New Years Tamales

Usually around here, we make tamales before Christmas, but this time, it got put off until New Years eve and then it didn’t make it here until now. But, I’m a firm believer if you’re willing to put in the work for tamales, they’re good any time! I will make a whole bunch of them then freeze them for later or give them away to family and friends though, I will admit, I hoard most of them for myself!

Ingredients for Filling

Bone-in Pork Butt (Mine was around 6-7 pounds)
Chili Powder
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder or Fresh Minced Garlic
Onion Powder
1 10 oz bag Red Chili Pods (I use mild, but you can use a mix of mild and medium or mild and hot depending on your level of heat you want)

 

Tools and Extras You Need

1 package of corn husks
Large tamale pot with steaming tray in bottom
Tongs
Cookie Sheet
Spoon or masa spreader

 

What I do is put my pork roast in the crock pot the day before I want to make tamales so that the meat is cooked and cooled by the time I’m ready to roll it up.

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Cooked Pork

So I take my pork roast and I make a rub with the chili powder, salt and pepper and I rub it into the meat generously. In order for your rub to stick, make sure that you dab the roast dry with paper towels before putting your rub on. After that, I put it in the crock pot, on low and I cook it for 6-8 hours or until the roast is peeling away from the bone.

 

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Shredded Pork

If you are ready to make your tamales, you’re going to need to soak your corn husks to soften them up. I have a large tupperware container I lay the husks in and fill it with water. Let them soak for about an hour, so make sure that you schedule all your steps in accordance. We’ll leave them in the water until we actually ready to fill the husks.

Once the pork roast is cooked, I let it cool and then I go in and shred it, making sure to get all the bones. You would think that big bones are all you’ll find, but in fact, I did find a couple smaller pieces which might have broken off or been shaved off when the butcher cut it, so just be thorough and careful.

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Soaked Corn Husks

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Red Chili Pods

In a medium sized pot, combine 5 cups of water (or until pods are just covered) and then add 3/4 of the bag chili pods of your choosing (be they all mild or a mixture of mild and hot to get that extra spice.) I use mild because my stomach can’t handle spicy food even if I crave it! We’re going to bring the water to a low boil and we’re going to cook the chili pods until they’re nice and soft. I find that my cooking time varies depending on the chili’s. Once they start boiling, I would say it takes about 20-25 minutes respectfully and I stir my pods and turn them over just to make sure they’re cooking evenly.

 

 

I would like to make mention that there are so many ways to make tamales that you will see variations all over the place. If you don’t want to use powdered garlic and powdered onion, simply add 2 tbsp of minced garlic to your water and one whole onion, cut up, to cook with your chili’s.

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Chili Stems Removed

Once your chili’s are cooked, we’re going to remove them from the heat and fish them out to put on a plate to cool some. The reason for this is because I then pull the stems off the chili’s. Some people just blend it all up but I don’t. And if you try to pull the stems off when they’re fresh out of the water, you’re going to burn your fingers.

 

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Red Chili Sauce

Now, if you have a blender that you can put hot liquids into, we’re going to put our cooked chili pods into the blender and then pour about 3 cups of the chili water into the blender. Some people just pour out the chili water, but its got great flavor and I hate to waste it. If you’re not comfortable with working with hot liquid, just wait until it’s cool, and if your blender isn’t going to hold all the water and the chili’s, please don’t overfill it or it WILL spew out of the lid and you’ll be burned or covered in red chili sauce. Simply do it in batches.

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Pork and Chili Sauce

We’re going to puree it until it’s all nice and smooth, or as smooth as it’s going to get. Set half a cup of the red chili puree aside for your masa then pour the rest of the red chili sauce into the shredded pork meat and then mix it in together until well incorporated. Now it’s ready to be used for our tamale stuffing so it’s time to prepare our masa Dough.

