Chicken Spaghetti

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It’s a busy time of year so I figured for my final post of 2018 I’d share one of my favorite make-ahead, enjoy-now or freeze-for-later meals!

Who doesn’t love a good chicken spaghetti, right? It screams comfort food.  Will and I have a difference of opinion on mix-ins or toppings for this one as he, for some strange reason unbeknownst to me, does not enjoy mushrooms and black olives.  So, you’ll see in the recipe how we navigate that craziness 😉

This recipe makes a healthy amount, so I typically bake one smaller dish for dinner and pack another up in a foil pan to freeze for later.  In this case, we even loaded up some small foil loaf pans to freeze for grab-and-go lunch options.  I love having this recipe, in large or small amounts, on hand!

I hope that you have enjoyed the recipes I’ve shared throughout 2018.  I’d love to hear if you have made one or two, how you enjoyed them and what you would like to see into 2019!  For now – sending you best wishes and many blessings this Christmas season and into the New Year!

-Lindsey


Chicken Spaghetti

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs chicken, boiled & shredded -or- 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz Velveeta, diced
  • 8 oz cream cheese, diced/softened
  • 2 cans “cream of” soup – use chicken, celery, mushroom; mix & match
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 small can black olives
  • 1 small can mushrooms
  • 16 oz spaghetti

Preheat your oven to 350.

To start, you can make this recipe even easier by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken, I’ve done that often.  This time however, I picked up a whole chicken when they were on special and boiled it before starting the spaghetti.  If you boil your chicken, simply cover the bird with water and then add whatever veggies and seasonings feel right!  This time, I tossed in a couple carrots, one onion quartered up, a couple bay leaves and some thyme, a bit of parsley left from another recipe, freshly ground black pepper and caldo de pollo.  Whatever you do, add in some caldo de pollo – or in other words, chicken bullion.  It will add a boost of flavor to your stock and we’re going to use that stock later down the road.  So heads up – save the stock!

Once cooked, pick and shred the chicken.  Remember – save the stock!

You can use a variety of peppers here – I like the colorful assortment here of poblano and small sweet red, yellow and orange bell peppers.  Dice them up along with an onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Saute the veggies until they are soft, seasoning with salt and pepper.

If you have a family of mushroom-loving people, add the mushrooms in with the veggies and let them cook a couple minutes as the veggies soften.  Since we are a house divided, I hold off on the mushrooms right here.

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As the veggies are cooking, cook the spaghetti to al dente – just so it has a little bit left to it as it will cook a little more as the dish bakes. If you boiled your chicken, strain the veggies and herbs out of the stock and then boil the spaghetti in the stock rather than plain water so the pasta takes in that delicious chicken flavor.  If you are using rotisserie chicken, add a little caldo de pollo (bullion) to the water when it comes up to boil.  This is your chance to flavor the pasta itself.  Important:  when you drain the spaghetti, reserve about a cup of the pasta water/stock.  We’re putting that stock to use today!

In a large bowl, combine the two cream soups, Rotel, olives, Velveeta and cream cheese.  If you are an H-E-B shopper, there is store brand cream of poblano soup that works very nicely here!  For the Velveeta, you can cube up a brick or, as you see below, the shreds work nicely as well.  You do want to be sure the cream cheese if softened so it stirs in nicely.  Give the mix a taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Again, I skip the olives here…

To the large bowl, add the shredded chicken and the cooked veggies.  Give it a really good stir so the warm veggies starts to melt and combine all the cheeses.

Add the cooked spaghetti and stir well again.  This mixture will be thick – add that reserved pasta water/stock a little at a time until you get the consistency you are after. You want it to be well mixed and that water/stock will help to get all the yummy cheese mixture coating every noodle.

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Spray either one 9×13 baking dish or two small dished with nonstick spray and fill ’em up! Here’s where my mushrooms and olives come into play – they go on top of “my half” 😉

For the baking dishes – cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

For the freezing dishes – let cool completely and cover with plastic wrap and foil. Freeze until ready to enjoy!

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Don’t worry – Will totally missed all the olives and mushrooms in the above picture.  😉

What’s your favorite comfort meal and/or freezer meal?  Let me know what you think!


