Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini What Was I Thinking

So this is what happens when you don't read an entire recipe (again): in direct contradiction of your desire for easy cooking, you will decide to make something that seems simple but ends up taking ALL DAY.  Oh I read the recipe, at least the ingredients portion, several times.  In fact, I read the ingredients portion of not one, but two recipes--one from Giada de Laurentiis, and the other from Gourmet.  

I decided to be very creative and take a little bit of this and a little bit of that from each recipe. Giada's had a little more pizazz, while the Gourmet one used a whole chicken, poached, for the meat and the broth that would go into the final recipe.

What I completely failed to see in the Gourmet recipe (the cookbook version, it's not in the online version) is that the broth, with poaching time, takes approximately 4 hours. YEAH. Four STINKIN' hours.  It was a shitty day outside so staying in wasn't such a huge deal, but oh my GOD I was so bored by the end.  Tetrazzini is not supposed to be a hard dish. I mean, there are versions out there with rotisserie chicken and cream of mushroom soup--why oh WHY did I not take that route.

If you want something faster, I recommend the Giada recipe without any bastardization, or the one from Joy of Cooking, which I made a long time ago and which in my memory was not a marathon of death.

But made it I did, so you're gonna hear about it.  

Ingredients adapted from the recipes mentioned above:

  • 1 chicken, about 4 1/2 pounds, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 to 4 quarts water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp mined fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
Cream base:
  • 3 TBS butter
  • a little less than 1/3 cup flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups of the homemade broth borne of your sweat, tears, and interminable time (oh you'll see)
  • 3 TBS medium dry Sherry
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti (I used fettucine because that's what I had leftover from another recipe)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • plenty o pepa
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan for topping
Cut your chicken into 8 pieces.

I would show you how to do cut up a chicken into 8 pieces, but while I know the general directions, what I did to my chicken is not suitable for even adult readership. It was messy, it was violent, and I'm not sure exactly how many pieces I actually ended up with. Might have been anywhere from 7 to 12, who knows.

Put your chicken pieces, along with the backbone and breastbone (which you will have separated from your 8 chicken pieces), into a pot with enough water to cover by at least an inch and the salt.  I used about 3 quarts of water.

Cover and bring to boil.  Then lower heat, uncover, and simmer for 25 minutes.  Take pot off of stove, leave chicken in the pot, and let the chicken cool for about 1 1/2 hours, or until you can handle it with your hands (the chicken will continue to cook).

In the meantime, slice your mushrooms.

Prep your onion, garlic and thyme.

Heat 2 TBS butter in wide 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add in mushrooms with a pinch of salt and cook until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.  

Toss in onion, garlic and thyme, and cook until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.  

Add in wine and let wine simmer off, about 3-4 minutes.

Remove mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Is your chicken cool enough by now? Remove the skin from the pieces, and tear meat from bones in coarse pieces.  

Put skin and bones back into the pot with the broth.  Bring broth, with skin and bones, to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 1 freaking hour.

Strain broth into large bowl.  Discard the spent skin and bones.

Skim the fat off the broth--folks, it was about this point in the recipe that I was wondering what I had gotten myself into, and also really wished that I hadn't always negated the need for a fat separator (like this one) by claiming there was no space in the kitchen.  So despite my deft work with a spoon trying to skim the fat off the top of the broth, there was quite a bit 'o' fat that stayed with the broth.

Put the broth back into the goddamn pot and bring to yet another boil, and boil until reduced to 2 cups, about  another 1 1/4 hours.  

See how concentrated and golden it is?  I would have been more proud had I not wanted to set it on fire in frustration.

Cook your pasta, shaving off a minute from the cooking time, since it is going to be smothered with sauce and baked in the oven.  Drain pasta.

Make the cream sauce. Yeah we're not done. Melt the 3 TBS butter over medium heat.  Sprinkle flour over the butter and cook for about 3 minutes, whisking the whole time to avoid clumps.

Well, in reality it'll be clumpy at the start no matter how much you whisk, but just keep whisking anyway. It'll look better when you whisk in the liquids.

Gradually whisk in broth, cream, and sherry.  

Continue to whisk and bring mixture to boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.  

Oh wait, don't forget to let the mixture boil up and over the sides of the saucepan, down the sides, onto not only the surface of the stove, but underneath in the "drip pan", and then further down below in all the crooks and nannies of the gas-filled pipes which will require you to lift up the entire stovetop and use approximately 1 entire roll of paper towels, 1/2 bottle of Windex and a good part of your sanity and patience to clean.  Yes, don't forget about that part.


Ahem, anyway, this is kind of what the sauce will look like.

Add in 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp salt and however much pepper you want.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter/grease a 13x9x2 baking dish.

Combine the sauce with the pasta, chicken, and mushroom mixture.  I did this in two parts because it is a lot of tetrazzini and one bowl to mix together all those ingredients would have resulted in more spillage, paper towels, Windex, and this time very possibly big, salty tears.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan and sprinkle the 3/4 cup Parmesan over the top.

Bake until Parm turns golden, about 25 minutes.  Frankly, I was sick of this dish at this point and took it out at 25 minutes, although it still looked a wee bit on the anemic side. I don't care.

Ta-da! Now I am going to go pass out. Wait, no, I will make Kevin take me to Grom


  1. Oh geez. I don't think I'm ever going to try this (though I do want to justify putting the Le Creuset on the registry). This reminds me of when I wanted to "whip up" some panna cotta and it took me 3 days.

  2. i LOVE all your dramatic cooking tales. It looks amazing and I hope worth the effort! (I'm a big fan of cooking chick way ahead of time and freezing the shredded pieces and broth to be used for recipes later)

  3. that looks so tasty! the key step *must* be the boiling over and coating the entire stove. thank you for showing me the way.

  4. posts like this remind me of, well, me. i'm always misreading recipes and tweaking and combining different dishes.

  5. I'm way to lazy to cut up a whole chicken! Haha. I'm sorry your pot over boiled but the end result looks yummy. When's dinner tonight? I'm hungry!

  6. Oh man, I'm so sorry! I'm proud of you for sticking with it. I would have quit, and gone for takeout. It does look really good though, so I'm sure it was worth it in the end.

  7. How is it possible no one has raised The Soup till now? Husband and I are obsessed with Chicken Tetrazzini, ever since this famous clip:

    (Though looks like my fantasy of actually cooking it for Husband should stay a fantasy.... Much too much work for my lazy self. Bet yours was wonderful, though!)

  8. This was a labor of love. And I'd love a bowl please.

  9. Tara--I had never seen that before! That's how I seduced my man. Not.

  10. haha Tara - I clicked over from my reader to share that link - but you beat me to it! :) hahaha

  11. hahaha I love that clip, and bless your heart. I hope it tasted good!!

  12. Oh mannnn I'm so mad that The Soup clip was already linked...haha! As soon as I saw the title to your post that is the image that popped up in my head immediately..."you think she has won him over with chicken tetrazinni?" "I don't know what she do with the chicken tetrazinni but Paul looove it!"