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for Masa Dough

2 pounds lard
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
5 pounds masa flour
2-3 cups chicken broth

 

If you have a stand mixer, I encourage you to use it, but if you don’t, just mix it by hand, which is what I do, even though I have a stand mixer. Weird, I know! But I like the handy work that goes in to making tamales.

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Snow Cap Lard

Add 1 pound of lard to your mixer and mix it until it’s soft and fluffy. If you’re working by hand, just get a little down and dirty with a good heavy spoon and work your lard with it.

 

Next, add 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp of salt to your lard and mix them together.

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Masa Flour

Add 2.5 pounds of masa (half the bag)and mix it well with your lard. If doing it by hand, just do it like you would a bread dough, though let me warn you, our masa is going to be STICKY so you’ll have it all between your fingers.

Add 1 cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of the red chili sauce to the masa mix. If it’s dry and not the consistency of peanut butter, add a little more chicken broth (up to 1/2 a cup), until its the consistency we want.

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Mixing Masa Dough

So now we have our masa dough and our filling ready, and our corn husks have soaked, it’s time to take some husks out and rinse them off, pulling off the little corn silk bits that might be left. We’ll then get some of the extra water off by letting them drain in a colander.

 

Now we’re going to lay out our work station with our masa, our filling, our corn husks, and a cookie sheet to lay our our finished tamales.

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Spread Masa on Corn Husk

You’ll notice your corn husks are triangular in shape. Take a husk and place the wide end of it on the palm of your hand as that’s where the masa will go. Spread a couple tablespoonfuls of masa over the middle of the corn husk in your palm, but don’t take the masa all the way to the bottom of the husk or the edges as it’ll make a mess. Once your masa is spread, leaving a thin layer (just how I like to spread my peanut butter on toast), we’re going to take a

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Pork on Masa

couple tablespoons of our filling and put it down the center of our masa layer. We then fold both sides of the husk towards the middle, then bring the pointed end up against the seam. Voila! You have your first tamale. Now just repeat these steps until you’re done!

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Center Fold

I lay my tamales on the cookie sheet, folded side down to hold it shut until I’m ready to load my tamale steamer.

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Folding End to the Seam

So we’re going to fill our steamer with water to the fill line which is where it’s just below the steaming rack. Also, as a nice little trick, put a penny in the water so that when your water is getting low, the sound of the penny bouncing around will let you know that you need to add more water. To add water, I usually pour it down the side wall of the pot, as long as the water isn’t going directly into a tamale. Basically, you just find a gap to add water so we don’t burn our pot dry while cooking.

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Tamale Pot Steamer

Next, we’re going to place our tamales in, folded side down, with our seams against the side of the pot. As you load in more tamales, put your seams against the other tamales already in the pot which will keep them from unfolding.

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Tamales in the Pot

Once your pot is loaded, cover it with the lid and bring the water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn it down to a simmer and let steam for 2.5 – 3 hours. To test if the tamales are done, take one out with your tongs and lay it on a plate. Peel off the corn husk (carefully since its hot), and if it peels away clean from your masa, they’re done! If not, let them steam a little longer.

As you might have noticed in our featured picture, the tamales are actually tied shut with a little bit of corn husk. I did this because my other half can’t eat chili’s so I tied them shut to mark them as just being shredded pork and cheese.

*I just wanted to mention that the masa recipe we used is enough for two batches as there isn’t an exact science as to how much dough you’ll need or how much pork will be left over. You can mix both batches instead of just one masa batch, put the leftover masa in an airtight freezer bag and freeze it to use later.


Salisbury Steak

So, this has become one of my favorite things to make which is a fairly inexpensive meal and filling and outright tasty. Especially since there’s gravy involved. I mean, who doesn’t like gravy?

There are literally hundreds of recipes for Salisbury Steak out on the internet. I’ve tried a few over 2017 and I found one that I altered slightly that was amazing. Of course, when I went back to find it, I could not, for the life of me, remember where it was, so I did what I could, from memory, with some things tweaked I’m sure, and came up with this recipe for it. I can definitely say that it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was pretty delicious.