Full Recipe

Chicken Spaghetti

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs chicken, boiled & shredded -or- 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz Velveeta, diced
  • 8 oz cream cheese, diced/softened
  • 2 cans “cream of” soup – use chicken, celery, mushroom; mix & match
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 small can black olives
  • 1 small can mushrooms
  • 16 oz spaghetti

*If you boil the chicken, save the stock to boil the spaghetti in

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute onions, bell pepper, poblano pepper and garlic until soft.

Add the mushrooms and saute a few minutes.

Boil spaghetti (in stock, if available) and cook to al dente.

Reserve about a cup of the pasta water/stock after cooking.

In a large bowl, combine cream soups, Rotel, olives, Velveeta and cream cheese.

Season to taste with s&p.

Stir in shredded chicken and onion mixture.

Add cooked spaghetti to chicken mixture.

Mix well as the cheeses melt.

Add reserved pasta water/stock as need to desired consistency – up to 1 cup.

Grease a large baking dish (or two small pans) with non-stick spray.

Pour chicken spaghetti into dish(es) and cover with foil.

Bake for 45 minutes.

If freezing:  Let cool completely, cover pan with plastic wrap and foil and freeze.  Bake, from frozen, covered with just foil, at 350 for 45-60 minutes.

Braised Chicken Thighs

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This recipe is definitely not complicated but instead re-introduces the concept of braising. Loosely defined, braising is “frying or searing meat to then slowly stew in broth or other liquid”. The result? Tender, juicy, flavorful meat! Chicken thighs are a great protein to try braising on as they are easy to work with and fairly forgiving. (Not to mention they are frequently a bargain purchase at our local grocery store) The vinegary braise packs a flavorful punch and you can play around with the veggies you use in this recipe.

We’ve explored this a little bit with the Osso Bucco previously and it’s a technique I enjoy. What’s your opinion? Do you have a favorite braising recipe?


Braised Chicken Thighs

  • 4-6 chicken thighs (or quarters)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 T butter

Preheat the oven to 375.

You are going to want to use a large, heavy, oven-safe pot or Dutch oven for this recipe.  I like using our enamel-coated cast iron for this job as it is easy to take from stove to oven and back again.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in your pot of choice.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the pot, skin side down to start.  Let the chicken brown on the skin side, then flip over and brown the other side. You want a nice dark brown sear, the chicken will finish cooking as it braises in the oven.   When browned, transfer the chicken to a plate or tray.

Spoon off all but about 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. Add the carrots, celery, garlic and onion and cook over medium heat until the veggies are softened.

Add the flour and stir for a minute, cooking the flour a bit.  Add the cider vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot and avoiding lumps from the flour.  Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, thyme, season with a little salt and pepper and bring the sauce back up to a boil.  Nestle the chicken thighs into the sauce, skin side up.  It doesn’t matter if the chicken is completely covered, you just want to make sure that all the chicken is tucked into the pot.  Put a lid, or foil, on the pot and transfer it to the oven.  Braise the chicken for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the pot from the oven.

Optional step:  if you want a crispy skin, transfer the chicken skin side up to a sheet tray and set the oven to broil. Broil the chicken until the skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Ladle a cup or two of the braising liquid into a small pot. Simmer the sauce over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce is as thick as you like it.  When it’s just about done, add the butter and taste for seasoning.

When serving this dish, I like to strain some of the veggies from the braising liquid and plate those on top of the chicken thighs.  I then drizzle some of the thickened sauce across the top of the chicken and serve typically with mashed potatoes and a green side.

Try this one out and let me know what you think!


Full Recipe

Braised Chicken Thighs

  • 4-6 chicken thighs (or quarters)
  • 2 T olive
  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 T butter

Preheat oven to 375.  

In a large oven-safe pot, heat oil over medium-high heat.

Season chicken thighs with s&p and add to pot, skin side down.

Cook in batches, turning once, until golden brown.

Transfer chicken to plate/tray.

Spoon off all but about 2 T of fat in pot.

Add carrots, celery, garlic and onion.

Cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add flour and stir for 1 minute.

Add cider vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of the pot.

Bring sauce to a boil and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Add broth, thyme and season with s&p; bring to a boil.

Nestle the chicken in the sauce, skin side up.

Cover and transfer the pot to the oven and braise chicken for 40-45 min, until cooked through.

