Pasta

Chicken Noodle Soup

Posted on 08/28/2011. Filed under: Chicken, Life, Pasta, Soup |

Have y’all heard or experienced the crazy weather this week here in Central Virginia? Good lord we began with an EARTHQUAKE and ended it with Hurricane Irene! Shit is crazy here y’all! And I’ve been dealing with the summer cold that is going around, which proves my theory that work is bad for your health.  So because I’d been sick all week, I’ve been craving chicken noodle soup like crazy. Another con about work: it interrupts my cooking.

I finally got the chance today to make the soup I’ve been wanting for a week now, and my cold is waning…right now I’m at the annoying lingering cough stage. Mom had gone to the store and picked up the celery I needed, I had half a bag of baby carrots left in my fridge (speaking of, I’ve often wondered how carrots could have such a long life if kept cold…is it because it’s a root vegetable? Dunno), I still had a couple of white onions hangin’ around, as well as the stock and chicken breasts in my well-stocked freezer.

Speaking of my freezer, if we lost power for a significant amount of time, sooooo much food would be wasted, and I would cry like a woman in the middle of her period watching a tear-jerker marathon on Lifetime. So knock on wood, the only power outages so far during this storm have lasted maybe three minutes long. Others in Richmond, many of my friends, have lost power. Fortunately they’re all stocked up on beer. But the downside to this storm is that Shadow is going crazy. He’s an outdoor cat and is refusing the litter box, and it wandering around my house and yelling at my mom and I. Our response? “Dammit cat, can’t you tell there’s a HURRICANE OUTSIDE?!?!”

Watching the storm from the best seat in the house

Getting back to the soup…I started out by chopping one white onion in a medium dice. I then tossed it in a cold stock pot that had been drizzled with a tablespoon or so of Trader Joe’s Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and a three-finger pinch of Kosher salt. I let the pot hang out cold while my frozen four cups of homemade chicken stock melted in a saucepan on the burner next to it.

Then I sliced eight stalks of celery into medium slices, and sliced most of the bag of carrots. I wanted to keep the veggies around the same size for even cooking, and I guess I sliced a cup of each. Then I cut three chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.

When the stock was melted, I turned on the stockpot and let the onion cook until transluscent-ish. Yes, that’s a word. Then I added the celery and carrot to the pot, stirred it up, and cooked the veggies for a couple of minutes. Then I poured the stock in, as well as an additional 10 cups or so of water. The veggies will add flavor to the water, and since I was going to cook the chicken in the broth, it was going to add flavor as well. I then herbed it up (no, not “herbs,” just herbs, you stoners!) with dried thyme and dill, a few bay leaves, garlic powder and onion powder, a few dashes of hot sauce, white pepper and a couple more pinches of salt, seasoning to taste. Season your soup however you like. If you’re a sage freak, have at it. Like a kick to your soup? Add crushed red pepper. Go nuts, let your freaky soup flag fly.

So anyway, after the seasonings get added, and the veg and liquids, I brought the soup to a boil, reduced to a simmer, and let the veg cook for about 30 minutes. Then I added the cut chicken to the pot, stirred it up, and let it cook for 10 more minutes, and then I added dried wide egg noodles to the pot, stirred it up, let it cook for an additional 12 minutes. You can use whatever noodles you want, if you want to add noodles. If I had a matzo ball recipe, I’d probably made Penicillin Soup like at The Jewish Mother in Virginia Beach (but better, their soup’s gone downhill, whereas mine is bangin’). But if you add spaghetti, be sure to break up the pasta before adding it to the pot, unless you wanna slurp noodles.

The soup was warm and comforting, like a soft blanket by the fireplace on a cold rainy night. The veggies were cooked to perfection, were not mushy and overcooked. The chicken was juicy and firm, not chewy, and the pasta was al dente.  It makes a TON of soup: 14 cups of leftovers plus two soup bowls full. So good, all natural, filling, and plenty left over to either share or hoard in your freezer like I did.

Large stockpot of homemade chicken noodle soup

Perfect dinner on a rainy night..healthy too!

…The next day…

I started this blog during Hurricane Irene. I was fortunate enough to have power until about 9:30pm the night of Saturday, August 27, when I was in the middle of typing the last sentence of the last paragraph. I am happy to report my townhouse did not have any damage, the only bad things that happened were no power throughout the night (but fortunately it wasn’t that hot and slept comfortably), arguing with Shadow as to why he could not go outside, and the cover blew off my grill (but landed safely behind it, caught between the side fence and the grill, and it is currently drying out in the sunshine). When I went to bed last night I was very scared about the food in my large 6′ freezer out in the garage as well as the food in my well-stocked fridge, and nearly cried at the thought of throwing everything (including the soup I’d just made) out. Also, it dawned on me that I do not own a French Press coffeemaker nor do I own either ground coffee or a coffee grinder (because we own a Cuisinart Grind & Brew), and might have to drink tea instead if I boil water on the grill. Fortunately, our power was restored around 10:00 this morning, I had fresh coffee and pancakes with bacon for breakfast in my own home, and am now able to wash linens. I have offered my friends without power use of my facilities if they need them.

How he recovers from a hurricane, by napping on a cooler in the shade next to my mint

Anyway, I hope everyone is safe and has an enjoyable week, and hopefully no more crazy-ass weather.