I have realized in the past that when I make Salisbury Steak, there’s just not enough gravy for everyone to get their fill and be happy, so I made some extra gravy since, as I said before…who doesn’t like gravy!

Steak Patty Ingredients

2 lbs ground beef
3/4 c seasoned bread crumbs
1/8 c LEA & PERRINS Original Worcestershire Sauce<img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-1057″ style=”border: none !important; margin: 0!important;” src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=smalltowneats-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B000RYFQ44″ alt=”” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ />
1/8 tsp Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp McCormick Ground Mustard
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp POMPEIAN Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Gravy Ingredients

1 package mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 sweet onion, halved and sliced
4 C beef broth
1 tsp LEA & PERRINS Original Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp flour
1-2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

 

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Patty Ingredients

In a bowl, combine your ground beef, bread crumbs, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, eggs, mustard and ketchup and knead in the bowl until well incorporated.

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Ingredients Mixed for Patties

Form into patties. Yes.. forming into patties is sometimes a little easier said than done when doing it by hand. I made mine as thin as I could, which was about 1/4 inch, and they still puffed up into thick patties, which is fine, but if you’re going for that traditional Salisbury steak LOOK, you want them to be somewhat flat. Now, I don’t have one, but this is where a burger press comes in handy. That’s basically a weight you set on top of your patties to keep them flat. This is only if you own one or are really looking to making ‘flat patties’. If you’re interested, like I am, in acquiring one for future use, I’d recommend the Cuisinart Cast Iron Grill Press.

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Cooking the Patties

In a skillet on medium to medium high heat, drizzle in your olive oil and, once it’s hot, lay your patties in it. We’re going to cook these babies up until they’re done on both sides and not pink in the middle. Some Salisbury steak recipes want you to cook them about 80% and then transfer them to the oven or put a lid on them and finish them off. IF you want to do that, this is okay! I usually, once my gravy is done, lay them in the gravy, turn the heat on the stove down low, and let them simmer/marinate in their juices.

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Cooked Onions

Once the patties are done, remove them from the pan and empty the pan of any extra grease. Now we’re going to add our sliced mushrooms to the pan, and a pat or two of butter, and cook them about 5-7 minutes on medium heat until they’re starting to get tender and slightly browned. We’re then going to add the onions and cook them together until the onions are translucent. I did mine slightly different, I cooked my onions and put my mushrooms in. So..backwards! It turned out just fine, but when I do it again, definitely cooking the mushrooms first!

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Mushrooms Going In

Next, we’re going to sprinkle the mushrooms and onions with the flour and mix them together well, cooking the flour about 2 minutes until it sticks to the veggies.

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Dusting Veggies with Flour

Now we’ll add our beef broth, ketchup, Worcestershire and mix them together, simmering it until it begins to thicken and reaches the consistency of the gravy you like. If you get it too thick, just add a little more beef broth, about 2 tbsp at a time so we don’t thin it out too much. If it’s too thin, just let it simmer, stirring frequently until it reaches the consistency you want. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Making Gravy

Now here comes the part I was talking about, where we add the patties into the gravy. I just laid them into the pan with the gravy, turned it down to low and covered it, letting it simmer for about 10-15 minutes. After that, I served them up over a bed of rice, but you can serve them over mashed potatoes, or egg noodles or just plain how they are, and spooned some of that awesome gravy over the top. YUM!

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Letting the Patties Simmer in Gravy


Dinner Roll French Toast Bake

So, as you guys know, I showed you my favorite dinner roll recipe for Thanksgiving. While some of you might have made them, some might have just bought them at the store, frozen or not, and used them for Thanksgiving. Well, I had a whole gallon bag of them left over, and they come out big, so they were some rolls to be reckoned with! But, all my hard work of prepping those rolls with lots of tender loving care, I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I decided to make a french toast bake out of them.