Remove pot from oven and preheat to broil.

Transfer chicken to a baking sheet, skin side up.  

Broil on middle rack of the oven until skin is golden and crisp, about 5 min.

Ladle a cup or two of the braising liquid into a small pot.

Simmer sauce over moderate heat until reduced to your desired thickness.

Stir in butter and taste for seasoning.

Serve chicken with veggies strained from braising liquid and sauce drizzled over the top of each piece.

Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

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I’ll start this post with a warning:  this recipe is not a quick one to prep.  It’s not difficult to put together but it does involve a lot of “chill time” before cooking.  You can, however, prep and freeze the chicken ahead of time for a quick mid-week cook!  I’ve noted in the recipe below the best place to pack up and freeze for future cooking.

Another warning: slightly mushy story about this recipe coming up.

Will and I love to have friends over for dinner.  We love to plan a full dinner from appetizers to dessert, usually having guests contribute parts of the meal, and enjoy some wine and bourbon along the way.

One Friday night mid-June, we had some friends over for dinner.  We had made the butter-stuffed chicken before and thought it was a good dish to prep ahead of time and easily cook for a dinner party. Dinner was delicious and we went outside to enjoy the night and continue conversations.  Everyone was settled and Will brought out a wine bottle to refill glasses as needed.  He looked around, said “Now that everyone has a full glass…”, dropped down to one knee on the deck of our back porch and pulled out what instantly became my most favorite ring ever.

There was nervous laughter on my part, excited exclamations from our friends, that super-cute smile of Will’s and then a very firm “YES!” from me. Champagne was popped and thus began our year of wedding prep and life of marital bliss.

acceptance

I’ve said since this day that when we move out of this house, I’m taking with me the board that Will’s knee was touching on June 15, 2012.  We’ll serve Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken for dinner the night the board finds its new home 😉


Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lime zest
  • four boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 7 ounces each
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cups panko

Place the onion, poblano, jalapeno, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano and coriander in a food processor. Pulse everything together until all the veggies are a fine dice.

I love my food processor as it cuts down chopping and mixing time and effort in many situations.  We have both a 3.5- and a 7-cup size and they both get a workout frequently!  Don’t have a food processor handy?  Chop all the veggies into a fine dice from the start – since this is part of the filling inside the chicken roll-up you just want small, fairly equal sizes so that it stuffs and stays inside the chicken well.

Take one tablespoon of the butter and melt it in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the veggie mixture in the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook the mixture until all the moisture from the veggies evaporates – about 15 minutes or so.  Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool a bit as you move on to the next step.

Mash the cream cheese and remaining 4 tablespoons of butter together. Mix in the cilantro and lime zest.  Stir in the veggie mix then taste to check for seasoning.  Add a little salt and pepper, if needed.  Place the butter in the fridge to chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

While the butter is firming back up, prepare the chicken breasts.  Place one chicken breast inside a resealable plastic bag with just about 1 teaspoon of water inside of it – the water helps the chicken to not stick to the bag as much.  Pound the chicken breast to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick with the smooth side of a mallet.  You can also use the bottom of a heavy skillet or pan to pound the chicken down.  Repeat this with all four chicken breasts.

Once the butter if firm, divide it into quarters. Place one quarter of the butter in the center of each pounded chicken breast. Fold one end over the filling, tuck the sides of the chicken in, then continue rolling until the filling is covered.  Tightly wrap the stuffed chicken in plastic wrap and repeat the process with the remaining breasts and butter.

Chill the wrapped chicken at least one hour or as long as overnight.  If you are in a little more of a hurry, pop the wrapped chicken into the freezer until just firm.  You want the chicken breasts firm around the filling so that when they cook the chicken stays together without having to secure the meat with toothpicks.  I can never find all those toothpicks after cooking…  😉

Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Unwrap the chicken then dredge the roll-up in the flour.  Dip the roll-up into the egg, then roll in panko, pressing the panko into the chicken to coat it well.  Wrap the breaded chicken in plastic wrap again and chill to set the coating at least one hour, up to three hours.

** This is a great point to freeze any roll-ups that you don’t want to cook the same day **

Heat your oven to 450.

