Thursday, March 21, 2019

Chicken Alfredo Casserole



Move over, Olive Garden! Oh, yea, this is that good! Not difficult to prepare and the result is spectacularly delicious.

I used a grocery-store rotisserie chicken that was on sale. The pasta was on sale. The cheese was on sale! The Alfredo sauce was on sale! This makes quite a bit and it's filling. Perfect for a family. In fact, I would not hesitate to serve this to guests. A nice green salad with fresh tomatoes, an artisan loaf of bread, a chilled bottle of Rose or a nice Zinfandel and this is a meal guests will brag about for days afterward. Have printed recipes available.

I have made this with spaghetti and mini penne. I prefer the spaghetti. Had I fresh basil, I would have swapped it for the parsley. This is a great "make-ahead recipe." For this recipe, I used three 5 x 5 baking dishes, otherwise use an 11 x 7 pan or dish or something comparable.

I saved the crispy chicken skin and cut it up fine to add to the chicken. The skin has lots of flavors!

  • 8 ounces pasta, (spaghetti or penne or what you have on hand)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup jarred Alfredo sauce (I use mushroom Alfredo sauce) divided
  • 4 ounces sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • 8ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 to 1.5 cups cubed rotisserie chicken
  • 1 heaping teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Cook the pasta less one or two minutes before done. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add a bit of butter so it doesn't stick. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, mix the chicken with one cup Alfredo sauce and sour cream. Add pepper to taste. In another bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, and Parmesan. Mix thoroughly. Add to the pasta. Now add the Chicken mixture. 

Place mixture in pan or dish. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce. Top with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. If the top is not brown, broil for about two minutes. This is best served hot. Enjoy!












Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Oyster and Rice Dressing



If you are a fan of oysters, you will appreciate this recipe. It is originally from my grandmother's old cookbook and was primarily used as a "stuffing suitable for a small goose or turkey." I have adapted it for a more appropriate side dish or casserole. It is rich, redolent with herbs, and delicious. It is especially the perfect complement to any kind of red meat, such as prime rib or simply a steak.

The original recipe calls for three cups of cooked white rice. Instead, to save on time and cleanup, I used Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, two packets of "Original" white rice and one packet of "Long Grain and Wild" rice. I did not bother to microwave them since they bake in the oven. To save on money, one could make one's own white rice and then buy a package of the long grain and wild rice. Either way, I do recommend the earthiness of the long grain and wild rice with the oysters.

How you incorporate the oysters is up to you. If they are large, you may want to cut them in half. If small, leave whole. Or, as I did here, simply snip into pieces so they melt into the rice mixture giving it that briny, unique oyster taste from the sea.

Be sure to mince your parsley as fine as possible. Use salt sparingly. I like a bit of a bite from extra ground pepper and the red pepper flakes. I also add a few tablespoons of Parmesan/Romano cheese, but that is up to you.

I often debate: should I add some bacon? Should I add some chopped kale? Green pepper? I think they would all work. Let me know if you do.


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup, 8 oz, your favorite pork sausage
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (I like a bit more)
  • 3 or more tablespoons finely minced parsley
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • One or two pinches red chili flakes
  • 3 cups cooked white rice (see explanation above)
  • 1 pint fresh oysters, drained and blotted dry (save the juice/liquor)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon or more freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning (I use Bells)
  • 2-4 tablespoons fresh Parmesan-Romano cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Lightly grease an 11 x 7 casserole dish or similar.

In a large skillet or pot, melt the butter. Add the sausage, onions, celery red pepper flakes. Cook until sausage is no longer pink and vegetables are soft. Add the parsley and garlic. Stir for about one minute. Add the rice and cook for several minutes over low/medium heat to incorporate all the flavors. Add the oysters. Continue to cook for a just a few minutes. If mixture appears dry, add a bit of the oyster liquor. Salt and pepper to taste. Add poultry seasoning. Mix. If using, incorporate the cheese.

Pour mixture into prepared dish. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.

This is an easy dish to prepare ahead of time. Cool. Cover. Refrigerate. When time to serve, re-heat in the oven or the microwave.

Any roast beef, rare.  Oyster and rice dressing. A cold,  crisp salad slathered with blue-cheese dressing. A robust, red, dry wine.













Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chicken, Barley, Rice Soup



Here in the central Piedmont area of North Carolina outside of Charlotte, between the mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the ground is still saturated from the devastating deluges of hurricanes Florence and Michael. As such, if there is a silver lining from such disasters, our autumn has been extended.

By this time in late November, our trees have already shaken off their mostly-colorless dry and itchy leaves. Instead, those same trees still harbor and cling to washed-out hopes of green! The pleasant, pink-repeat azaleas have lasted weeks longer than those which initially blossomed in the spring and which are usually wizened and wiped out in one 90-degree May afternoon. Their Crayola-color of "carnation pink"makes me happy. 

Surprisingly (and wonderfully unexpectedly), trees are radiant with autumnal color. This is rare in the South. The combination of moisture, sun, and cold nights is the perfect sugar recipe for vibrant, electrifying hues and sparks of orange, red and yellow.

It has been a long time for this old Northerner's eyes to be amazed, to remember and to appreciate such dreams of color!

I have planted the Southern ritual of pansies. Half a dozen pots filled with joyful colors to help me survive the expectant months of sunless days.

I travel miles and shop for weeks to find the most unique pansies.

The nights here are unusually cold for this time of year. Shiver! This morning, my birdbath was frozen over. I want soup! Hot soup ladled into hand-thrown ceramic bowls. Artisan bread. 

Enter this recipe. It was too easy. Too delicious. It is one I will make again and again.

Enjoy.


  • For the broth:
  • 2 pounds chicken cut up, skin on, bone in, preferably, thighs, legs, wings (actually, I used a Cornish Hen cut up into pieces)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 rib celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove, smashed

  • For the soup:
  • 1, 14.5 oz. can chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup diced onion ( a bit less than 1/2 cup)
  • 1.5 teaspoon Kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/4  teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon pressed or finely diced garlic 
  • 6 tablespoons pearled barley
  • 2-3 tablespoons raw, long-grained rice

In a large stockpot, prepare the broth. Breasts have little flavor for broth. Bring just to a boil then lower to simmer for about one hour. If you boil your broth it will turn cloudy. Remove meat to cool. Strain the broth and then return to the pot.


The more bone and cartilage you have, the more flavorful your broth.


Add the soup ingredients. Taste for salt. Bring just to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until vegetables and grains are tender. Taste for salt before serving. Ladle into bowls and, if desired, sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan or fresh dill.












Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Easy Macaroni and Cheese in Bacon-Onion Broth




Macaroni-and-cheese is an iconic American staple lovingly melted within our hamburger-and-hot-dog history and culinary landscape. Do not forget that thick-sliced staple of meat loaf served with mashed potatoes in greasy spoons across the country, especially during the Depression. Fried chicken? Barbecue? We are talking the national fingerprint of food. And, that cozy, all-American slice of apple pie!

My all-time favorite mac-and-cheese is Martha Stewart's recipe. Whenever I prepare it, people rave. The topping of toasted bread cubes is brilliant. But it is complicated. Time consuming. Gordon Ramsey also has a great recipe. But it uses cauliflower. Hmmmmm .... More work!

I revere the macaroni and cheese from my grandmother's old cookbook. It is more of a custard than "cheesy." I have since updated it a bit .... She would have loved it! http://www.kitchenbounty.com/2008/09/craft-macaroni-and-cheese.html



Truth-be-told, I probably make the following, simple recipe the most often. Why? It is easy. And, most importantly, you actually taste the cheese! The cheese is not lost or dissipated in a flour-and-milk paste sauce called a Bechemel. It uses no dairy other than a bit of butter. The water, flavored with bacon and onion, is all it needs. Well, maybe a bit sour cream on the side!

  • 1 slice smoked bacon, cut in half
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped dried onion (not fresh)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1-3 teaspoons table salt
  • 3-4 ounces dried pasta of your choice
  • 3-4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter

In a 2-quart saucepan, add water, salt, onion and bacon and bring to a boil. Lower heat a bit and allow to simmer briskly for about ten minutes to fully flavor the water.

Raise heat to a boil and add pasta. Follow package directions until done. 

DO NOT DRAIN.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to a bowl. Whisk in the butter. While hot, sprinkle on the cheese. Add as much of the bacon-onion broth to bring to a creamy consistency--and then a bit more. The pasta will release its starches to thicken it up a bit. Add some of the bacon if desired.

Enjoy!