Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes…err, Mushrooms

I was perusing Pinterest for a recipe to try, as I have been checking out Pinterest lately for recipes. There is such a variety of culinary adventures to undertake. I do feel guilty ignoring my collection of New Orleans cookbooks, however.

My husband and I don’t normally eat a lot of chicken, though we probably should opt for it rather than red meat or pork. When I saw the recipe for chicken with mozzarella and pasta, I thought that sounded like a tasty combination. Plus, cheese compliments so many dishes, in my opinion.

I want to thank the blog Julia’s Album for this delicious recipe.

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

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I didn’t take a picture. This photo is credited to Julia and her blog, Julia’s Album.

Side note: I did make a couple of adjustments.

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small jar (3-4 oz) of sun dried tomatoes in oil (I used a bag of dried sun dried tomatoes)…Note: drain if using sun dried tomatoes in oil, and set aside oil for sauteeing
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenders (The recipe implies keeping them whole, but I think I would chop them next time)
  • Salt and pepper (for seasoning chicken)
  • Paprika (for seasoning chicken)
  • 1 cup half and half (I used heavy whipping cream)
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (I recommend shredding your own, because it tends to melt better than pre-shredded)
  • 8 ounces penne pasta (I think this recipe would go with cavatappi or rotini as well so all that creamy goodness can work its way through the pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon basil (if dry), or more if fresh
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Note: If using sun-dried tomatoes in oil, use the drained oil to sauté the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes for 1 minute until fragrant….If you did not use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, just use regular olive oil to sauté.
  2. Remove sun-dried tomatoes from pan and set aside. Don’t be like me and turn away for a moment. I burned some of mine and had to toss some out. Those little things brown quickly, and you don’t want them brown. Lol!
  3. Season the chicken tenders with salt, pepper, and paprika. Add chicken tenders to the pan (or cut them into chunks and add). Cook on high for 1 minute on each side.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions and save some pasta water. Drain and rinse and set aside.
  5. Slice the sun-dried tomatoes and add them back to the skillet. I sliced them prior to initially sautéeing them, because slicing them after would have been more difficult with the oil on them.
  6. Add the half and half or whipping cream (whatever your preference), as well as the mozzarella cheese, to the skillet and bring to a gentle boil. Once the cream starts boiling, reduce to simmer and cook. Stir consistently to make sure the cheese completely melts. The recipe recommends adding some of the reserved pasta water to the sauce to keep the sauce from getting too thick. I did not do this.
  7. Add the basil and red pepper flakes. (I also added some grated parmesan cheese)
  8. Add salt to taste.
  9. Finally, add the pasta into the sauce and fold everything together.

Note: After burning half of my sun-dried tomatoes, I was glad that I had some chopped baby bella mushrooms on hand to add in. I think that this can also be done with fresh spinach as well.

Final word: The recipe was great but after initially cooking the chicken I would take it out to make the sauce and then add the chicken back in again. I found it difficult to stir the sauce while the chicken was in the pan.

 

 

Rosemary Chicken Lasagna (without the Chicken)

I found a recipe on Pinterest that was from the blog Feasting at Home by Sylvia Fountaine. It is a recipe for Rosemary Chicken Lasagna, with a twist. The noodles aren’t noodles…eggroll wrappers are suggested. To make this dish less heavy, I chose to eliminate the chicken and just use the spinach and mushrooms. However, I will include the entire recipe for those who want to use chicken. The recipe includes directions if you want to eliminate the chicken.

Rosemary Chicken Lasagna 

20161219_210523Filling:

  • 2 pounds chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces (I replaced this with 1 1/2 pounds of sliced baby bella mushrooms)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (if dry, use less-but fresh is highly recommended)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • Cracked pepper
  • 1-2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (arugula can be used as well)
  • 12 ounces of fresh mozzarella (I used the baby mozzarella pearls) (8 ounces is for the lasagna filling and the other 4 ounces if for the bechamel sauce)
  • 15 ounces ricotta
  • 3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 package of egg roll wrappers, or fresh lasagna pasta sheets

