Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This is a recipe that my sister-in-law Amanda discovered on the back of a bag of shredded cheese.  And it is gooooood.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
from Kraft

1 lb. chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 c. frozen corn kernels
1 jar (16 oz.) salsa 'o choice (I used medium because I'm lame and afraid of stomach acid flare-ups)
1 bag of shredded cheese, Mexican blend
1 c. sour cream
corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut your chicken into bite-sized pieces and start browning in a medium-sized skillet.  Finely chop a green pepper and an onion, add to chicken (at about halfway through the browning process ...).  Once the chicken is basically cooked through and the veggies are softened, take off heat and add a cup of frozen corn kernels, salsa and sour cream.  Mix.

Spray a 9-by-13 cake pan or whatever you usually use to bake casseroles.  At the bottom of the dish, place a layer of corn torillas.  Like so:

Top this with about half of the chicken mixture.  Like this:

Sprinkle about half the cheese on top of the first layer:

The rest of the pictures look about the same as these do, so I'll spare you the imagery.  However, you will lay down another layer of tortillas and then repeat the layering sequence.  Tortilla, goop and cheese.  Then you put it in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until cooked through.

This is what you end up with ...

And it is gooood - even if it photographs poorly.

A couple of notes:

1) Spraying your baking pan is a must.  Just ask my SIL, although my husband and I helped her pick out the tortillas that got stuck to the bottom of her pan.  And then we ate that part.  This casserole is that unabashedly good.

2) I think that you could totally omit the sour cream in this recipe or cut in half, saving you valuable calories and fat grams.  I'm not sure if I'm going to go that far though ...

3) For people who don't really care for chicken, I am confident that ground beef would also make for a good switch.  I could also see adding some black beans because I really like them.  The possibilities are damn near endless.

And finally ... while this is awesome when it's fresh out of the oven, this is one of those cases where the leftovers aren't great the second day - or as my husband said "the flavors are better, but the chicken is spongy and the tortillas are meh."  You have been warned.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Crack Cheese Garlic Bread

Dear World, I would like to introduce you to these little bites of cheesy garlic bread.  Why do I call it crack cheese garlic bread?  Because I snarfed down half a loaf of this appetizer like a junkie seeking a fix!  These are incredible.  They are also incredibly addictive.  And I am relatively certain that they are not good for you whatsoever.

I got this recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis.  And even though the woman drives my husband mad with her massacre of the word "mozzarella," even he admits that these are pretty damn tasty.

Cheddar Garlic Bread
adapted from Giada's Cheddar and Scallion Bread

1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced lengthwise
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
6 oz. room temperature butter (I use unsalted, it's how I roll and what I put on my rolls.  Ha!  Um, lame ...)
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Take the cheese, the butter and the garlic and blitz them in a food processor until its a nice, combined and spreadable mixer.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees, spread cheesy goodness on the bread and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden and bubbly.  Cut into slices (hint - it's easier if you use a pizza cutter ...)

A couple notes:

1) When I went about making this for the first time, I didn't have the recipe in front of me and ended up playing by ear - and making a ton.  Basically, I used two bags of grated sharp cheddar and then 2 sticks of butter. (Along with the two garlic cloves.)  As you can imagine, this made a ton of spread, but it's stored itself really nicely in the fridge and I've been pulling it out and softening it as needed.  So far, it's been in the fridge for three days.  I give it until the end of the week until I freak out and throw it out.

2) Please, please, PLEASE listen to Giada and use the ciabatta bread.  It has these crazy little holes that fill up with cheesy, buttery goodness when this is baked.  And my God ... if there are appetizers in the hereafter, methinks this will be served.

3) In terms of ciabatta - when I first made this, I bought a big loaf, but I also used some ciabatta rolls that I found - same thing, just smaller.  I really liked this because I didn't have to do as much cutting when it came time to serve my apps.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Creamy Polenta with Parmesan and Sausage

During my junior year of college, my life was majorly altered when I decided to study abroad for a semester.  I traveled with a group of 12 others to the Mediterranean island of Malta, spending six months in a different culture - learning a lot about myself (Did I really want to be an English major?  Would Amsterdam be a good country to be exiled in?  Do I really have to go home?  When do I get to go home?), learning a lot about other cultures and living with three extraordinary other women.  My flatmates were named Heather (the lady who ran the hotel gym across the street always called her "Heeter," I still call her Heeter), Gretchen (I usually just refer to her as "G") and Andrea - we called her "D."

While I have incredible stories about our times as a group and my times spent individually with these great people, this particular dish reminded me of Heather.  Although D and I would sometimes commandeer the kitchen and make stuff that reminded us of our Midwest roots, Heather was the spontaneous and adventurous one who was on a first-name basis with the butcher down the street, the green grocer who was around the corner and taught me how to de-ink a squid in our flat's kitchen.  She was also the first person to introduce me to polenta, which I would cheekily call "Pacino."   And while I remember little about what she served polenta with or if I even liked polenta the first time I tried it (there were few of Heather's dishes that I didn't like, so I'm sure I loved my Pacino too), this dish reminds me of when I was younger, a little more reckless, actually liked seafood, had access to wine that I would kill for now and of my dear friends.  I love each and every one of you ...

Creamy Polenta with Parmesan & Sausage
by Mark Bittman - New York Times

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 good-quality sweet Italian sausages (I ended up using chicken sausages with roasted red pepper in 'em ... divine!)
1 cup medium-to-coarse cornmeal
1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper.

My sausages were pre-cooked and only needed to be heated, so if you need to cook your sausages - here's the directions for that:  Put oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, put cornmeal in a medium saucepan along with 1 cup water and whisk well to make a slurry; continue whisking mixture to eliminate any lumps. Put pan over medium-high heat, sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, whisking frequently and adding water as needed to keep mixture loose and free of lumps, between 3 and 4 more cups. If mixture becomes too thick, simply add a bit more water; consistency should be similar to sour cream’s.

Polenta will be done in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on grind. Add cheese and butter. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and lots of pepper; serve topped with sausages.

Yield: 4 servings.

Here's my take on polenta as a 31-year-old ... while it will never replace mashed potatoes as my comfort food of choice, it is still pretty damn good.  And like most dishes - it tastes better the second day when the flavors really get a chance to meld together.  I actually ate the leftovers for breakfast over the next couple of mornings - it was hearty and filling.