Heat about 1/2-inch of canola or vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  You want the oil to be about 375 degrees.  I don’t like to drag a deep-fry thermometer out so here are a couple ways to check oil temp without one:

  • Stick the handle of a wooden spoon, or use a chopstick, into the oil.  If the oil starts steadily bubbling, the oil is ready for frying.  No bubbles – keep heating.  LOTS of vigorous bubbles – let the oil cool a bit.
  • Drop a 1-inch square of bread in the oil.  If it takes about 60 seconds to brown the oil is at 365.
  • Drop a single kernel of popcorn into the oil. The kernel will pop as the oil reaches 350-360 degrees.

Fry the stuffed chicken, a couple at a time to not overcrowd the pan, until browned on all sides, about 5-6 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a rack set over a baking sheet and continue to fry/brown the rest of the chicken.  Place the rack with all the chicken breasts into the oven.  Roast the chicken until cooked through, about 18-20 minutes.  This is where you do want to grab a meat thermometer – when done, the chicken should register at 150-155.

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Let the chicken rest a couple minutes before slicing and serving so that the stuffing has a chance to settle a bit – if it is too hot when you slice the lovely juices will run out and you’ll end up with a messy, drier chicken breast.

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The stuffing can be changed up several different ways to swap out the flavors.  Simply leave the butter/cream cheese base the same and mix up the veggies – maybe a little drained spinach and feta?  Green bell pepper and mushrooms?  Sweet cherry peppers and olives?  How would you change it up?


Full Recipe

Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lime zest
  • four boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 7 ounces each
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cups panko

Place onion, poblano, jalapeno, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, and coriander in a food processor.

Process until everything is a fine dice.

Sauté vegetable mixture in 1 T butter over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper.

Cook until moisture evaporates, about 15 minutes.

Set aside to cool a little.

Mash cream cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, cilantro and lime zest together.

Stir in veggie mix.

Season with salt and pepper.

Chill until firm, about 30 minutes, then quarter.

Pound chicken breast to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick one at a time inside a resealable plastic bag with 1 teaspoon water using the smooth side of a mallet.

Stuff chicken breast by placing a quarter of the filling in the center of each pounded breast.

Fold the end over the filling tucking the sides then continue rolling until the filling is covered.

Tightly wrap the stuffed breasts in plastic wrap and repeat stuffing and wrapping with remaining breasts.

Chill breasts at least one hour or as long as overnight, or freeze just until firm.

Season the flour with salt and pepper.

Dredge the chicken in seasoned flour, then dip into egg, then roll in panko, pressing to coat.

Wrap the breaded breasts in plastic wrap and chill to set the coating at least one hour or up to three hours

**Freeze any wrapped chicken breasts you do not wish to cook today**

Heat oven to 450.

Fry the stuffed breasts in ½ inch of canola oil heated to 375°, until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes.

After browning, transfer breasts to a rack set over a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Roast stuffed breasts until an instant read thermometer inserted into the chicken registers 155°, 18-20 minutes.

Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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In case you didn’t already know… Will and I love food.  We love to stay at home and cook and we love to go out.  We find new restaurants to try, we hit up our favorite places multiple times, we are on a mission with another food-loving couple to go to as many of the Houston’s Top 100 restaurants as we can, we indulge in both Houston and Galveston Restaurant Weeks every year… basically, we love food.

In trying new places we try many new dishes.  Sometimes you just gotta try what the restaurant boasts as their specialty, right?  However, every now and then it’s all about the basics.  I mean, if the restaurant is good their roast chicken should be pretty darn good , right…?  I like to test this theory sometimes.

Will and I had the opportunity to travel to Colorado in the summer of 2016.  We stayed with a fabulous friend in the mountains for a few days and planned an anniversary dinner at Acorn in Denver our last night of the trip.  We shared a couple small plates to start but then landed on the their oak roasted chicken with a savory bread pudding, seasonal vegetables and whipped potatoes.  It was amazing – the whole meal was!  When we got home, I played with a recipe until I got what I am sharing today – Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts.  Any one of the three recipes is a stand-alone stunner.  But together, they will always remind me of a special anniversary dinner we shared at a cozy spot on a wonderful vacation.

