Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Add a little GREEN

It's been four years since I shared my sister's version of Chicken Tetrazzini in this column, and now I'm pleased to give you Susan's latest version of the dish.

In the 2006 column, I told the story of how Susan first tried the recipe when a neighbor in Silver Spring, Md., brought over the dish after the birth of Susan's first daughter. Susan got the recipe from her neighbor and eventually adapted it, coming up with her own homemade sauce to replace the can of cream of chicken soup the original recipe called for.

I've made Susan's version of Chicken Tetrazzini many times for my family because they like it so much. And I know my readers made it, too, because so many of you e-mailed me or stopped me at the grocery story to tell me how much your family loved it.

Well, dear readers, Susan's newest version of this recipe is even healthier!

While our mother was sick earlier this past winter, Susan and her girls visited often, and many times, she would come with food for her and the girls because we knew we wouldn't have time to cook during her visits. During one of the weekend stays, Susan brought some frozen, individual servings of her Chicken Tetrazzini Florentine, made with spinach, as the name suggests, and whole wheat spaghetti. One of the servings didn't get eaten, so she left it behind for me.

I let it sit in my freezer for several weeks mostly because I wasn't sure if I'd like the change. But when I finally tried it, I was pleasantly surprised and actually craved it a few weeks later. So earlier this summer, I made Chicken Tetrazzini according to Susan's old recipe, but I used whole wheat spaghetti. I poured half of the prepared recipe in a small casserole dish, and to the other half, I added a half box of cooked and drained spinach. I made it both ways because I was pretty sure my children wouldn't try it if they saw green stuff in the tetrazzina. I was right, of course.

I made the tetrazzina again Sunday morning. I had cooked the chicken the day before in my slow cooker. This time I made a double recipe. I made the first the traditional way, but using whole wheat spaghetti; the second was made with whole wheat spaghetti also and spinach. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the florentine version when we got back from church. We each had a congealed fruit salad as our side dish.

So now I have lots and lots of Chicken Tetrazzina and Chicken Tetrazzini Florentine left in my refrigerator. I plan to follow my sister's lead and divide it by serving size, wrap it up and freeze it.

Chicken Tetrazzini
  • 8 oz. box whole wheat spaghetti or linguine, cooked and drained
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 can heated chicken broth (I use reduced-fat, reduced-sodium)
  • 1 1/2 cups heated milk (skim or 1 percent OK)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese or a blend
  • 3 cups cooked, diced chicken breast*
  • 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, cooked and drained or squeezed to remove excess water
  • Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Start spaghetti cooking while you prepare this recipe. Break spaghetti roughly into thirds before dropping into boiling water.

Melt butter in large pan. Stir in flour and cook over medium heat 1 minute, whisking constantly to avoid sticking. Slowly whisk in chicken broth and milk (I heat together first in microwave in 4-cup Pyrex bowl for 4-5 minutes). Cook and stir until slightly thickened. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in cheese until melted. Remove from heat. Add chicken, cooked spaghetti and spinach; stir to combine.

Pour and smooth in 9X13-inch baking dish. Top liberally with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned on top.

Can be frozen before baking; in fact, I often make a double recipe so I can freeze a second meal. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator overnight before baking, for best results. Also good with turkey.

*I cook boneless chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Just sprinkle a little (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) dry Italian dressing mix over chicken and add about a 1/4 cup of water. Let cook on low about 5 hours or until cooked through. The chicken will be very tender if cooked this way.

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