Friday, March 12, 2010



"Well," you must be saying (if you even still bother to subscribe), "look what the cat dragged in!" (And I don't mean the food!) I actually have the chance this rainy afternoon to get this recipe written down for you (and for myself, actually), and I'm glad. We are still commuting every day to the new place, if not to do anything specific, then to watch final preparations being made. Shelves are being hung, mirrors and towel bars put in place, and construction of the deck is beginning. And we are beginning our move in small pieces. The weather has warmed enough for the houseplants to stay outside, so we moved them all from here to the yard at the new place. I have heeled in all the iris and peonies that we brought with us from Arlington, letting them get used to conditions there. (They'll be moved once again once we decide on a landscaping design.) This weekend we travel to Raleigh to help a friend hang pictures in her new place, then we begin packing in earnest, preparing for the movers, who will be here early Monday, the 21st of March. Does all this sound familiar? It does to us, too!

I made up this recipe all by my lonesome after overhearing a woman in a hardware store the other day tell her friend that she was making "chicken and broccoli casserole" for dinner that night. It's one of those dishes we've all heard of and maybe even made--well, I'd heard of it, but never made it because I imagined most recipes probably called for a can of soup or two, and it didn't seem very inspiring. But this time I thought a good version, made more-or-less from scratch, should be delicious. I was in the mood for something new, so I whipped this up. The binder is a cheddar cheese sauce flavored with the broccoli stems that I cooked along with the florets and then puréed, and I took a shortcut and used a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. While eating those overcooked supermarket birds by themselves can be a terrible experience, their meat really isn't bad if it's mixed into something else. This is a quick and easy weeknight meal that I'm going to make a permanent part of the repertoire. Hope you like it!

3 broccoli crowns (about a pound), florets cut from stems

1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups scalded milk
1 12-oz.can mushroom pieces and stems, drained
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken

Juice 1/2 medium lemon.

10 oz. short pasta, such as radiatore. (Elbow macaroni will do.)

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Remove meat from chicken, discarding skin and carcass. Tear breast meat into bite-size pieces--you should have about 2 cups of meat. Reserve legs and wings for another use.

Steam broccoli florets and stems together. Remove florets to a bowl and set aside after about 10 minutes. Continue cooking stems for another 10 minutes or until soft. Put stem pieces into bowl of food processor and purée.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat, taking care not to let butter brown. Add onion and cook until just soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. Sprinkle flour over melted butter and and onions, and combine well, cooking until bubbling subsides and no flour lumps remain. Slowly pour in scalded milk, whisking or stirring constantly. Turn heat to medium high, continue stirring or whisking until sauce bubbles and starts to thicken. Add drained mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and Worcestershire sauce, stir to combine. Add all the cheddar and stir until the cheese is completely melted and incorporated into the sauce. Stir in chicken breast meat, heat everything through. Off heat, stir in lemon juice. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Pour sauce over cooked pasta and mix well. Grease a casserole with cooking spray and add chicken-pasta mixture, smoothing top so it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over all. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and browned on top, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven to cooling rack and let rest 10 minutes. Serve.


Zoey and Me said...

I would have thought a southern rib recipe would have re-opened the Food Friday post but this one held my interest. If you're not going to incorporate the dark meat why not just buy chicken breasts? I will copy and try soon and serve with garlic bread. Welcome back Food Friday! Thanks.

nan said...

Oh my, Ralph. You make me laugh after just reading your first two sentences. Always glad to see a post by you on the ol' Bloglines. The casserole sounds like it is very yummy - and I look forward to more regular Food Friday posts come the second dawning of Days of Transition. T minus 7 days and counting until you move in. It will take you some time to get settled. And then you'll be cooking!!!!

Ralph said...

Good point about the chicken, Z&M--I'm just not aware of rotisserie chicken breasts only. If I were really doing this thing up right, I'd actually roast the breasts, skin on and bone in, with olive oil and salt and pepper for about a half hour and tear the meat off. I like the leftover dark meat of the rotisserie chicken, though, and will eat a piece or two for lunch.

Ralph said...

Nan, a lot of my first cooking at the new place will be for parties we're planning for the neighbors and for Gary, his staff, and all the people who had a hand in building the place--carpenters, electricians, etc. For those big do's, I'm going to start smoking pork shoulders as soon as I can and freeze them so I'll have plenty of barbecue for crowds. Unfortunately for the blog, I've already posted that recipe. Oh, I'll be cooking other stuff..and I have a few things up my sleeve I've done since we came here that I haven't posted yet. Can't wait to get down to the routine again--or some semblance of one.

Linda - SE PA said...

Hi Ralph,

You were in my thoughts and I said... mmm. guess he and Steve are really busy. So, this is big surprise and wonderful to have a post.

After the whirlwind calms - here is a thought. How about writing an e-cookbook or a cookbook?

All your wonderful news has brought a smile. It is gray, windy, lights flickering type day. So to read a few blogs that bring a smile - is so very, very, worthwhile and reminds us of what we are grateful for.

Mim said...

Countdown week for you both and it's finally here.
And so you are thinking of your plants, too, not just your boxes of household stuff. Nice for your landscaping.
What a perfect time of year to move.
Hope this last week in the rental goes well, and soon no more commuting.

Ralph said...

Yep, thinking about the plants! One of the precious things I brought from Arlington was my garlic chives, which I love and are a relative rarity. They're really thriving. Not sure how much of an actual culinary garden I'll do here, but I do intend to have all the necessary herbs, in pots on the deck next to the kitchen. On Friday I bought some plants of thyme, marjoram, and flat-leaf parsley, and they're settling into their new, permanent homes in the bright sun. As soon as they put rosemary plants out, that'll be next!

Peewit said...

Sorry, Ralph, but this recipe sent an involuntary shudder down my spine. Broccoli and chicken casserole is by far the very worst meal my mother in law serves up whenver we visit. She knows we all like broccoli but she crucifies it every time, but we are all too polite to say we don't like the way she cooks it (And I don't even want to mention the mushroom gloop she serves it with which may or may not have been a tin of Campbell's mushroom soup with frozen mushroomms added (unthawed)). Your methodology seems sound but I don't think I'd ever get the family to eat a broccoli and chicken casserole!

Ralph said...

HAHAHA!! Peewit you make all the stereotypes about English home cooking sound as if they're true! I know they're not, but this sounds so typical! Frozen mushrooms???? I thought I was risking censure by using canned ones here, but frozen--can't even imagine what they must be like when they thaw out. Yuck.

Helen said...

Hi there! I love that fact that there is another human out there who will admit to avoidance! My father's name was Ralph ... He passed away when I was just sixteen.

Ralph said...

Welcome, Helen! You've hit me at an ebb for posting--we are about to end a process I've been writing about here for the past 18 months, "transitioning" from a house in the DC area we'd lived in and made our own for nearly 30 years to a brand-new, custom built home in coastal North Carolina that is just on the verge of being finished--we move in this weekend. We left our old place last July, and that's when I posting came to a crawl after a pretty steady weekday flow. Once life settles down again I hope to be writing more regularly again. I hope I live up to your fond memories of Ralph the father!