To me, recipes and memories make the best souvenirs. And a signed menu, of course 😉

Acorn dinner


Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

*For this recipe we are brining the chicken. We typically let a whole chicken sit in the brine overnight.  If you are using bone-in chicken pieces, let the pieces sit in the brine 3-4 hours.

For the chicken:

  • ½ cup Turbinado or raw sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup pink Himalayan salt
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • bundle of fresh rosemary
  • bundle of fresh thyme
  • bundle of fresh oregano
  • Tea kettle of boiling water
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken, innards removed
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1-2 lemons

For the bread pudding:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks leeks, or 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 c cubed, day-old bread (Challah, Brioche, French)
  • 3 c Gruyère (or Swiss) cheese, shredded
  • ⅓ c chives, chopped
  • ⅓ c parsley, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T scallions, chopped
  • kitchen twine

For the brussel sprouts:

  • 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
  • Brussel sprouts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Start with brining the chicken.  A basic brine is 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of salt and 1 gallon of water.  We’ve tweaked this one a bit with some more flavor.  (see note about brining a little further down)

Mix the sugars, salts, peppercorns and 4-5 stems each of the fresh herbs together in a large container.  For a whole chicken, we use a plastic 8-qt container with lid.  Don’t have raw sugar?  Sub in some brown sugar.  Don’t have pink Himalayan salt?  Well, you just aren’t living right.  Just kidding – double up on the kosher salt.

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Pour the boiling water carefully over your mixture and stir to combine and melt sugar/salt.  Set it aside to cool or add some ice to bring the temperature back down before adding the chicken.

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When the brine has cooled, submerge the chicken.  You may need to add more water to the brine as you want the entire chicken to be covered.  Before placing the lid on the container, we used a coffee cup under the lid to hold the bird down a little.

Cover and chill overnight, or 3-4 hours for bone-in chicken pieces.  When ready, remove the chicken from the liquid and discard all leftover brine.

So – can you roast a chicken without brining it?  Definitely.  You can simply start here in the recipe for a flavorful chicken.  Will swears by brining though and I’d have to agree – he’s made some killer chicken and smoked turkey in many a cookoff.  Soaking poultry in a brine not only seasons the meat itself but keeps the bird moist as it roasts/cooks.  Try it at least once!

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and set aside.

Finely chop 3-4 stems of each fresh herb.  In a food processor, mix the room temperature butter, the chopped herbs and a pinch of salt until it is all evenly combined.

Work the butter under the skin of the chicken, all around the bird.  Use your fingers to gently loosen pockets around the breast, legs and wings then massage the skin to move the butter all around.  Get the butter all over the chicken until you have used the entire stick and a half.

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Quarter the lemon(s) and fill the cavity of the chicken with the lemon and any remaining fresh herbs.  Since we are using leeks later in the bread pudding, we also stuffed an extra stalk of leeks in here, you could also use quartered onion here.

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Truss the chicken to keep the wings and legs tight against the body.  Don’t be scared – that basically means use some kitchen twine to tie the legs together and to pin the wings to the breast so they don’t flap around or hang out while cooking. We may not truss the same way every time… but it gets done.  Here’s a good tutorial if you’d like to check it out.

This past Thanksgiving we moved our family time out to Sargent beach and took a Big Easy oil-less fryer with us for turkey-cooking.  We fell in love with it!  It produced a juicy, delicious turkey on Thursday, followed by a wonderful prime rib on Friday.  Since then, it’s been a go-to for roasting/”frying” meat.  We use it here but you can certainly oven-roast your chicken nicely.

We placed the buttered & trussed chicken in the basket of the Big Easy and roasted for about an hour and fifteen minutes before checking the internal temperature of the bird.

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To oven roast your chicken, place the bird on a rack over a sheet tray to catch the drippings. (Bonus: if you have any potatoes, carrots, root vegetables etc, you can place those under the rack to catch all the drippings or use them as the ‘rack’ itself!  Pile the veggies up and place the chicken right on top.  You just want some air to be able to get to the bottom of the chicken so that all sides crisp up while cooking).  Roast the chicken at 425 for an hour and 15-30 minutes, checking the internal temperature in the last 15 minutes.

**Food safety by definition means that chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees to be considered safe to eat.** Will usually pulls chicken closer to 145-150 and gives it some resting time before cutting into it.

