Refrigerator Review Recipe: Leftover Chicken Becomes Chicken Cheese Chowder

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Do you regularly practice Refrigerator Review? We do. This week we had some celery that was a little limp, some cream of chicken soup on the pantry shelf, and a leftover chicken breast from a delicious broiled garlic-lime-rosemary chicken dinner two days ago.

He thought that I love Colby cheese and I thought he loves Colby cheese; we ended up buying it at the deli before discovering that neither of us is crazy about it on sandwiches.  No harm, no foul–relationship intact. Here’s what our Refrigerator Review looked like today:

Chicken Corn Chowder

¼ cup onion, diced

¼ cup celery, diced

1 TBS butter

1 cup water

Leftover chicken, skinned and boned and cut into small pieces (at least 1 cup—I used 1 leftover chicken breast)

1 10 ¾ ounce can of cream of chicken soup (you could use cream of celery if you have that on hand instead.)

1-8 oz can of corn

½ cup milk

¾ cup cheese

Melt the butter in a large pan (you won’t need the lid) and add the celery and onion. Add the water and cook on medium high heat until the vegetables are tender—they don’t need to be browned. Add the chicken, cream of chicken soup, corn, and milk. Stir and blend on medium high heat until everything is well combined. Add the cheese, stirring continuously until it melts. Serve with crackers or croutons. Reheats nicely!

What we did: We had 1 chicken breast left over from dinner the other night. I used this chicken breast and used about ½ cup sharp cheddar and about ¼ cup Colby cheese from the deli—this isn’t science, it’s just what I had on hand. This dish is comfort food, quick to make, and it will nicely complement your Refrigerator Review—ENJOY!

 

Pan Sauce Gravy Basics–YUM!

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You’ve got meat—beef, chicken, maybe a nice pork chop. You want it to go beyond Good into Delicious territory. Congratulations—you’re ready to make a pan sauce!

Pan sauces are an art, not a science. You can vary the ingredients, play around with them, innovate. Here are the basics, though.

Fat from meat. Sear the meat you’re going to use. Perhaps you’ll sear the meat with a little olive oil, or some canola oil, or clarified butter, or a combination of butter and oil. Sear the meat and pour off the excess fat from the pan. You want about 2 tablespoons of fat. Cook the meat to your desired doneness and remove from heat.

Liquid. You want to add some liquid to the remaining fat in the pan. This could be wine, broth, bouillon, you name it. For beef or pork, use beef broth or bouillon or red wine. For poultry, use chicken broth or bouillon and red wine or light red wine (maybe a nice rose?)

Aromatics.  You don’t want a boring sauce! Add something to kick it up a notch—fresh herbs, dried herbs, garlic, mustard, you decide. The Stinking Rose (aka garlic) is the house brand around here, but I keep spices handy. If I want a Tex-Mex flair, I might use chili power or cumin. If I want a nice Italian flavor, I have Italian seasoning herbs at hand.

Thickening. Who wants a runny sauce? You can thicken it two ways—by reducing it with heat or by using a roux. To thicken it using heat, just mix together the ingredients above, turn up the heat, stir frequently and monitor carefully. The sauce will eventually thicken, but there will not be as much of it. Still, it’s delicious!

Thickening with a roux. For a long time I was intimidated when cookbooks mentioned a “roux”. I shouldn’t have been, though. A roux is just flour and butter mixed together and plunked into the sauce. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 2 tablespoons flour to it. Stir it till the texture is uniform. Plunk the mixture into the sauce, stir well, keep stirring, and watch it thicken. Trust the chemistry—it works

Final touches. Melt a tablespoon of butter into the sauce for a decadent taste and texture. Another option: Flavored oil. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve immediately.

Add it back. Either pour the sauce over the meat and serve immediately, or add the meat to the sauce, stir to coat, and then serve.

Bon Appetit, chef!