Before we get started, let me tell you from personal experience before I decided to do this blog… not all French Toast Bake is created equal. I’m not certain what you guys look for in french toast, but I like mine soft, custardy and french toast like. I do not, I repeat, do not like DRY french toast. What’s the point of that?? Might as well just throw some bread in the toaster, pour syrup on it and call it good. So if you like your french toast dry and flavorless, this recipe isn’t for you!

The recipe I provided is for a 9 x 13 baking dish. If you want just an 8 x 8 serving, simply half the recipe. I used dinner rolls, but you can use any bread that is dense and thick crusted such as french bread or brioche. The reason for this is, if you use regular ole bread, it’s going to get squishy and fall apart.

Ingredients

8 cups baked yeast dinner rolls, cubed (or bread of choice)

2 1/2 C whole milk

1/2 C heavy cream

8 large eggs

1/2 C white sugar

1/2 C packed brown sugar

2 tbsp Watkins All Natural Pure Vanilla Extract 1oz

1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tbsp nutmeg

4 tbsp butter, melted

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First Cuts on Top

Begin by preheating your oven to 350. I then got out my cake pan and just put the 4 tbsp of butter (not melted) in the cake pan. I find that melting butter in my microwave, even 5 seconds at a time, ends up in butter explosion so I put it in the pan and then put the pan in the oven to let it melt. Same way I do it when I’m going to cook cornbread because.. mmm hot butter before you pour in the corn bread makes for a nice, buttery crunchy bottom on your cornbread. But, if you do melt your butter in  your baking dish, don’t put it into the oven until your bread has started soaking.

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Cut Down Side

I took my dinner rolls and cut them a certain way just because of how they were shaped, but the end result is cubes. So I cut it three times long wise right down the middle, then I flipped it on its side and cut it once down the center. Then I simply cut it up into cubes since we have effectively cut the roll into ‘breadsticks’. If you’re using smaller dinner rolls, don’t worry about cutting three times here and one time there. Just cut them until you have bread cubes the size of a game dice.

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Once the bread is cubed, I put it in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl I combined ALL the rest of the ingredients. First I add the milk and cream, and then the eggs, and whisked it all together until it was well combined. I used 9 eggs because I couldn’t see leaving that one lonely egg in the carton by itself and things worked out just fine. I figured three eggs per cup of moisture (cream and milk base), is about right anyway for a good custard. I then added in my white sugar and brown sugar and vanilla extract and mixed it in as well. Finally, in went the cinnamon and nutmeg and, guess what, another whisk until the spices aren’t just floating on top. We don’t want some bread pieces with spices and others bland.

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Custard Mixed Up

Pour the custard over the bread cubes and fold it in until all those little cubes are completely coated. There’s going to be free standing custard of course. Now, this is where most people get that DRY french toast… they don’t let it soak up any custard, so you get bread bites, or slices, depending on how you do your bread, with bits of cooked custard between the pieces and ew… that’s not appealing! I let mine sit for about ten minutes. Not all the custard is going to be sopped up by the bread and that’s what we want, bread that is nice and soft with custard with some liquid left over to fill in the gaps when we cook it.

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Bread Cubes Soaking

If you didn’t melt your butter in  your dish like I did, simply pour your melted butter in the bottom of your baking dish and now you’re going to pour your custard in. Go slow so you don’t slap hot butter over the side and burn yourself. Also, we don’t want to waste the butter either by having that splashing action because.. it’s butter…delish! If you DID melt your butter in your baking dish, make sure you take your dish out of the oven when the butter is melted and slightly browned. Don’t let it sit in the oven while your custard is soaking into the bread. 10 minutes MIGHT be too long depending on the type of oven you have and then you are left with butter crunchies and no melted butter.

