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Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012 10:12 am

Nona’s chicken tetrazzini

I love this dish, which combines Italian ingredients with a truly American retro topping: crushed potato chips. As a child that topping was my favorite part of my mom’s tuna noodle casserole.

Nona’s seasoning:
•   2 1/2 tsp. paprika
• 2 T. salt
• 2 T. garlic powder
• 1 T. (freshly ground) black pepper
• 1 T. onion powder
• 1 T. cayenne pepper (or more or less to taste)
• 1 T. dried oregano
• 1 T. dried thyme

For the chicken:
• 7 T. unsalted butter, divided
• 12 oz. bowtie pasta, or pasta of choice (be sure that whatever pasta you use is sturdy enough that it won’t be mushy after it’s been both boiled and baked for its final presentation)
• 2 T. olive oil
• 1 1/2 c. chopped onions, (NOT super-sweet)
• 1/2 c. red bell peppers
• 1 tsp. minced garlic (or more or lest to taste)
• 1 pound button mushrooms or other mushrooms such as shitake, cremini or both. (Either should be measured after slicing and after their ends have been trimmed or removed, as is appropriate)
• 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
• 1/4 c. flour
• 2 c. chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth
• 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
• 1/4 c. dry white wine
• 2 c. chicken stock and/or low sodium chicken broth
• 1 3/4 c. heavy cream (preferably NOT ultra-pasteurized)
• 4 c. coarsely chopped or hand-shredded chicken with skin (the skin adds lots of flavor) or without, either from a store-bought chicken or one that’s been roasted at home
• 1 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 T. freshly minced parsley leaves
• 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1/3 c. (or more to your taste) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, or equivalent
• 1 - 5 1/2 oz. bag of potato chips, lightly crushed
Preheat the oven to 375

Coat a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with a tablespoon of butter. Put all the ingredients for Nona’s seasoning mix in a medium glass jar (a pint-sized canning jar is perfect), and shake until everything has been completely combined. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a small handful of salt (about 1/4 c.) to the pot, then add the pasta, stirring so that none of the pieces stick together. Stir again a few minutes later, making sure that, as before, they’re not sticking together.

Cook for about 12 minutes. It’s actually better if the pasta is a bit more overdone than underdone; it will be less soggy in its final presentation. Drain in a colander, then place in a bowl, add a tablespoon of the olive oil and toss gently until all the pasta is coated. Keep warm and set aside.

In a large skillet, sauté the onions and bell peppers over high heat, stirring constantly until they’re soft, about four minutes. Add the garlic, Nona’s seasoning mixture, the thyme, and the mushrooms, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms have softened and released their liquid, about five minutes or a little more. Sprinkle the flour over all the mixture, and cook a couple of minutes, still stirring constantly, until it’s smooth and thickened. Whisk in to heavy cream, and increase the heat so that the mixture boils. Immediately reduce the heat to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is flavorful and coats a spoon.

Gently combine the pasta, sauce, chicken, parsley and Parmesan until thoroughly mixed. Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste (be aware that the potato chips will add quite a bit of salt to the mixture).

Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the crushed potato chips. Bake, uncovered, until the casserole is bubbling and golden brown on top; about 30-40 minutes. Serves 8 to 12 or more.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.
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