Chef’s Blog

Friday, September 23, 2011

Preparing for Winter (ChefStyle)

Preparing for Winter (Chef Style)

Well the sun is fading in Southern California and fall officially begins tomorrow. As a Chef winter translates to comfort food. My favorite comfort foods are the ones I enjoyed as a child. My family recipes have been passed down for generations so when the sweaters come out so does my family recipe box. I wanna know, what’s your favorite winter time food?

One of the joys of having a blog is I get to share my knowledge, recipes, and thoughts with Oggi’s customers. So it is my honor to share my first “secret” recipe with all my followers… well I guess it won’t be secret anymore! This recipe is easy, quick, and delicious! Don’t worry Mom; there are a couple that will remain “secret” like our Carmel Brownies. Unless my followers demand the best recipe for brownies I won’t give that one up 😉 But it’s all worth it to share some of my culinary favorites with our favorite customers. Plus it gives you a GREAT reason to follow my blog and after you have this dish I think you will defiantly come back for more. Seconds please 🙂

My Family Recipe for:

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Ingredients
2 Boxes Uncle Ben’s Chicken Flavored Rice, Cooked (Follow the instructions on the package)
5 Chicken Breast, Cooked and Small Diced
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1 tsp. Curry Powder
1 tsp. Salt (to taste)
2 tsp. Black Pepper, Ground (to taste)
2 Cups Shredded Cheese of your Choice (added after the first 30 minutes of cooking)

Directions (Brief directions for an experienced home cook)

Measure all ingredients and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook 2 boxes of Uncle Ben’s Chicken Flavored rice according to directions on the box. While the rice is cooking cook the chicken breast (I suggest searing the chicken in a sauté pan and finishing it in the oven) and cut it up into a small dice. Next, transfer the cooked rice and chicken into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Finally put into a large glass baking dish and cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the dish and sprinkle 2 cups shredded cheese. Put it back into the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. The casserole is complete and ready to enjoy! This casserole can be prepared a day in advance and then cooked when needed. I prefer the casserole to sit over night to allow the flavors to mingle!

Directions (Detailed for a novice home cook)

First measure all your ingredients and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Next, start cooking the rice according to the directions on the box. Then cook the chicken breast while the rice is cooking. Take 5 chicken breasts and season with S&P (I will use this term a lot. It stands for Salt and Pepper). Heat a sauté pan on medium-high heat for approximately 3 minutes. Next add 2 Tb. Vegetable Oil (Canola will work too) to the pan or enough to cover the bottom. Finally gentle lay the chicken breast in the pan (always make sure to place any product in hot oil away from yourself). Brown each side for approximately 3-4 minutes. You want to get a nice golden brown color on the meat. This technique of “searing” the meat gives it flavor. The browning occurs because the natural sugars in the meat are being caramelized and produces more flavor. Contrary of popular belief, “searing” meat DOES NOT lock in the juices or moisture. Not overcooking the meat makes it juicy!
After you have seared the chicken transfer it to the oven and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes. The cook time really depends on how thick your chicken breasts are and how good you seared it. One of the most important pieces of equipment I own is my thermometer. Temperature is your best resource to cook meat perfectly. Here is a USDA website explaining exactly how and why to use a thermometer in cooking. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/is_it_done_yet/brochure_text/index.asp Cook the chicken breast until it reaches 165 degrees. Then cool the chicken and cut it to a small dice. Here is another website with a guide to use for the size of all culinary cuts like small dice, julienne, brunoise, ECT. http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/culinaryfundamentals/qt/knifecuts.htm /> There is a reason for every size cut and sometimes it can make a huge difference in a dish. There is a rhyme or reason for everything a Chef does and I hope to teach you all about it!
After the rice is cook spread evenly on a cookie sheet to cool for 20 minutes. We want to cool the rice before mixing the ingredients because first, I don’t want you working with piping hot rice and second, because we want to stop the cooking process to avoid the rice turning to mush. Transferring the rice to a cookie sheet aids in cooling because you are removing it from the hot pan and also the thin layer cools faster than a pot full of rice. Imagine the steam and heat coming off the rice in the pot you cooked it in; the heat is trapped and doesn’t escape. With the thin layer, over a large surface area (like a cookie sheet) allows the steam to and heat to escape. For any cooked product (unless you can utilize an ice bath like pasta or vegetables) this is the best way to cool a product down and stop the cooking process.
Okay now that we’ve covered cooking rice and chicken, I know I probably made it a lot more complicated that it has to be but if you want to cook like a chef steps like cooling properly is important. Next place the cooked rice and chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients; 2 flavors cream soup, mayo, curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. I will use the reference “to taste” frequently because exact measurements for S&P are unrealistic. It all depends on the brand of soup, chicken, ECT that dictates how much salt to use. 1 tsp of each is an approximation. The key is to taste everything you make and adjust the seasoning as needed, hints “to taste”. Fold the mixture until all ingredients are distributed evenly. The last thing you want is someone taking a bite of all curry powder or mayo!
Finally, transfer the mixture into a glass baking dish and place in the preheated oven on the middle rack. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle 2 cups of shredded cheese of your choice. I like a Cheddar and Monterey Jack mix but you can choose your favorite cheese as long as it a cheese that melts. Put it back into the oven for 10 minutes. The casserole is complete and ready to enjoy!
This casserole can be prepared a day in advance and then cooked when needed. I prefer the casserole to sit over night to allow the flavors to mingle! I hope you enjoyed my first recipe and my Chef tips for cooling and cutting. I look forward to sharing more of my knowledge and recipes. Follow my blog and collect all my recipes. Next is… White Chicken Chili! This is MY own recipe (my family can’t take credit for this one 🙂

Until next time….

Chef  Katie Doyle

Sources

Alfaro, D. (2011). Basic knife cuts & shapes. About.com Webpage. Retrieved from http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/culinaryfundamentals/qt/knifecuts.htm

Is it done yet?. (2011) USDA Food Safety and Inspection Homepage. Retrieved from http://www.fsis.usda.gov/is_it_done_yet/brochure_text/index.asp

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