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Butter Ready to be Melted in the Oven

Smooth your bread cubes/custard mix gently into the baking dish until evenly spread. Now place it in the oven, uncovered, and bake it for about 45 minutes. Your french toast bake should be set up, not watery, and the melted butter will be bubbling around the edges of the dish

Soimg_1156.jpgme people like to, as I put it, over complicate their french toast bake by putting some type of sugary crumble on top of it, but I prefer to let my maple syrup do the talking rather than having a sugar overload and making this a ‘dessert for breakfast’ type of thing. This french toast bake was not overly sweat at all and, after I sliced it and put it on the plate, was nice and slightly bouncy from the custard and crunchy on top which was amazing. I simply drizzled my maple syrup over the top and served it up with some maple sausage.

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Finished Casserole


Butter Pecan Pancakes

So I decided I was going to do breakfast for dinner and have pancakes and bacon. Now mind you, I like pancakes and when I crave them I enjoy them, but I’m the type of person who eats part of a pancake or a few bites of a pancake and then that craving is satisfied. I know my kids will eat pancakes no matter how plain or fancy they are, but this time I decided to dress them up and instead of going with plain, I was going to do chocolate chip pancakes since I’d never had anything but a plain pancake anyway, only to find out that I had no chocolate chips. (Yes! This is surprising because I use to be the ‘Cake Hoarder’ and have boxes of cake mixes and other baking things crammed into my pantry!) So, I saw a bag of pecans there and I was like, oh.. my girl friend likes butter pecan, being from the south, so I’m going to make butter pecan pancakes! Not only that, but now I’m going to get fancy and make my first homemade caramel to put on top! Talk about getting ambitious for breakfast for dinner.

Pancake Ingredients

13/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1 1/2 c milk
3tbsp oil or melted butter
1 tsp Watkins Imitation Caramel Extract
1 tsp Watkins Baking Vanilla
1/4 c chopped pecans

What I did, essentially, was make a basic pancake mix and then I tossed in some caramel extract. If you haven’t ever tried caramel extract in your baking, it’s fantastic!

I don’t know if I had mentioned this before, but I have a pretty sensitive sense of smell when it comes to cooking and so a lot of times I’ll put random things into a recipe and if it smells awesome, or smells like what I want it to taste like, I feel pretty confident about it! I once made her a butter pecan cake with butter pecan butter cream for the USMC birthday to take to work and it was a total hit and again, a recipe that I ‘made up’. Let this serve as a reminder…. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Always start out with small adjustments because sometimes more isn’t better it’s just more, not to mention, it’s easier to add ingredients when it comes to cooking than it is to subtract them!

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Pancake Batter with Pecans

In your mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients; baking powder, baking soda, sugar, flour and salt, mixing them together so they’re all evenly incorporated. And yes, this was technically my second food adventure in this blog and my pictures.. well.. I forgot to take pictures of my dry ingredients in one bowl and my wet ones in another but.. come on, you should know what a bowl of flour and stuff looks like now, right? I know, I know.. bad Kathryn! Be forgiving of me!

In a separate bowl, mix together your oil, milk, caramel extract, vanilla extract and egg. Once this is done, we’re going to pour our wet ingredients into our dry ingredients and mix well. It’s perfectly normal to have lumpy batter!

Last but not least, we add our chopped pecans and stir them in.

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Chopped Pecans

Now we’re going to heat up our skillet or griddle on medium to medium high heat. Make sure you grease your griddle. I use Pam Organic Olive Oil Cooking Spray 5oz between pancakes so they’re not tempted to stick. Bubbles will form on the pancake surface then pop when they’re ready to be turned. Give it a flip, let it cook for a couple more minutes or until golden brown and rinse and repeat until you’ve cooked all your batter!

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Ready to Flip Pancake

Now I butter up my pancakes, because I don’t think you can ever have too much butter, and I also added maple syrup, and then my caramel sauce. (I did throw a few extra pecans in my caramel sauce but next time I’ll leave it plain. It was a bit of pecan overdose for me!)