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 4 ounces mozzarella (reserved from previous mention)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 cups hot whole milk
  • 1 1/4 kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I bought and grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (I left it out)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Season with salt and cracked pepper. Sauté in a skillet on medium heat, in some olive oil until golden and cooked through. Set chicken aside.20161219_181808
  3. In the same pan, sauté diced onions until tender, on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. A little more olive oil may be needed. Add garlic and lower heat to medium, sauté and for 2 minutes. Sauté mushrooms until liquid is released and mushrooms are tender, approximately 10 minutes. Add chopped spinach, or arugula, and stir until wilted and then add chicken. Set aside.
  4. To make the Bechamel Sauce: In a small pot, melt butter on medium heat. Add flour and stir for five minutes on medium heat until flour is golden. Whisk in the hot milk (one cup at a time). Add rosemary and bring the sauce to a boil. Do not leave unattended and continue to stir. Add 4 ounces of mozzarella and stir until cheese is melted and the sauce thickens. Add salt, nutmeg, and white pepper. Simmer for a few minutes and set aside.
  5. To assemble lasagna: Butter or grease an 8×12 inch pan. Pour in 1/2 cup Bechamel Sauce…enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish. Lay one layer of pasta sheet (if using eggroll wrappers, use two layers) over the Bechamel Sauce. Using a teaspoon, place teaspoon-sized dollops of ricotta across the pasta sheets, using about half the container of ricotta. Then pour the lasagna filling across. Next, drizzle 1/2 of the Bechamel Sauce on top, then sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 4 ounces of the mozzarella and half of the lemon zest. Repeat, adding another layer of pasta, or eggroll wrappers, lightly pressing down. Add more dollops of ricotta, finishing off the container, top with the lasagna filling, 1/2 cup of the Bechamel Sauce, the remaining mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and the remaining lemon zest. Top with the last layer of the pasta, or eggroll wrappers. Pour the remaining Bechamel Sauce, sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan, and sprinkle with some of the rosemary.
  6. Bake, tightly covered with foil, at 400 degrees F, for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until the top is golden.
  7. Let the lasagna rest out of the oven for about 20 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!

Final note: I have to say that the eggroll wrappers were a bit different, but definitely made for easier layering. I was a bit heavy-handed with with the rosemary, as I used dry rosemary, because my local grocer was out of fresh rosemary. When I make this again, I will use fresh sheets of pasta. This recipe was quite labor intensive, but fun to make. It was my first time making a roux, which I should have known how to do for years, being as I am from New Orleans! I welcome comments and feedback on your experience with this recipe!

 

New Orleans’ grocery stores (my personal favorites)

For me, a trip into a grocery store is like a trip to the museum…no matter whether I have eaten or not, all of my senses are engaged as I go down each aisle. The grocery store is a place for me to relax as I peruse the aisle with all of the fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, and cheeses. That is often where I decide what I would like to cook next. I am like a kid in a candy store…

There are some grocery stores I love because of the variety of products that are regional, in no particular order:

Dorignac’s grocery has been serving the Greater New Orleans area since 1947 and has a plethora of products native to Louisiana, from Blue Runner beans to Pontchaloua strawberries to mirlitons to locally caught seafood. The meat department even makes its own italian meatballs, stuffed crabs, au gratins, meatloaf, and red gravy (or marinara sauce). In addition to their cheese, wine, produce, meat and deli departments, they also do catering and have a bakery department which makes wedding cakes and delicious pastries.

Langenstein’s had its humble beginnings in 1922 when it was just a small corner grocery in Uptown New Orleans. However, it has now grown in size with two full size locations in Metairie and Uptown New Orleans. They offer full service cheese and meat departments as well as specialty items local to New Orleans, as well a full service catering department.

Rouse supermarket became a reality thanks to Anthony J. Rouse, Sr. in 1960 beginning with just 4 employees in a 7,000 square foot location in Houma, Louisiana. Mr. Rouse purchased his produce from local vendors and got his fish and seafood from local fishermen. He even made his own sausages and boudin in a shed out back. Today Rouse supermarket is represented by more than 50 stores spanning three states and keeps growing.

 

Acme Oyster House: A great place for seafood and po’boys!

When I visit home I always make a trip to Acme Oyster House in Metairie, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans proper. The main location is in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Their menu is a variety of salads, po’boys, and seafood. While I have had the chargrilled oysters, as well as raw oysters, and seafood platters, which come with fried catfish, soft-shell crab, oysters and shrimp, I often get the same dish when I visit. My favorite dish is the Metry Combo…which is a po’boy with a soup or salad.

po'boy and soup

For my Metry Combo, I choose the Roast Beef Debris Po’boy with Oyster Rockefeller Soup. Roast beef debris is basically roast beef cooked until it is fall apart tender, with the debris or the shavings and accompanying gravy on po’boy bread, usually toasted. Oyster rockefeller soup is a cream based soup with spinach and oysters and topped with a fried oyster. The soup is rich and creamy with chunks of garlic and full-bodied oysters. The roast beef is tender and full of garlicky flavor with a flour-based gravy that clings to the roast beef.

In New Orleans, the sign of a good po’boy is gauged by how many napkins are used to clean up the mess. The more the better. And if gravy is dripping down your arm…well, that’s just a bonus!

Cream Cheese Crab Stuffed Mushrooms…my first attempt!