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

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Cheesy Beef & Macaroni

Posted on 06/16/2010. Filed under: Baking, Beef, Dinner, Pasta |

I am apparently terrible at sitting down and writing about food I’ve made.  I’m sorry.  The week of June 4 was Matt’s turn.  He’d just spent the weekend with his family in Chesapeake and one of his brothers made chicken fajitas, which Matt then made for us.  I was his sous chef, cutting and grilling stoplight bell peppers & onions while he cut and cooked the chicken.  We laid all the accourements on the table and we all dug in.  He cooked the chicken with Old El Paso fajita seasoning and it was damn tasty.  I was teased for allowing Matt to be cooking in my kitchen with me, side-by-side.  I’m usually pretty territorial in my kitchen when I’m cooking because I move around a bit and don’t like bumping into people.  But there was no running around, Matt and I worked together pretty seamlessly. 

Then on Wednesday, June 9, it was Matt’s birthday.  I made pepperoni rolls with Bittman’s pizza dough recipe, cutting the dough in quarters for Matt, Mom, Dan & myself.  I rolled each portion out and tried my best to shape it to the right shape, drizzled olive oil down on the dough, filled the center with shredded mozzarella and slices of pepperoni, and rolled up the dough into some sort of stromboli shape I learned at Whole Foods.  I placed the pepperoni rolls/strombolis on baking sheets (2 on each sheet), brushed olive oil all over the top and seasoned each one with S&P and dried herbs (oregano, thyme, basil), and baked them off at 425* for twenty minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through cooking.  I topped each roll (stromboli, whatever) with homemade pizza sauce I’d frozen from Grilled Pizza night.  After dinner, the boys and I rocked out to Dropkick Murphys at The National.  And then our ears rang for two days afterward.

Myself (revealed), Dan, Matt

This past Friday night, I decided to make a dish I’d seen on Michael Ruhlman’s blog that just got me.  He’s right, it’s ultimate comfort food.  I’ve had this dish before, but only in processed form, so I was excited to make it from scratch.  I began by dicing a large onion and sweating it in a little olive oil and salt (I don’t keep canola on hand, and olive oil’s healthier).  When the onion had released its liquid, I browned the beef, breaking it up with my bamboo spoon.  The beef I used wasn’t terribly fatty, and I knew I’d need the liquid later on, so I didn’t drain it.  Ruhlman says one can add any dried seasoning in mind at this point, so of course I went the Italian route and added oregano, basil and thyme, as well as garlic powder, stirring the seasonings in after adding.  Then I added a can of whole tomatoes, crushing them and tearing them apart with my hands, rather than pureeing them like Ruhlman suggests.  I knew the tomatoes would break down further in the simmering/baking process and I just wanted chunkier tomatoes.  I did not drain the can as I knew I would need the liquid.

I put a salted pot of water on to boil, and cooked a box of Barilla macaroni for half the suggested cooking time, about three and a half minutes.  The Barilla pasta had ridges, which is awesome as it helped absorb the sauce well.  I drained the pasta and added it to the now-HUGE pot of meaty sauce.  I stirred the pasta in well, making sure it would have a chance to asborb the liquid from the pot.  I’m always afraid of under- or un-cooked pasta in dishes like this.  If pasta is crunchy, I think it should be because it was baked with cheese on it and the oven made it crispy, not because I didn’t cook it well enough. 

Pasta is my comfort food.  When I can’t think of something to make, I’ll make pasta.  Usually it’s a plate of angel hair with butter and parmesan, sometimes a sauce of olive oil, minced garlic, whatever dried spices/herbs I want.  Simple, comforting.  This is one of the many, many reasons I could never do Atkins, and pray I never develop Celiac disease.  My uncle has Celiac, and I know how sensitive the allergy is.  If a piece of bread touches his steak, he can’t have the steak anymore, otherwise it’s an unpleasant night in the bathroom and bed.

Anyway, I let the pot of pasta and meat sit covered for about half an hour while the oven heated up to 400*.  I got out my biggest glass Pyrex baking dish and loaded half the meaty pasta in.  I sprinkled a layer of shredded mozzarella in the middle, then added the rest of the meaty pasta.  I covered this with foil and baked it for about 30 minutes as it was still warm from sitting in a covered pot for the last thirty minutes.  I pulled out the dish after 30 minutes and turned the broiler on, topped the dish with the remaining cup of mozzarella and then added about a cup and a half of shredded mild cheddar.  I love cheese.  I especially love cheese when it’s added to pasta.  I put the pan under the boiler, on the bottom rack, until the cheese had bubbled and turned brown.  YUM.

Cheesy, Beefy Pasta goodness

Matt missed this because he was back in The ‘Peake with his family, and Dan was working.  A friend of Mom’s and mine, Missy, came over for dinner.  She brought a baguette of French Bread, which I immediately took, cut into quarters, spread butter on each quarter, sprinkled with salt-free garlic herb seasoning, and toasted under the broiler on the bottom rack of the oven for a few minutes until the edges were brown.  We dug into to the pasta.  Mmmm, meaty, cheesy, comforting.  And it was HUGE.  This pan of Cheesy Beef & Mac fed the three of us, I sent Missy home with a gladware thingy of leftovers, Mom and I had leftovers, plus there’s a gladware thingy of leftovers in my freezer.  A LOT of food.  I was happy because this one dish is kid-friendly and could feed the family I plan on having someday, along with all my kid’s friends. 

The ladies loved the dish, and a co-worker that had some of mine the next day enjoyed it as well.  I’m curious to see how it stands up after being frozen, but hell I’ve made pans of lasagne, frozen and cooked leftovers before without a hitch, I would imagine the Cheesy Beef & Mac would work just as well too.

This week, I’m re-creating the Shepherd’s Pie for Matt and our friend Amanda, as they missed out on the first Irish Feast.  However, we’re still celebrating Matt’s birthday (yes, a week and a half later), and instead of the bread pudding, he’s requesting a Red Bull cake.  I’m nervous about this cake, particularly making icing with Red Bull.  Any tips on icing made with a soft drink are much appreciated!!

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

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