Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicken in Cajun "Cream" Sauce over Pasta

Each time I cook chicken breasts, we seem to have one or two left over.  If I think someone will eat one for lunch I put it in a container in the fridge, but if it was a rather plain baked chicken I just chop it in bite size pieces and stick it in a freezer bag in the big freezer.  When I have accumulated enough for however many of us are eating on any given night I defrost them and try some concoction using whatever I have readily available.  Sometimes it works well and other times we eat it with the codicil that I will NEVER try it that way again.

To be honest I do not remember the day we ate this dish.  It was several weeks ago and was for no particular occasion other than I had food on hand and just sort of threw things together until I had something that looked and smelled decent.  As it turned out it was more than decent, in fact it was pretty darn tasty.  I am unsure what to call it so if you can think of a particularly clever name please let me know.

Chicken in Cajun Cream Sauce over Pasta

1 tablespoon oil ( I used sunflower but use whatever you like)
1 onion sliced very thin
1 small red pepper sliced thin
1-1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken cut in small pieces
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (divided 1/2 and 1 cup)
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning ( any brand will do)
1/2 teaspoon paprika ( the sauce needed more color but I did not want more cajun seasoning)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons sour cream
enough cooked pasta for four servings

In a medium saucepan saute' the onion and red pepper in 1 tablespoon oil until it wilts.  Add the chicken and mix with the vegetables, add 1/2 cup chicken broth, Cajun seasoning and paprika and stir well.  Heat until the chicken is hot throughout.  Remove from heat.  In a large skillet melt the butter and stir in the flour to cook like a roux, but do not brown it.  Add the remaining chicken broth whisking it until the sauce is smooth and bubbly.  Stir in the sour cream until it is well blended.   Pour the chicken mixture into the pan and stir to incorporate everything.   Serve piping hot over cooked and drained pasta. ( I used spaghetti because I had it on hand.  Any pasta that will hold a heavy sauce would be great to use.  When I make it again, I will use rigatoni or penne since they are a little more substantial.
)  If you fell like you need a bit more color sprinkle with paprika and some chopped fresh parsley.  I did not have any parsley and it would have been nicer visually.

This was a gigantic hit at our house and everyone wants it in the rotation. We seem to eat the same things again and again. ( I get tired of the same foods over and over so maybe this will break up the everyday boredom)

As an aside, I have been looking at our over abundance of food items we have in the pantry and freezer and  have decided the entire month of April will be a grocery free month.  I will cook only what I have on hand and will not purchase anything except milk, bread, fruit and lettuce. (I will only buy fruit after we have exhausted our canned pineapple and fruit cocktail though).

I thought briefly about making all of our bread and I might make some, or not.  That really does depend on my mood since I don't like to bake bread.  So, as of 36 minutes ago I will not be in Publix, The Pig or Aldi until May.  I am hoping we will make a big dent in our food inventory, especially in the freezer.

Come along on our journey and I will try to post at least weekly what we ate and more importantly what we used.  FIngers crossed that this works!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Crawfish Cornbread

Hope everyone had a wonderful Mardi Gras season!  We spent part of Fat Tuesday at the lake, getting the new to us lake place habitable. I am unsure how much I believe those people who talk about how relaxing a lake house is, because so far all I have done is worked my tail off there.  Maybe soon it will be enjoyable.  So on this day of fun and frivolity we were working, but we did stop at Hamburger Heaven for a late lunch on the way home, so I guess there was a tiny bit of fun.

Tonight we decided to have a traditional Cajun dinner, but I was tired and didn't want to do a ton of chopping and stirring and simmering and... so, we cheated and had Zatarin's red beans and rice and I made crawfish cornbread.  To be honest the Zatarin's beans and rice is almost as good as I make from scratch and it is ready in about 35 minutes, compared to cooking the homemade version for most of the day. I did want make  something  and I found a recipe online for the cornbread, but I altered it a good bit so I am just posting the recipe as I made it.

Crawfish Cornbread

1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
3 green onions sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 8 ounce packet of cornbread mix
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup buttermilk or 1/4 cup buttermilk powder and 1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 can Rotel tomatoes, undrained
1/2 lb. frozen crawfish tail meat, thawed
3 tablespoons melted butter
grated cheese to taste ( I used about 3 tablespoons)

In a small skillet saute the onions and bell pepper in olive oil until they are wilted but not browned.  Set aside.  Mix the cornbread mix, the cornmeal, buttermilk powder ( if using), baking powder and baking soda.  Combine well and then add the egg, buttermilk ( if using), water ( if using buttermilk powder) and the Rotel tomatoes.  Stir to mix well then add the vegetable mixture and the crawfish.  Stir again until everything is evenly incorporated.  Bake at 400 degrees in a greased 9x13 pan. Check after 20 minutes.When well set remove from the oven and pour the melted butter on top of the baked bread.  Sprinkle the cheese on it and return to oven until the cheese melts ( about 1-2 minutes)  Serve hot with additional butter, cocktail sauce or tarter sauce. ( Or use all 3 if that is what you want!)

This was a pretty good addition to the meal.  It had a light crawfish flavor and tasted a bit like a baked hushpuppy.  The 3 tablespoons of cheese was unnecessary and next time I won't use it, but if you really like a cheese topping I would suggest using 1/2-1 cup of grated cheese so you could really taste it.

If you like a sweetened cornbread  use something like Jiffy Cornbread Mix.  If you prefer your cornbread more on the savory side use something like  Martha White  cornbread mix.  Since it is a personal choice I will refrain from any comment except to quote a movie line from an old film. ( Wish I could remember the name of it)  2 dudes were talking about the changing southern life and one said to the other " Your grandsons will be eating cornbread that's sweet and tea that ain't"

This is going on our rotation when we need a little bit added to the meal.  Since this makes a lot of cornbread I might try to half the recipe next time, except I will still use 1 egg since no hens I know of lay half eggs.

Now I am off to indulge in something chocolaty and fudgy before the midnight official start of Lent.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!