Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti is from Mississippi, which explains why you are told to put Cheddar cheese on it. My family found this weird. "Cheddar cheese on spaghetti?" they exclaimed with their Northern noses in the air. They also all liked it and asked for seconds. So there.
I made it for the yms who have patiently eaten their way through my fish servings for two years or more. I'm not entirely sure my daughter-in-law likes fish. But, since she is the politest person on the planet, she would never, ever say so.  My son loves spaghetti. On his birthday, growing up when he could have asked for anything at all to eat, he used to request spaghetti. I used to think that was weird. When I was growing up, and was going back to school, I always asked for standing rib roast of beef for what I thought of as the condemned man's last meal. In the family, we referred to it as "noble sight" because the Fanny Farmer cookbook had a picture of a standing rib roast next to the recipe for Yorkshire pudding. Underneath were the words, "A standing rib roast is a noble sight." But, he likes spaghetti.
This is one of those long recipes. I started cooking around 12:30 and didn't finish until 6:00 in between sneaking peeks at the Tigers-Yankees game. Even though we're all in mourning around here for the Nationals' ninth inning collapse on Friday night, I couldn't resist the opportunity to watch the Yankees get taken to the cleaners.
I have to care about one of the teams in order to get into the baseball playoffs. Either it's because I have been to their stadium, or because they haven't won the World Series in a long time, or because they have a cool mascot. (Remember the Rally Monkey the Angles had on their scoreboard in 2002? I like October baseball as theatre.)
I used to be a Yankees fan in the 90s when they were cool. But after they won their 46th million World Series and fired Joe Torre, they were no longer cool, they were the Evil Empire. Then I became a Red Sox fan. Then they won the World Series twice in four years, broke their curse and became less fun. I'm glad they won the World Series, but fans stopped doing completely insane things like dredging ponds that Babe Ruth may or may not have thrown a piano into in 1923. I mean, I ask you. It probably costs several thousand dollars to dredge a pond. And if that man did find a piano, what difference would it have made to the Red Sox? So now I'm rooting for Detroit to win the World Series.
 I would not suggest serving chicken spaghetti with Rum Walnut pie unless you are exceptionally well organized and make the pie the night before. Sunday was a smack down beautiful fall day,  just the thing for a walk on the C & O Canal, or to Starbucks, or what have you. But I got to experience it through trips to the trash cans in the alley where we hauled out moldy boxes of wet carpet tile that had been lurking in the furnace room for years.
I'm not complaining, mind you. I like cooking. I like having people to dinner. But it did take a lot of time.
Chicken spaghetti is kind of like spaghetti lasagna. You make a roux to mix the tomato sauce into, along with sauteed onions, peppers and mushrooms. There are just a lot of steps involved, and the same thing with Rum Walnut pie. So if you are wedded to this menu, try to do things ahead, like cook the chicken.  One does not have to make the entire amount. I cut the recipe in half and had leftovers for Bob's lunch.

Chicken Spaghetti

2 three-pound chickens
2 whole ribs celery
1 carrot, cut into rounds
2 sprigs parsley
1 onion, studded with two whole cloves
salt to taste
12 peppercorns
8 tablespoons butter
2 green peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
5 tablespoons flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour)
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups tomato sauce
2 pounds spaghetti
2 cups freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
French bread
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place the chickens in a heavy kettle and add the whole celery ribs, carrot, parsley and onion studded with cloves. Add water to cover, salt and peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until chickens are tender, about forty-five minutes to one hour. Remove the chickens from the broth and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones. Discard bones and skin and reserve the meat, keeping it covered. Meanwhile, continue cooking the chicken broth until it is reduced and has more body. (Every so often, taste the broth. Broth with "more body" will have more flavor.)
2. Melt half the butter in a skillet and cook the peppers, chopped onion and chopped celery in it until vegetables are nearly tender. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms give up their juices. (Mushrooms will kind of sweat while cooking.) Continue cooking until most of the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables are tender. Reserve until ready to use.
3. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring it with a wire whisk. When blended, add two cups of the hot chicken broth and cook, stirring vigorously with the whisk until the mixture is thickened and smooth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, five to fifteen minutes. Add the cream, blend well, and return to a boil. Add the tomato sauce. Combine the sauce, chicken and mushroom mixture. The sauce should have a medium thickness. To thin it, add a little broth.
4. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until it is nearly, but not thoroughly cooked.(The spaghetti will cook slightly when it is reheated in the sauce.) Drain the spaghetti.
5. Use a roasting pan or other large cooking utensil and pour in a layer of sauce and a layer of spaghetti. sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese. Continue making layers until all the sauce, spaghetti and Cheddar cheese are used, ending with a layer of cheese. This dish may be made in advance to this point.
6. If spaghetti is allowed to stand, it will absorb much of the sauce and it may be necessary to add more chicken broth. The spaghetti should be amply steeped in sauce, but not runny.
7. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
8. Place the pan in the oven and heat spaghetti and sauce until hot and bubbling, but do not overcook. Serve on hot plates with loaves of French bread and grated Parmesan cheese. Makes one dozen to 15 servings.

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