fancy name, isn’t it?

February 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm (Uncategorized) ()

This past Monday I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen during the evening. Partially, this was prepping food to leave behind when I headed out for my work week the next day. Partially it was unwinding from a nice vacation weekend, since recovery is generally necessary after such events. Partially, well…here’s the recipe I invented on the spot. I can explain. Really. And I will, after I share the recipe.

la cocotte de riz avec les épinards et le poulet fait frire (leftover mcnugget casserole)

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 1/2 cups milk ( we generally have 2% around, but whatever’s handy should work)

4 ounces cream cheese

1-2 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated

dash nutmeg

fresh-ground chipotle or other pepper of choice (optional, obviously)

salt (doesn’t take much, but a little helps bring out the cheese flavour)

2-3 cups fresh spinach

2-3 cups cooked short-grain rice (jasmine, in this case, though I think a brown would be lovely as well)

16 (roughly) chicken nuggets, pre-cooked (in fact, pulled out of the fridge as leftovers) and chopped into bite sized pieces

Make a roux. Add the milk (I started with 1 cup, then wound up adding the rest later in the process as it obviously needed more liquid. As much as 2 cups would easily work here, depending on how much sauce you like in casseroles), whisking thoroughly until it thickens. Add cream cheese in cubes or slices, and whisk until it all melts and combines. Add cheddar similarly. Once sauce is smooth and thick, put the spinach in, and stir over very low heat until the spinach starts to wilt, then add spices and salt to taste. Fold in rice, then chicken.

Spoon mixture into a suitable piece of bakeware, and put into a 350-ish oven for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly around the edges. If you like, and I do, you can then turn on the broiler for a few minutes to get a golden colour on top.

Slices well both fresh and leftover.

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Apologies for the clumsy French title: I couldn’t resist. My French is terribly rusty, so that’s just from a translator program.

Right. I said I’d explain myself. Well…see, we were away from home all weekend on an anniversary trip, and there was lots of good food, and I’m starting to suspect that after too many good quality meals away from home, there’s a rebellion point where you just want something trashy.  We were on the way home Sunday evening when the driver decided he was hungry. I offered to indulge him in one of his favourite fast food treats, since we’d be near one on the way and it’s not available where we live, but it was indicated that this was too far away.

For reference, he never eats at McDonalds: 3 years, and I’ve never caught him at it. But I opened my big mouth to tease him about the possibility of getting in on that 50 nuggets for 10 dollars deal, and next thing I know, we’ve pulled over at a little town off of the highway, and I’m headed in to see what they can do for me. They weren’t, alas, offering that deal, but I decided this was too amusing to pass up (did I mention sleep deprivation?), so I went ahead and got 40 – we’d already started talking about how to use the leftovers.

Several fun conversations about trashy dinner/casserole options later, this was what wound up being produced for dinner on Monday night. I am both quite proud and thoroughly ashamed. It was tasty. If we happened to end up with protein nuggets of a compatible type again, I might well do it again. I’ve gotten good enough with sauces that a bechamel no longer even remotely makes me twitch – I just throw one together, then realize that I used to find it challenging to get it to come out properly.

On the whole, a win, albeit a terribly silly one.

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Now, just to redeem myself, one of the other projects that night:

kona mocha panna cotta

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups cream

1 tbsp fine ground kona mocha (or coffee/flavoured coffee of choice, of course. adjust amount to suit your taste)

1 envelope gelatin powder

1/4 sugar (next time, I’m cutting this to 3 tbsp – just a hair too sweet, but that might have been the turbinado)

homemade chocolate syrup

fresh strawberries

Heat 1/2 cup milk until it’s hot to the touch, then sprinkle on the coffee and leave it to steep for a while. Straining the coffee grounds out after steeping is of course an option, and one I think most people would take, but I didn’t bother – they mostly settle to one part of the finished product, and the grittiness made an interesting texture and flavour contrast.

Pour contents of gelatin envelope over remaining milk in a small saucepan, and allow to bloom for at least 5 minutes.

Once gelatin has bloomed, heat milk over low heat, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Add in coffee-flavoured milk, cream, and sugar, and heat again until sugar has dissolved. Don’t let it boil.

Prepare  ramekins or other serving dishes with a light coating of butter or oil, then pour a spoonful of chocolate sauce into the bottom of each. (This assumes inverting onto a plate before eating – if that’s too much hassle, you could skip greasing the ramekins, and break out the chocolate sauce when it’s time to serve.) Ladle the milk mixture into the dishes, then place in the refridgerator 8-12 hours, or overnight. To serve, loosen by dipping in hot water and/or running a knife around the edges of the panna cotta, then invert onto a plate. Add fresh strawberries. Eat. Make happy noises. Alternatively, just pull the dish out of the fridge, grab a spoon, and dig in. Happy noises are still encouraged.

For me, this fills four of our little glass oval ramekins. It’s a fairly soft gel when it’s done. There’s really no limit to variations on panna cotta, but this is the first time I just glanced at a few options, then did it without a recipe safety net, hence logging it here.

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Other projects that evening? Homemade corn/cheese crackers, which kept three sheet pans busy for quite some time as batch after batch rotated in and out of the oven, and sour cream bread, which was set aside to rise overnight and bake in the morning.

Next week, I try to actually get measurements on the new “slightly more from scratch” frozen burrito recipe. And clean the house. And maybe make some more bread. Also, test the second run of kiwi-lime marmalade, which wound up with different proportions for some reason, and post the recipe if I’m pleased enough with it.

And yes, I still need to get the ginger pictures up. Hopefully that will happen before we manage to use up all the syrup and have to make more.

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