I’ve included the caramel sauce recipe below if you want to make it, otherwise these babies are delicious just as they are!

Caramel Sauce Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp water
3/4 c heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp butter cut into pieces

Get all your ingredients within reach of the stove top because we don’t just walk off and leave this and expect the sugar not to burn, so prepare or beware!

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Bubbling Sugar

Combine the sugar and water into a stainless steel sauce pan. The thicker the bottom on it, the better just because it helps to distribute the heat more evenly, which is important when making things like candies and sauces. Make certain the water and sugar are both mixed well but mix them gently so that you don’t kick sugar up on the side of the sauce pan, otherwise it’ll make sugar crunchies.

Now we’re going to leave it on medium heat so it comes to a gentle simmer. There’s no need to stir this, because again, you’ll kick sugar up on the side of the saucepan. Let it simmer until it’s this rich amber color. You don’t want it dark. Think of the little chewy caramel squares you eat, how they’re that light tanned color. That’s the yellowish color we want our caramel to be.

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Amber Sugar

Once the amber color has been achieved, remove from the heat. Carefully add your butter, heavy cream and vanilla. You don’t want to splash hot melted sugar on you. Now we’re going to whisk, whisk, whisk, until the caramel is nice and smooth and creamy. My butter went in after I whisked in the cream but that was just how it worked out when I was cooking as you see in my picture. If you happen to have any lumps or inconsistencies still, put it back on the burner on low heat and continue to whisk until you get that smooth consistency.

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Adding My Butter

Once your caramel is done, you’re going to transfer it to a heat safe container.

Now, we just enjoy it over our pancakes, ice cream, or any dessert, though I am more inclined, (once it’s cooled mind you), to just eat it with a spoon!


Grandma Katey’s Chicken Spaghetti

As a child, my parents would take my brother and I down to see my grandma and grandpa, on my mothers side, and my grandma, a few days before we’d come down, would ask what we wanted and we always said CHICKEN SPAGHETTI! So, I want to pay tribute to my grandma Katey who, while gone but not forgotten, still brings warmth and love into the home through her wonderful recipe.

After my grandmother had passed away, naturally my mother inherited her recipe box which contained many of our favorites, this spaghetti dish included, as well as recipes she had traded with friends and acquaintances over the years.

My mother, at my request, had tried to make this chicken spaghetti recipe that was in the box, but there was something about it that wasn’t quite right into comparison of my grandmothers. Years after believing that she had taken all her special little twists and tweaks to her recipes that only she could have possibly known, I decided I was going to give her recipe a try and use my sense of smell and taste to doctor it accordingly. (I find I have a knack for dismantling recipe ingredients by tasting.)

Finally! I made a chicken spaghetti casserole from her recipe that tasted just like hers and brought back a flood of memories of family gathered around the table, laughter, and trips into the mountains of good ole Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Grandma Katey's Chicken Spaghetti

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print


Chef Notes: Casserole Must Sit in the Refrigerator Overnight
Credit: Small Town Eats and Treats

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole, Raw Chicken (6-7 Pounds)
  • 1/2 Pound Uncooked Spaghetti
  • 1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Bell Pepper, Any Color, Minced
  • 1 Bunch Celery
  • 1/2 C Fresh Mushrooms, Minced
  • 2 Medium Onions, Minced
  • 4 Carrots, Minced
  • 1 Can (14 oz) Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 TBS Fresh Parsley, Minced
  • 1 Pound Mild Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
  • 2 – 14 oz Cans Chicken Broth (Only if using boneless, skinless chicken)
  • Salt to Taste

