Low Key Friday Night

It’s been a crazy week, so we decided to spend Friday night in for dinner and a movie.  We had some ravioli and chicken in the fridge, so I decided to put them to work.

The wine is an optional ingredient, but I highly recommend it.  My casserole experience earlier in the week gave me the idea to use some of the leftover chicken broth to make a sauce.

I heated a pan with salted butter.  Then, added chopped onion (who didn’t quite make it in to the family portrait) and garlic.

I let the onions and garlic cook down, then added chicken broth and cherry tomatoes (or maybe they were grape, but who’s counting).  Then I threw in two tablespoons of flour, and teaspoon of salt, and a lone chicken breast chopped into one inch pieces. (I threw the other two chicken breasts into some jerk marinade I had on hand for Sunday dinner).

In the mean time, I cooked up the ravioli (it only takes 5 minutes to boil) and made a salad with some odds and ends – chopped strawberries, pecans I toasted in the oven, feta cheese, arugula, and dressing I made earlier in the week.

One last step.  Sauce – meet ravioli.

The sauce turned out great.  The chicken could have used a little less time in the pan, but still pretty delicious.

All together now:

Delicious dinner!  Now that I have overcome my fear of adding flour to liquid (lumpy gravy nightmares), sauce is my new friend!  Oh, and in case you were wondering about my friend ricotta – ever since a fabulous dinner with my family in the North End, I love to pair it with pasta and tomatoes.  So, it went nicely with the ravioli :-) .

More on what I’m doing with those leftover chicken breasts coming up…

My First Food Blogging Experiment: Green Bean Casserole

I thought this would be a great experiment as a first post because the recipe itself was an experiment – a dry run for Thanksgiving.  I have been tasked with two dishes at this year’s dinner: Pecan Pie (more about that in an upcoming post) and Green Bean Casserole.  Both are favorites of mine at Thanksgiving, but I had never made the casserole.  My mom suggested I check-out this recipe by Alton Brown (we’ve been watching him together for years).  So, I decided to try it out – with a couple of short cuts. Right off the bat,  Alton’s recipe includes making your own crispy onions – I went semi-homemade with the canned variety from the store.

Alton Brown’s Halley’s “Best Ever Green Bean Casserole”

  • 1 can French fried onions
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound steam-in-the-bag green beans
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Steam green beans for three minutes (or 75% of cooking time on package) – you want to mimic the effect of blanching them

Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. I only had salted butter, but I would definitely say use the unsalted if you are going to go with the amount of salt in the recipe.

While the pan is heating, chop mushrooms into small (1/2 inch) pieces.  I used shitake mushrooms (they were absolutely gorgeous in the store) and discarded the stems.

Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.  The sauce that this process created was beautiful – over steak or mashed potatoes, anyone?

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions.

Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

To accompany this creamy/crunchy delight, I baked some wild atlantic salmon as our protein for the meal.  I split an 8oz filet into two portions and seasoned it with a pre-packaged seafood seasoning.  Next, I lined a small glass baking dish with aluminum foil and sprayed it with cooking spray.

Popped those beauties in the oven at 375 degrees for 13 minutes and voila! Salmon perfection!

The verdict? Absolutely delicious.  I really loved the large mushroom pieces and fresh taste of the beans.  Our salmon was wonderful too – perfectly prepared.  Overall, a successful experiment and sure to be a crowd pleaser at Thanksgiving.

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