Weekly Winner:  Coming Home to a Cozy Chicken Casserole

My month of crazy travel is over and I am finally home.  I’ve eaten really well over the past month, but very little of it was made at home (hence the lack of blog posts here).  Now that we’re back and here for the duration, I certainly plan to rectify that.

Last night was all about comfort food.  Jet-lagged and just a bit crazed and cranky trying to catch up with laundry and holiday preparations, I needed something quick, easy and most of all comforting.  This Coconut Chicken and Rice Casserole was just the thing.  First and foremost, the picture does not do it justice.  Did I mention I was a bit crazed and cranky?  Yeah, well I didn’t really spend much time on the photo and I almost always take several.  Last night I just wanted to eat.  So trust me when I say it not only tasted great, it looked much better than this!  Also, it should be said that I hate coconut.  Seriously, I do.  However I have learned that I dearly love things made with coconut milk.  To me, they are two totally different entities and have completely different tastes.  That’s why this recipe almost never came to be in this house.  The name totally turned me off initially until I realized that it was referring to the coconut milk used in the rice.  Yes, the original recipe calls for toasted coconut chips as a garnish — but read on and you’ll see that I totally found a better alternative!

But anyway, I digress, back to the actual dish.  Super easy to make.  Totally a one-pot wonder but so flavorful and satisfying.  The brightness of the tomatoes along with the meatiness of the mushrooms elevated it beyond simple chicken and rice, and the coconut milk (as it always does) made it soul-satisfying and cozy.

I just wish I had a better picture.  But trust me … It was much more attractive than this (both on the plate and on the palate).  The recipe comes from Redbook Magazine.

Coconut Chicken and Rice Casserole

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

4 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)

Kosher salt and pepper

1 large shallot, chopped

8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 14oz can diced tomatoes

1 tsp honey

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp basmati rice

1 13.5oz can light coconut milk

1/3 cup basil leaves, torn, for serving

1/4 cup toasted unsweetened coconut chips, for serving[TRUST ME ON THIS – 1/4 cup or more of French-Fried Onions is a far superior garnish]

Hot sauce, such as Sriracha, for serving

Procedure:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken with 1 tsp each salt and pepper and add to the pot, skin-side down.  Cook until skin is golden and crisp, about 6-8 minutes.  Flip and cook 2 minutes more.  Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the shallot to the pot and cook until translucent and tender – about 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook until browned and tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and honey and cook until most of the liquid evaporates, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the rice, coconut mil, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.  Bring mixture to a simmer and place the chicken skin-side up on top of the rice, taking care not to completely submerge.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until rice is tender and absorbs the liquid and the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  3. Heat broiler to high with oven rack positioned 6 to 8 inches from heat.  Remove lid and place under the broiler.  Cook until skin is crisp again, about 3 minutes.  Serve topped with basil, coconut chips, french-fried onions, and hot sauce if desired.
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Weekly Winner: A Classier Tuna Noodle Casserole

IMG_1585  If you like tuna and you’re a fan of pasta (and if you’re not, I don’t want to know you) then you’ve obviously had some sort of tuna noodle casserole. Usually, this amounts to dumping canned tuna, egg noodles, and some sort of condensed soup in a casserole dish and baking it until bubbly. While it may not be earth-shatteringly delicious, it is comforting and will take the chill off of a cold winter evening.

I think it is safe to say that I will never make one of those casseroles again. Why? Because I have found a better way. A step up from the basic, boring casserole. Enter Creamy Shells and Tuna with Walnut Gremolata. I believe the recipe came from Cuisine at Home and while it is a much classier dish than the standard casserole, it is a lot quicker as there is no baking required. Bonus!

Creamy Shells & Tuna with Walnut Gremolata
Serves 4

For the gremolata: combine 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped parsley and the zest of 2 lemons. Set aside.

Ingredients for the pasta:
8 oz dry medium shell pasta
1 cup diced shallots
1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp country Dijon mustard
2 cans solid white albacore tuna in water (5 oz each), drained
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:
Cook shells in a pot of boiling salted water according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.

Sweat shallots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until shallots soften, 7-8 minutes.

Deglaze skillet with vermouth, increase heat to high, and reduce until nearly evaporated, 3 minutes. Add cream, broth, and mustard; boil sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in shells, tuna, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Add pasta water to reach desired consistency. Garnish with gremolata.

 

Weekly Winner: In Defense of Beige Food

I know everyone says that you “eat with your eyes” first.  Food should be attractive and inviting.  Generally that means colorful and artistically presented which is something that I do usually strive for.  But sometimes, the dish is just so dang tasty that it really doesn’t matter what it looks like.  Not that this week’s winning recipe is ugly or unappealing — it’s just, well, plain-looking…. and monotone… namely beige.  But comforting and tasty it is and that is why I’ve been making this particular recipe for over three years.

And yes, I know… this is really LAST week’s Weekly Winner as I did not post.  And I did, in fact, make this last week.  But things got away from me and I was traveling and we ate a lot of meals out so here it is a week late.  But don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I made this week’s Weekly Winner last night, so stay tuned!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Last week’s Weekly Winner is Chicken Sausage and White Bean Casserole with Sage and it comes from the ever-dependable Everyday Food Magazine.  Although frying the sage leaves sounds like a fussy and unnecessary step, please don’t skip it.  It is a very important component to this dish — not to mention the only thing that is not beige!

Chicken Sausage and White Bean Casserole with Sage

Serves 8

Ingredients

1/2 baguette (about 4 ounces), torn into pieces

1/4 cup olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1/3 cup fresh sage leaves (about 25)

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound fresh chicken sausage, casings removed

1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

3 cans (19 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse bread until very coarse crumbs form (you should have about 3 cups). Add 2 tablespoons oil; pulse briefly to moisten. Season with salt and pepper; set breadcrumbs aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add sage; cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sage to a paper-towel-lined plate; set aside (reserve pan with oil).

Add onion and garlic to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add sausage and wine; cook, breaking sausage up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in beans; cook until beans are tender and creamy, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer sausage-and-bean mixture to a shallow 4-quart baking dish; scatter breadcrumbs over top. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until topping is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Serve casserole topped with fried sage leaves.