Remove the chicken from the cooker/oven and let it rest a few minutes before carving.

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While the chicken is cooking, get the bread pudding and brussel sprouts going.  To plan ahead, both have about a 15 minute prep time and will bake for a total of 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the bread pudding, place the day-old cubed-up bread in a large bowl.  You don’t have to be precise about cubing the bread – you can even just tear it up with your hands.  The size and shape of the bread is up to you!

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In a medium skillet heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the leeks (or sweet onion), the red onion and the garlic until soft.  Remove from heat.

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*Leeks can be fairly gritty.  To easily clean them, chop off the dark green tops and discard (you can use them for making stock, but they are too tough to eat).  Cut off the root end and then slice the stalk lengthwise.  Chop the stalks down to your desired size, then swish the chopped leeks in a bowl or sink of cool, clean water.  The grit will sink to the bottom leaving the clean leeks at the top to strain and dry*

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, stock, cream, salt, and pepper.  

With the bread cubes, combine the Gruyère, chives, parsley, and cooked onion mixture. Stir it all around, it’s okay if the cheese starts to melt a little bit.

Pour egg mixture over bread mixture. Using the back of a spoon, press bread to soak up liquid.  Let the mix sit 8 – 10 minutes or until bread has absorbed all liquid.

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For the brussel sprouts, rinse the sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise.  Smash and peel the garlic cloves, leaving large pieces to roast.

 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dump the veggies on top. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste, mixing well.  

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Butter a 3-quart casserole dish, or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the bread pudding mixture to the casserole dish and cover with foil.

Place the bread pudding and the tray of brussel sprouts in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Toss the sprouts a bit about halfway through.

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While those are cooking, saute the bacon for the brussel sprouts until cooked about ⅔ done – think chewy bacon, not crispy.  

After 30 minutes, add the cooked bacon to the sheet of sprouts and stir.  Remove the foil from the bread pudding and cook both dishes another 15-20 minutes.  The bread pudding should be nice and brown across the top.

During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the balsamic vinegar to a small pot. Over medium-low heat, reduce the vinegar by about half, until it is thick and sweet, about 10 minutes.

Let the bread pudding rest and set a few minutes after coming out of the oven, then sprinkle on scallions before serving. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar on top of the roasted sprouts before serving.

Look at this lovely meal!

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Play with the flavors of butter for the chicken – you can use any combination of herbs, any citrus or onions for stuffing.  You can roast a combination of veggies as a side and change up the cheese and onions in the bread pudding for different flavors.  This meal is a classic by nature but so very comforting and brings back a couple of my favorite travel memories.

What’s your favorite food souvenir?


Full Recipe

Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Roast Chicken:

  • ½ cup turbinado (raw) sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup pink himalayan salt
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • bundle of fresh rosemary
  • bundle of fresh thyme
  • bundle of fresh oregano
  • Tea kettle of boiling water
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken, innards removed
  • 1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1-2 lemons
  • Kitchen twine

 

Mix sugars, salts, peppercorns and 4-5 stems of each herb in a large container.

Cover with boiling water and stir to mix, set aside to cool to room temperature or add ice to drop the brine temperature.

When cooled, place chicken in brine.

Cover with enough cool water to submerge chicken completely.

Cover and chill overnight (3-4 hours for pieces of chicken)

Remove chicken from brine and pat dry; discard brine.

Finely chop 3-4 stems of each fresh herb.

In a food processor, mix the butter, herbs and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.

Work the butter under the skin of the chicken, all around the bird.

Quarter the lemon(s) and fill the cavity with the lemon and any remaining fresh herbs.

Truss the chicken to keep the wings and legs tight against the body.

Using the Big Easy oil-less fryer – 1 ½ hours; oven roast 425 for 1 ½ hours

Let rest, serve.


Gruyère Bread Pudding:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks leeks, or 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 c cubed, day-old bread (Challah, Brioche, French)
  • 3 c Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • ⅓ c chives, chopped
  • ⅓ c parsley, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T scallions, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil.

Add leeks, onion(s) and garlic and cook until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool a while.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, stock, cream, salt, and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine bread, Gruyère, chives, parsley, and reserved onions.

Pour egg mixture over bread mixture.

Using the back of a spoon, press bread to soak up liquid.

