Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sookie's Chicken Casserole

A Southern comfort food classic.  It does use Campbell's Cream of Chicken and Celery soups, but it doesn't taste like one of "those" recipes.

 This recipe is from The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris, published in August last year.  This book is a great reference for fans.  There is a new short story, a very cool map of Bon Temps, character references, and many of the recipes referred to in the book.  Lots of these recipes are Southern classics, but for some of us they may not be readily a part of our daily lives as others.  I decided to write about Sookie's casserole, because it is awesome.  And of course, I'm a huge fan so I made it straight away.  Then I tuned it up a bit.  And I have a few prep hints.  Here is the recipe as it appears.

2 cups cooked rice
Nonstick cooking spray
4 large cooked chicken breasts, boned and diced
8 oz. sour cream
1 can (103/4 oz.) cream of chicken soup
1 can (103/4 oz.) cream of celery soup
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1 roll butter crackers, crushed
1/2 stick margarine, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Spread the rice on the bottom of a 9 x 13” casserole dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the chicken, sour cream, soups, and poppy seeds, and mix well. Spread over the rice. Sprinkle the crushed crackers over the top and drizzle with the margarine. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Submitted by Beverly Battillo

And here's my version.

3 cups cooked rice
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 large celery stalks, diced
4 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced
8 oz. sour cream
1 can (103/4 oz.) cream of chicken soup
1 can (103/4 oz.) cream of celery soup
1 roll butter crackers, crushed
1/2 stick margarine, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Make the rice.  Grease 9 x 13” casserole with vegetable oil or butter.  Spread the rice on the bottom of the casserole. (I don't use spray oil on non-stick surfaces anymore.  It destroyed the surface of one of my All Clad non-stick pans, literally turned it into a super-stick pan.  Williams-Sonoma said that I voided my lifetime warranty on the pan by using spray oil on it.  Now I don't use it on pans or even my fine ceramics anymore.)

Heat olive oil in a heavy pan.  Lightly saute onion and celery for a few minutes.  Add diced chicken and saute until just barely done.  This will become a rather juicy saute as the meat releases juices.  Don't over cook the meat.  The chicken will become too dry, and the liquid adds extra flavor to the casserole.  Add the sour cream and soups and mix well. (I omitted the poppy seeds because I know people who prefer not to eat them.)  Pour/spread creamy mixture over the rice in casserole. Sprinkle the crushed crackers over the top and drizzle with the margarine. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

I used Ritz crackers.  The easiest way to crush them is to put the whole roll, still in their wax paper wrap in a plastic bag for extra protection, then pound lightly with a meat tenderizer mallet.  After that you can simply open the package and sprinkle over the casserole.  

I really think the addition of the vegetables is important.  And the meat juices released in the pan are great when mixed with the soups. 

I served it with a Caesar salad and white wine.  I love Caesars, but lots of steamed fresh veggies would be great, too.  And obviously, we are still enjoying that Bogle California Chardonnay.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Super Yummy Salmon Patties Recipe

My family calls this recipe "Crabby Patties" after the much loved treat from "Sponge Bob;" although, this recipe contains no crab and is strictly salmon, it is a variation of a crab cakes recipe.  These are healthier, because they are baked not fried.  And I use leftovers from a large rail of baked salmon.

To bake the salmon, I choose a large cut with the skin on.  I rinse it and place it on a baking sheet lined with foil.  I squeeze half a lemon over it, then drizzle with oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with capers.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.  My husband likes to tent it with another sheet of foil, which is poaching the salmon, but I like it baked without the top foil.  Remove the salmon from the skin to serve.  Great with rice and salad or a vegetable.  Save leftover meat for salmon patties.

So this recipe is really 2 nights meals; though my husband looks forward to the salmon patties so much that he makes sure to buy a big enough portion of meat that there are leftovers for the salmon patties meal.  I served this meal with saffron rice, white beans and steamed broccoli, but the patties are excellent with a Caesar salad for a brunch or light dinner.

Salmon Patties (Crabby Patties)

2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ large onion, minced
2 beaten eggs
½ cup half and half
1 cup plain Progresso bread crumbs, plus extra for coating (about another cup)
about 2 cups cold flaked salmon (more or less, no need to measure)
¾ cup minced celery
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika

Melt butter in oil.  Sauté onions lightly, about 3 minutes. 