Directions

  1. Remove the giblets from the raw chicken. Rinse the chicken and place in a large stock pot. Fill the stock pot with water until the chicken is covered and salt the water generously.
  2. Place the stock pot on the stove on medium heat. Once the chicken has started to simmer, the heat can be reduced to a slow simmer. Cook the chicken 1 1/2 to two hours until the chicken is cooked and the meat falls from the bones.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Mince the bell pepper, celery, mushrooms, onions and carrots and place together in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Mince the parsley separate from the vegetables and set aside.
  5. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the cooked chicken from the stock pot and place upon a cutting board to cool. Reserve the chicken broth in the stock pot but remove any bones that may have slipped from the cooked chicken.
  6. Once the chicken is cool enough to be handled, separate the meat from the bones. Be very meticulous so that no bones remain.
  7. Dice the chicken into cubes.
  8. Bring the broth in the stock pot to a boil and place your pasta into the stock. Cook your pasta until it is al dente. This should be about 7 minutes.
  9. Once pasta is cooked, remove it from the stock. Don’t strain the pasta over the sink and lose your stock.
  10. Heat a large, deep saute pan on the stove top. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil and bring it to temperature.
  11. Add the minced vegetable mixture to the olive oil. Saute the vegetables until they are tender.
  12. Add the canned tomatoes with juice, minced parsley and salt to taste.
  13. Let the vegetable mixture simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  14. Add the cooked, cubed chicken to the saute pan and incorporate well with the vegetable mixture.
  15. If there is enough room in the saute pan, add the cooked pasta. Otherwise, in a large, heat proof bowl, mix together your paste and your chicken/vegetable mixture until well incorporated.
  16. In a large, greased casserole dish, spread the chicken spaghetti mixture evenly.
  17. Ladle some of the broth from the stock pot over the chicken spaghetti until the liquid starts to become visible from the top.
  18. Once the casserole has cooled, cover with foil and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  19. Remove the casserole from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  20. With the foil still on the casserole, bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until casserole begins to bubble.
  21. Remove the casserole from the oven and remove the foil. Spread the shredded cheese over the top of the casserole.
  22. Return the casserole to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted.

Now let’s get to cooking! I’m going to start this off with a few little personal notes of my own.

First things first, in a large stock pot, place your whole, uncooked chicken. Make sure before you do this that you pull out the giblets bag/pieces from inside the chicken. That would not be a pleasant surprise to find floating around in the chicken stock on accident! I salt my water, because you can’t go wrong giving your chicken and your stock a little dash of salt (1/2 a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon depending on personal taste). You will cook this chicken about 45 minutes.

I did not have a whole chicken on hand. I know, I know! Don’t cook a recipe for people using ‘weird’ ingredients not listed, but often in my house, we have to go with what we had on hand. In the pot, I put four chicken breasts to boil. Mind you, boneless, skinless chicken breasts don’t make a great stock. There are no bones with marrow, and there is no fat from the skin, so if you go this route, make sure to add chicken stock to your ingredients list because you’ll need it.

While my chicken was cooking, I used my time to go ahead and mince my vegetables. That’s right! Mincing! My grandmother use to put her vegetables through a food mill, and you can do that if you have one, but if not, cut the celery, bell pepper, mushrooms, onions and carrots into very small pieces. I just tossed it all together in a bowl.

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All the Veggies Minced and in a Bowl

Once the chicken is done, remove cooked chicken from the water and set it aside to cool. I usually place mine on a platter to let it sit a good 30 minutes. Why? Well, the chicken on the outside might be nice and cool, but once you start pulling it from the carcass, those bones are still going to be hot, so be careful pulling the meat from your chicken when the time comes.

If you boiled the whole chicken, save the broth by leaving it in the stockpot and setting it aside. If you boiled boneless, skinless chicken like I did, you won’t need that water. (I saved it anyway and boiled my pasta in it for an extra kick of flavor!)

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Diced Cooked Chicken

Once the chicken is cooked and cooled, pull all the meat from the bones and dice into small cubes. And hey, if they’re not cube shaped, all that matters is that it’s going to be delicious! Be very careful when pulling the chicken from the carcass as chicken has little bits of bones and cartilage that can hide in your chicken and it wouldn’t be a pleasant bite if its followed by a chipped tooth. Once you’ve boned all the chicken and cut it into your pieces, place it in a bowl and set aside.