Money Saver: Whipped Butter

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I enjoy whipped butter–the spreadable stuff, with the rich butter taste but without the cold hard butter un-spreadability.

Here’s my recipe for whipped butter at home:

2 sticks butter

6 TBS canola oil

Soften the butter and then, in a bowl, add the four TBS of canola oil to the butter. Whip until it is well combined, then turn into a refrigerator-proof container.

At the store, this whipped butter costs $3.32. At home it costs $1.58.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Weekend Cook-Ahead: Absolute Best Spaghetti Sauce

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Okay, so it’s more labor intensive than opening a jar–but it’s also far, far richer in flavor, more nuanced in seasoning, and it will fill your whole place with an incredible aroma that will leave you hungry long before it’s ready.

This spaghetti sauce will be used to make lasagna tonight (about half of it, anyway) and then the rest will go on pasta for a quick meal this week. Bonus score: the leftover lasagna makes an excellent lunch or re-heat for Refrigerator Review.

Best news yet: no preservatives or weird chemicals. Be sure to compost the onion skins and garlic peels, if you use fresh garlic.

Mange’!

Recipe: Absolute Best Spaghetti Sauce

2 TBS Olive oil

2 onions, chopped

1 LB ground beef

¼ LB sausage

8 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced OR 1 tsp garlic powder

2  28 Oz can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce (or  1-28 oz can of each)

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp dried basil

½ tsp dried oregano

1 TBS sugar

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Peel and dice onions, add to the oil, and add garlic. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the onions are soft but not brown. Add the meat and brown it in the garlic/oil for about 10 minutes, or until all pink is gone. Drain the excess oil.

Put the meat mixture into a slow cooker (or, if you wish, use a very large pan on the stovetop for one-pot cooking). Add the tomatoes/tomato sauce and the spices. Stir to mix and cook on low for 6-8 hours. If you’re cooking it on the stovetop, check it and stir it every hour or so to be sure it’s not burning or sticking. If it’s in a slow cooker, don’t open it!

Enjoy it with pasta, in a meaty lasagna, as a stuffing for ravioli or stuffed shells, or strain the meat and use the tomato sauce for chicken parmesan, reserving the meat and some sauce for super-meaty pasta.

 

 

Follow-up on Friday Frugal Challenge–Grow Your Own

So a few weeks ago I posted this–an invitation to grow your food, in whatever amount you can manage in whatever way works for you. Today I’d like to update that post by sharing a recipe that uses the food I’m growing. Plus it’s delicious–who doesn’t like fried green tomatoes?? (Wait, what? You’ve never had fried green tomatoes? Time you tried it, my friend.)

I picked three green tomatoes from the plants in our garden. We grow Roma tomatoes, which are designed to be used for sauce, but they worked just fine in this recipe.

Recipe:

Three green tomatoes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

8 Ritz crackers (sure, you can substitute saltines)

2 eggs (thanks, Maisie and Maggie–our hard-working hens)

2 TBS butter

2 TBS olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

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Green tomatoes from the garden!

On a paper plate or cooking parchment paper, mix together the flour, salt and pepper.

Crush the Ritz crackers. In a bowl, beat the eggs. Set the flour mix and the crackers up with the egg in between, like so:

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Beat the egg. Slice the green tomatoes.

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In a non-stick pan, melt the butter and heat the olive oil on medium heat.

Dip the first tomato slice in the egg, then coat it with flour. Dip it back into the egg mixture–get it nice and wet, even if flour comes off into the egg–and then dip it into the crushed crackers. When it’s nicely coated, put it into the preheated butter/oil mixture. Repeat until the pan is full.

Cook each tomato 2-3 minutes per side, flipping when the crust is nicely browned. I put the finished fried green tomatoes on a plate, covered with a paper towel for drainage, which went into the oven preheated to 170 degrees to stay warm while I cooked the rest of the tomatoes.

Enjoy with a remoulade sauce and some sweet tea. Welcome to the south, honey!