Beat eggs, and beat in half and half.  Stir in bread crumbs.  Break/flake cold salmon into large chunks with fingers and add to egg bread crumb mixture.  Add the celery, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and paprika with onions. Stir to combine, but do not mix to the point of breaking up the salmon too much.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Shape into patties approximately 2 to 3 inches in diameter.  Pour about 1 cup of the Progresso bread crumbs into a shallow dish and coat patties in crumbs.  Place on a baking sheet. (They don't need to be placed too far apart, as they won't rise like cookies do.)  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, then turn and bake for another 15-20 minutes to brown each side to a light crisp.

Serve with saffron rice and salad.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Atomic Pork Chops Recipe

Here's another one for all you fans of the atomic age.  Too much of the food back then was made with a can of Campbell's Cream of . . .  I'm just not a big fan of that style of cooking.  Though I will admit that I made the Sookie's casserole recipe from the recent installment, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion.  We all loved it.  Classic southern comfort food.

I digress, back to the recipe at hand.  These pork chops were a Sunday favorite dinner, growing up with June (well, really Rae) in the 1970s with my Malibu Barbie.  My mom was married in 1955, but she kinda waited until the last minute to have her kids-- a woman ahead of her time.  This is a one dish meal with rice and mandarin oranges cooking in the same dish as the pork chops.  The tart sweet little oranges are great with the chops.  I like to accompany with a salad.  This salad is simple: spring greens, celery, apples, with a light vinaigrette topped with blue cheese crumbles.

My mom always prepared the entire meal on the counter-top in her electric skillet.  I like to do it in two steps: prepare on the stove in my large All-Clad Saute pan and finish by baking in the oven in my Emile Henry rectangular baker covered with foil.  I love the Emile Henry ceramic pieces.  They are pretty enough to bring to a party as serveware and the glaze cleans up like a fine non-stick surface.

Without further ado---

Atomic Pork Chops

Pork chops (I like the boneless thick cuts for this recipe.)
¾ cup Flour
garlic powder
olive oil

1 large onion, chopped
2 large cans mandarin oranges
1 can chicken broth
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ cup + white wine
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

Rice (1 ¾ cups)

Rinse chops and pat dry.  Mix flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in shallow bowl.  Dredge chops.  Coat bottom of large pan with oil.  Brown chops.  Remove chops to large oven proof roasting pan with lid.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add onions to pan and sauté.  Drain oranges, reserving juice.  Set slices aside.  Combine reserved juice, broth, ginger, wine, salt and pepper.  Add to pan and deglaze.  Add rice (enough that it is half of the juice mixture).  Bring to boiling.  Mix in orange slices.  Add to roasting pan with chops: pour over the chops and spread the rice evenly with liquid for proper plumping.  Bake in oven 45 minutes.  Serve with salad.

A nice glass of white wine is great with this dish.  And there is plenty left of that bottle after you add a little to the recipe.  The wine is not really noticeable; it just adds some complexity to the flavor.  So we've been enjoying Bogle Chardonnay recently.  It's a great bottle of wine in the $10 range-- and often cheaper on sale right now at Safeway.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Girl Scout Cookies

It's Girl Scout cookie season!  Yes, Girl Scout cookies have a season, and we are at the mid-point.  Sales officially began February 13 and will end on March 18.  So stock up on your favorites now.  Cookies freeze well.  Some people even prefer them frozen!

The money earned from cookie sales is split between the girls' troupe and the administrative council.  Here in Northern California, our council is working to protect our campgrounds with a long term conservation easement.  Girl Scouts have always been ahead of the game in the environmental protection and conservation front.  And Girl Scouts are all inclusive.  They do not discriminate socially or economically, providing financial assistance to those in need.  So support your favorite Girl Scout by eating those yummy cookies!

We don't have an office or local extended family to sell to, so we are peddling cookies out of our wagon on the CAL Berkeley campus.  This picture with "State of Mind" in the background is apropos.  Walking down infamous Telegraph Ave calling out, "Giiiirrl Scout Cooookiiees!" is more Mad Magazine than Norman Rockwell in the mix of serious students, jocks, tie dyes, addicts, and homeless.

This is the 100th year of Girl Scouting!  Celebrate with us!  Hit the cookie trail!