Go head and take your pot of broth and put it back on the heat to bring it to a boil. If you didn’t save your chicken water because you did the boneless, skinless chicken, just put some water on to boil, with a dash of salt, to cook your spaghetti in. Once the water reaches a nice steady boil, put in your spaghetti. As you can see here, I used my chicken water for the pasta as I previously mentioned. Cook the pasta until it is almost done or very slightly al dente.

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Pasta Cooking in the ‘Chicken Water’

Next, you will need a nice big deep skillet. Why? Because, eventually everything we’re putting into this chicken spaghetti is going to come together in this very skillet. Put the skillet on medium heat and add your olive oil. Heat up the olive oil and then add your vegetables (the celery, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and carrots we minced/milled). Saute the vegetables until they are tender. Now you see why everything needs to be minced or put through a food mill!

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Sauteed Vegetables

Once your vegetables are sauteed into submission and are nice and tender, add your canned tomatoes, including the juice. I also added a dash (1/2 teaspoon or 3/4 teaspoon) of salt or as the fancy cooks say, “Salt to Taste”.

Now, when it comes to the parsley, you can, of course, use dry parsley. I know my grandmother did. But when I was in the grocery store buying my celery and stuff for this, I decided I was going to get fancy (and fresh parsley was on sale), and I decided to go ‘all fresh’. (Grandma used canned mushrooms, I used fresh.) I used 1/3 of the bunch of parsley. I know it’s more than the recipe calls for, but fresh parsley is so delicious and I didn’t want it to go to waste. Shave the parsley leaves from the stems. I just cut the stems off from the leaves down, and mince up your parsley very well. Once you’ve got that done, add it to your sauteed vegetables/tomato mix in the skillet and let it simmer until well seasoned.

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Sauteed Vegetables with Tomatoes

After it starts smelling delicious and all parsley-ed up, we’re going to take the chicken that we diced and add it to our skillet, stirring it in and coating it well, letting it simmer on medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Your spaghetti should be done by now if not before we’re done mixing our magic up in the skillet, so you’ll want to drain the water off and add the cooked spaghetti to our skillet with the vegetables in it and mix it all together until everything is nicely distributed.

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Cooked Spaghetti in the Tomato/Sauteed Vegetable Mixture

In a large, greased casserole dish, pour chicken/vegetable mixture and spread evenly. Add some of the reserved chicken broth until broth is visible in the mixture. Do not make the mixture soupy. Cover casserole and let stand in the refrigerator overnight. Now mind you, when I was making this, I was going to be feeding six kids and four adults, so I didn’t let it stand overnight. I put the cheese on it and straight into the oven it went and it is still super delicious. However, the longer this casserole sits, the better it gets! But, use your good judgement, just because it gets better if its sat a day or two, that doesn’t mean let it stew for a couple of weeks and pull it out ready to cook it to find that it’s no longer edible!

When ready to cook, top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until casserole is hot and cheese is melted.

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Chicken Spaghetti Without the Cheese

This is my chicken spaghetti in the casserole dish, ready to go into the oven without the cheese. Why without cheese do you ask? Because I was so rushed to get lunch done I forgot to take a picture with the cheese on it, or even a picture of it coming out of the oven all done! Gah! My first flub for my very first blog post. But, let me tell you, we served this up with some fresh french bread we buttered and dusted with garlic power and toasted in the oven and it was a hit!

One question I didn’t answer was, “So, what were the little tweaks and tricks that grandma knew to do to make this recipe special?” Let me answer that for you. You absolutely must cook the vegetables in the olive oil. Olive oil has a wonderful, unique taste to it that you can’t acquire anywhere else and it’s so good for you as well.