Let sit 8 to 10 minutes or until bread has absorbed all liquid.

Butter a 3-quart casserole dish, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Transfer bread mixture to the casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and bake until hot and browned on top, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Let rest 15 minutes, then sprinkle on scallions before serving.


Roasted Brussel Sprouts:

  • 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
  • Brussel sprouts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350

Rinse and half the sprouts.

Smash and peel garlic, leaving large pieces to roast.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dump the veggies on top.

Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste, mixing well.

Roast 30 min, tossing halfway through.

While the sprouts are roasting, saute the bacon until cooked about ⅔ done.

After the first 30 minutes of roasting, add the cooked bacon to the sheet and stir.

Roast another 15 min.

Add the balsamic vinegar to a small pot.

Over medium-low heat, reduce the vinegar by about half, until it is thick and sweet, about 10 minutes.

Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar on top of the roasted sprouts and serve.

Freezer Meal: Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

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I love to have ready-to-go meals in the freezer for a few reasons: they are easy to share with friends and family, they are great food gifts when someone needs a night or two free from dinner planning and prepping, and there is always a time or two when you just want to grab something out of the freezer, warm it up and relax for the night.  These Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies are perfect for all of these reasons.

Chicken Pot Pie is such a classic comfort food.  The crust, the veggies, the gravy… it all just makes for a warm, tummy-filling dinner.  This recipe makes 6 mini CPPs – and while they may look small, one CPP is a pretty filling dinner!  Will and I are pretty adamant about the double-crust on a good CPP so these have a layer of premade pie dough on both the bottom and top.   You can be fancy and make your own pie dough for these… but if I am looking for a quick, easy freezer meal I’m going to reach in the cold case for the premade version.

Plan ahead and pick up 6-7 mini aluminum loaf pans when you plan on making this recipe.  I find them in the baking aisle with all the other disposable aluminum baking pans.  These also add to the no-fuss, individualized gift-giving option of the CPP – who wants to worry about giving/getting back a dish?! 😉  I’ve also easily doubled this recipe and made up to 15 CPPs to freeze at a time.  Heads up if you double – I usually feel that the gravy doesn’t thicken as much as I like it to in the doubled version and add a little cornstarch slurry as it cooks to help it out.  We’ll talk about that more down in the recipe.

Did a new neighbor just move in? Do you have a friend with a busy week that could use a go-to dinner? Try these Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies out and share!  I won’t tell though if you make a batch just for your own freezer… 🙂


Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

 Yield: six pot pies per recipe

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs. chicken – breast, thigh, tenders – boneless and diced
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 48 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/3 cup celery, diced
  • 1 shallot or onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 15 oz. box refrigerated pie crust (two pie crusts)
  • Disposable aluminum mini loaf pans (at least 6 per recipe)

Remove the pie crusts from their box and set on the the counter to warm to room temperature.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  If I am making one recipe, I tend to use chicken tenders or breasts, whichever is on sale at the store when I shop for groceries.  If I am doubling the recipe, I’ll grab one package of white meat and a package of chicken thighs.  Thighs are incredibly tasty, and inexpensive, and they work well in this dish.  Use whatever you like or have on hand!

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Brown the chicken until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes – work in batches if you are doubling the recipe so that you don’t crowd and cool the pan.  Remove the cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.

Melt the butter in the now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery and shallot or onion.  Don’t forget when you are chopping up your celery:  there is a ton of great flavor in the leaves of the celery stalks.  Use the bright green, tender leaves in the center of your bunch (on the left of the picture below) and avoid the darker, larger leaves on the outside (top-right of the picture below) for best taste.

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Stir occasionally and cook the veggies until lightly browned and softened.

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Add the flour to the veggies and whisk for about 1 minute, making a light roux.

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Add the broth and milk and whisk until it thickens, about 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat.

This is where we need to talk about the cornstarch slurry.  As you can see from the picture above, when I make a double batch of these CPPs, as was the case in these photos, I start the gravy in a separate pot.  This is just because in a double batch there are a TON of veggies to incorporate.  It does take longer to thicken in a double batch and in this instance it wasn’t getting as thick as I liked.  Think about what you want – the sauce will thicken a little as it cools, but you want a sort of biscuits-and-gravy, custardy consistency to this so that it is scoopable to place into the pie crusts and so that it freezes well.  As the gravy was cooking, I ended up adding a slurry of about 1/4 cup of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water.  That definitely helped to get things going!

