a-year indulgence.
If you’re unfamiliar with tetrazzini, it’s a glorious combination of noodles, diced turkey meat and rich cheesy sauce. It would be wrong to simply call it a casserole, though it’s baked to golden perfection in much the same way. I think it’s the ingredients that elevate it — tetrazzini uses a good amount of Parmesan, half-and-half (or heavy cream) and Sherry, making the sauce undeniably delicious.
Since there are tons of recipes for tetrazzini, I always have a hard time remembering each year how I made it the year before. This year I decided to go right to the best source — my mom. Growing up I was fairly obsessed with tetrazzini. I would beg her to to make it and then hoard the leftovers for my school lunches. (And being a good mom I think she let me get away with it.)
One of my favorite work stories is the day I got a call from a guy who wanted to buy some possum meat. We get that type of call all the time — people looking for beaver, lion and squirrel — so this request was not too strange. I told him we did not sell possum, expecting that to be the end of it.
Instead he started to argue with me, saying that he was looking at our price list online and possum was on there as being a “stock item.” Baffled, I asked him for the item number. He gave it to me and I could barely contain my laughter as I said, “Sir, that’s not possum, it’s poussin — baby chickens.”
That happened years ago but it still makes me giggle.
For anyone else unfamiliar with poussin, they are basically a chicken a few weeks younger than a game hen. Once processed and packed, they weigh about 15-17 oz, making them ideal for a one-bird-per-person dinner.
I rarely ever buy them, but I had a recipe that I wanted to try out and it called for 2 each 3# chickens. Since I was only cooking for two people, I figured two poussin would work just fine.
Chicken wings, cooked the way my grandma always makes them, are a nostalgic food for me. The recipe she uses has been in the family for years and with one bite, they instantly transport me back to my childhood. Cooked low and slow, the wings end up as glossy little things, coated in a sticky mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar and wine. I love them so much it’s hard for me to even contemplating trying out a different wing recipe.
However, fellow Portland dweller Cam (who makes “violently delicious food for a modern life”) just posted a recipe for Triple Threat Chicken Wings on her blog Gekiuma. Her photos of the lacquered wings dripping with garlic, ginger and chilies were enticing enough to make me reconsider. And it seemed too much of a coincidence, serendipitous in fact, that I happened to have a package of chicken wings in the fridge.
So within 24 hours of her post, I broke tradition and gave her Triple Threat Wings a shot.
Over the past few years, I’ve cooked a fair amount of Chinese food, focusing mainly on my favorite dim sum dishes (yum bean curd rolls!). But beyond the basic stirfries and fried rice, I haven’t attempted much from the more Americanized style, like General Tso’s chicken for instance. But last week, feeling frisky, I decided to expand my repertoire and I had the perfect recipe to try out: this one created by Grace Parisi.
While General Tso’s Chicken may have a slightly murky history, the reason it’s remained so popular is easy to understand. It’s spicy, sweet, salty and fried — basically the epitome of great take-out Chinese food. And it appeals to the masses, from hungover college students to stay-at-home moms. With all of those different elements, it seemed like the perfect thing to try making at home.
Anyways, Parisi’s recipe manages to combine all of the expected goodness of General Tso’s in a slightly less fatty (and certainly less processed!) way. I was a bit hesitant about the frying part since normally I try to eat a little healthier, but I felt it was only fair to try the recipe as written. Well…for the most part anyways — I did sub out the chicken thighs for boneless breasts only because I had them on hand.
On the subject of frying, the first thing that stood out about this recipe was the batter for the chicken. I loved that it wasn’t a basic tempura-style of batter; instead it has components added in — soy, sesame oil — giving the final dish another layer of flavor. The breading is also incredibly light. It ends up barely clinging to the meat (in a good way!), making the chicken seem merely very crispy instead of greasy and deep fried.
There was a recipe, pulled from an issue of Saveur, that I’d been wanting to try out since December. It was the name that got to me: Dolores’s Brokenhearted Chicken, so-called “because it tastes so good it makes you hungry even if you’re heartbroken.”
It sounded like a dish that could cure any life woes — the very essence of comfort food. The chicken is cooked somewhere inbetween being roasted and braised in a sauce made of stock, sherry and butter. It’s topped with parsley to brighten the flavors and served with crusty bread. And while the chicken is good (very good in fact), it’s the luxurious sauce that is the true winner. It soaks into the bread making it almost like a custard — full of flavor and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
In other words, this was the perfect meal for me to make before I left on vacation a few weeks ago. I had been running around so much that I was mentally and physically exhausted. In fact, I was so rushed that I ended up making this after I ate a dinner of ramen, so that my husband could have dinner ready when he came home.
See, the thing with being married to a chef and having a day job means we are often like ships passing in the night. I’m asleep when he gets home, he’s asleep when I leave for work. I try to make his late nights a little better by having a plate of food waiting for him when he gets home. Having cooked professionally for years, I know the last thing you want to do at the end of the night is eat anything you’ve cooked yourself. It’s just so much better when someone makes it for you.
So while this chicken is supposed to be made to comfort the lovelorn, I like to think it better expresses my attempts at being a good wife. (In return, since marriage is a two-way street and all, my husband makes sure my kegerator is never empty. That’s love.)
My obsession with tearing out recipes from cooking magazines has some serious downfalls (including the hoarding tendencies it brings out in me). The main issue is that sometimes I think I’ve torn out a recipe for something but I can’t exactly remember it. This means I often waste an exorbitant amount of time pawing through my files trying to find something in particular. Usually I’m victorious, sometimes I’m not.
Example: Last Friday, when faced with a pound of thawed ground turkey, I had a vague memory of recently seeing a recipe for turkey ricotta meatballs. I started digging through my “poultry folder,” but came up empty handed. I then dug through the “pasta folder” and the “yet to be filed” pile. No dice.
Undeterred, I scoured my Pinterest boards and went through all of my “likes.” Still nothing.
Disappointed in my lack of success, I eventually gave up on the search and turned to my old friend Google. After some browsing I decided on this recipe from Heather’s Dish. Even though I knew it wasn’t the recipe I had been thinking about, it looked like a winner — easy to make and fairly healthy — two big pluses in my book.
Of course, just this morning I realized that I should have checked my WordPress activity list because here it is, the recipe that inspired me! I guess I’ll have to give it a shot some other time.
I ended up using Heather’s recipe as a starting point, making some changes based on the ingredients I had on hand (and the fact that I forgot to buy ricotta!). I also threw in some extra goodies so at the end of the post I’ve included my version for these delectable little guys.
Turkey Spinach Meatballs — about to be covered in (more) sauce and baked for 2 hours