I love mushrooms…pretty much any way they come. If there was one thing I could eat everyday and not  tire of it, it would be mushrooms. Some of the ways I eat them are sautéed with steaks and atop burgers…in pasta sauces and stuffed (preferably with cheeses and crabmeat). When restaurants have them, I can’t help but place an order for their appetizer of stuffed mushrooms. At the moment, Maggiano’s Little Italy has my vote for the best stuffed mushrooms, but there are many others I have yet to explore.

I decided that it was time to go it on my own. I took to Pinterest to find a recipe. The one I found had cream cheese, crabmeat and herbs…sounded perfect. I improvised a bit based off of the following recipe:

stuffed mushrooms

Cream Cheese Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

12 Large White Mushrooms
6 oz. Whipped Cream Cheese (because it’s softer and lighter) (I used 8 oz of reg cream cheese and let it get to room temperature)
1 Tbls Cream or Milk (I used skim milk)
1/4 cup Crab meat (I used a can of lump crabmeat, to save money, which can be found near the canned tuna in the grocery)
1/4 cup green onions chopped small, use some of the greens – it’s about 5 green onions
2 garlic cloves minced (I used the minced garlic in the jar…3 teaspoons)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese + some for the tops (all I had on hand was grated which worked out well)

Directions:

1. Destem the mushrooms and place on a baking sheet or in an baking dish…make sure there is a lip around the edge to catch any liquid…also I notice that the mushrooms toppled…you may want to put a layer of dry beans down to keep them stable

2. Combine the cream cheese, milk, crabmeat, green onions, garlic, and parmesan and mix well

3. Using a small spoon (like a baby spoon if you have one hanging around), fill each mushroom evenly, be generous so that all the filling is used between the 12 mushrooms. Also, a ziploc with the tip cut off is helpful to pipe the mixture into the mushrooms
4. Top with parmesan cheese.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes until the cheese starts to brown.

These are quite rich. If there is any mixture left over I would put it in a ramekin or small dish and eat with crackers. It can go either way really.

 

Crescent Roll Blackberry Rugelach…a Practice Run

I recently had a sweet and flaky pastry known as a rugelach. In all my years living in New Orleans, I have never seen one. I have lived in Austin, Texas for over four years and I have finally tried one after seeing them on my frequent trips to the grocery. A rugelach is a Jewish pastry eaten almost any time of the year and is traditionally made in the form of a crescent using dough rolled out in the shape of a triangle (Schocken, 2004). Many fillings can be used such as nuts, chocolate, raisins, or preserves. The one I tasted used raspberry preserves and it was light, flaky, and sweet!

I tried to make my own using Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (which were a bit difficult to work with) because I used Blackberry jam…use preserves as they hold in the oven much better. In addition I sprinkled crushed walnuts atop the jam and rolled the dough. I baked them in the oven using the time recommended on the crescent roll package. It did not turn out as planned but they were very tasty.

My recommendation: Use preserves…and try phyllo dough. Next time I will be placing the ingredients on a few sheets of phyllo dough and rolling it in jelly roll fashion. Update to follow on that experiment.

Here is a picture of a rugelach by Yair Rand

by Yair Rand

Chicken & Chorizo Paella

Chicken-chorizo paellaMy husband has often asked me to make paella, which I have never made, often because I thought that I needed a proper paella pan and also because I thought it would be a lot of work. I decided to take on the recipe this weekend and learned that neither of my presumptions were true. First, I searched Google to see if a proper paella pan was necessary and I found the most people used a cast iron skillet as an ample alternative. Being that I already have a 12″ skillet, I was set. Next, came the ingredients, so off I went to the store.

Before getting into the details, I must note that I was inspired by the following recipe. Besides the skillet, I needed the following:

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3-4 saffron threads (I purchased the actual saffron threads from my local spice shop)
  • 2 c. short-grain white rice (I used Aborio)
  • 4 c. chicken broth (which is a 32 oz. container…there are low sodium varieties as well)
  • 1 lb. chorizo, cooked and diced
  • 1 lb. chicken, cooked and diced (I shredded a store bought rotisserie chicken which saved time and steps)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used a pint of grape tomatoes)
  • 1 c. thawed peas
  • 4 tsp. smoked pimentón (Spanish paprika)
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • salt + freshly ground black pepper (season to taste)
Preparation:
  • Over medium heat, add 2 tbsp. of olive oil into the pan and sprinkle in saffron threads. Heat until fragrant
  • Add garlic, onion, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Cook until soft.
  • Add remaining olive oil and pour in rice. Stir well making sure all rice is coated in oil.
  • Add chicken broth.
  • Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat.
  • While the mixture was simmering, you can cook your chorizo in another pan. It finishes up in perfect time.
  • After about 15 minutes add chicken, chorizo, and peas.
  • Cook about another 30 minutes and stir often to make sure all rice is getting cooked and nothing is sticking.
  • Season with smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, and black pepper and serve.

Serves 4-6. Enjoy!