Add the cooked chicken (and veggies if using a separate pot to make the gravy) to the thickened gravy.  Taste and adjust your seasoning if needed.  Set this aside or in the fridge to cool completely.  I have even made the CPP filling the night before and let the whole batch chill in the fridge overnight until ready to scoop into CPPs.  (I know you see peas in that picture below… don’t worry, they are coming.  My picture-taking timing was a little off here!)

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Spray each mini aluminum loaf pan with a nonstick cooking spray.  **THIS IS IMPORTANT!**

Unwrap one pie crust and roll it out on a flour dusted counter. Using the mini loaf pan as a guide/template, cut a bottom layer of dough for each mini loaf pan.  Place it in the bottom of each mini loaf pan.

Unwrap the other pie crust, unroll it onto your floured counter, and cut a top crust for each mini loaf pan.   Cut a few slits into each top crust to vent the crust. At this point, I sometimes get a little creative with the dough scraps.  I use them to cover the top, leaving little vents here and there where the dough scraps don’t exactly meet up.  You could also cut the dough into strips and make a weaving pattern across the top ala a dessert pie if you wanted to be super fancy.  You do you when it comes to CPP top crusts.

Grab the filling mixture from it’s chilling location and stir in the frozen peas.  Spoon the filling evenly into each mini loaf pan on top of the bottom layer of dough. Top each loaf with a pie crust – remembering to have some slits or places for steam to escape when baking.

From here, it’s either cook or freeze!

To cook now: 

Brush the top crust with an egg wash (whisk one egg with about a tablespoon of water in a small bowl). Place on a sheet tray and in a 400 degree oven, covered with foil, for about 20 minutes, then uncover and bake another 20-30 until crusts are golden brown.  Let sit a few minutes before serving.

To freeze: 

Wrap each CPP well with plastic wrap and aluminum foil.  I like to then put two CPPs in a gallon freezer bag or vacuum storage bag and seal them up in pairs.

Freeze up to 2 months.

To cook from frozen:

No need to thaw out the CPP!  Unwrap the pot pies and place on a sheet pan.  Brush the top of the frozen CPP with egg wash (whisk one egg with about a tablespoon of water in a small bowl) and replace just the foil on top of the CPP.  Cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.  Let the pies sit a few minutes before serving.

Want a handy tag for printing the cooking instructions?  Click here!

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What’s your favorite freezer meal?  Let me know what you like and how these super delicious Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies work out for you!


Full Recipe

Make Ahead Mini Chicken Pot Pies

  • 1 ½ -2 lbs. chicken – breast, thigh, tenders – boneless and diced
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 48 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/3 cup celery, diced
  • 1 shallot or onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 15 oz. box refrigerated pie crust (two pie crusts)
  • Disposable aluminum mini loaf pans – at least 6 per recipe

Remove pie crusts from box and set on counter to thaw/warm to room temp.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Brown the chicken until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Melt the butter in the empty Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the carrots, celery, and shallot/onion.

Stir occasionally and cook until lightly browned.

Add the flour to the vegetables and whisk for 1 minute.

Add the broth and milk and whisk until it thickens, about 5 minutes or so.

Remove from heat.

Add the chicken to the sauce, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Cover and refrigerate until completely cooled.

Spray each mini loaf pan with cooking spray.

Unwrap one pie crust, unroll it on a flour dusted counter.

Cut a bottom crust for each loaf pan, place in the bottom of each mini loaf pan.

Unwrap the second pie crust. Cut a top crust, or use the scraps, for each mini loaf pan.

Cut 3 steam vents in each top crust.

Remove the vegetable/sauce mixture from the refrigerator. Uncover the bowl and mix in the frozen peas.

Spoon the mixture into 6 mini loaf tins evenly.

Top each with a pie crust.

 

Wrap well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

Freeze up to 2 months.

 

To cook from frozen:

Unwrap the pot pies and place on a sheet pan.  Brush the top of the frozen pot pie with egg wash and replace just the foil on top of the CPP.  Cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.  Let the pies sit a few minutes before serving.