Friday, November 13, 2015

Noodlin'

I told you I would be back, ye of little faith! And so I am!

So, it is Friday night. It is bloody cold, and windy, and rainy and arthritis aggravatingly bad out. I hate this weather because my joints ache wherever I had the misfortune as a younger person, to hurt myself.....like when I fell coming out of the building at one of the other campuses and landed with all my 200 plus pounds straight on to my knee. Good times....

So when I got into my truck to head home this day, I thought to myself that I didn't want to order dinner, but I wanted something different that I haven't had in awhile. It is in moments like this I think like my mother. What do I have in the cabinet that I can throw together and make that won't take a ton of time and that can be done with minimal effort because I am freaking tired and don't want to do anything. And so I remembered egg noodles and soup.

Now this is where I put in a disclaimer: this isn't exactly healthy. However, it is better than a burger from some fast food joint and I might have some of the casserole left over for lunch.

As always I will remind you all, since it has been, like, FOR EV AR since we last got together, that I don't usually do measurements unless I am baking and I have to. You are encouraged to play with the ratios and spices and stuff and make it your own. That is how you get to be the master of your own kitchen instead of a slave to the stove.

Chicken Noodle Bake

Chicken Breast (I used 4 average sized chicken boobs)
Italian salad dressing
1 bag wide egg noodles or something similar
1 family size can or two standard cans of cream of chicken soup
2 cans of cream of celery soup (Why in God's name they don't make this in Family size??)
Milk
Peas and/or other green vegetables
Cheese (I used an ascedero and monterey jack blend but you can use any mild cheese)

You start by marinating your chicken boobies in Italian dressing. Do this at least the morning of if you can. Here is the trick to that; do it before you freeze. When I buy large packs of chicken breast I put them in bags to freeze for later. Before I put them into the chill chest, I throw in some marinade. In this case, italian dressing. Then when I need some chicken boob eats, they are already seasoned. Done and Done.

Now in this recipe I use pre-canned Campbell's soups. I have used cream of mushroom, which I don't recommend here and all cream of chicken. I find that the mix of the cream of chicken with the cream of celery is perfect for my tastes. It keeps it from tasting to chicken-y if that is even a thing. There was just something missing without the cream of celery. There is another variation on this but I will wait til the end to tell you about it.

Cut your breasts (chicken, mind you. I don't condone violence against self) into approx 1 inch pieces. If you have little mouths to feed, I suggest 1/2 inch. I needn't worry about that, myself. Ain't nothin' small in THIS house.







 Once this is done, you are going to want to saute the chicken in a pan until it is cooked through. It will generate some liquid, which you do not need, so drain them off when done. Put them aside for
now.





Turn your hot box up to 400 degrees. Take out a 13x9ish pan and spray it with cooking spray.


Return of princess pan as seen in former posts about monster cinnamon buns!


Add the bag of noodles to this, and set aside.





In the same pan you cooked the chicken in, add the soups and refill all three cans TWICE with milk. So dump the soup, fill the can with milk and dump that in, and fill it with milk again and dump again. If you can't follow that, you may want to just give up now. I don't know how else to explain it.

I use 1% milk. If you use anything with more fat than 2%, split the liquid in half with water. Trust me on this too. Turn the heat to medium.




Then whisk together. BE GENTLE or you will end up sloshing it all over the place like I have done and burnt milk smells like shit. You just want it to come together and heat through. 






Then add any spices you like. This time I added a little onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, black pepper and thyme. You could add anything you like, or nothing at all. Remember, those boobies hold quite a bit of flavor all on their own because of the italian dressing. I know what it is like to have little ones that don't like anything with flavor, or people in the house with boring tastes, so go easy. You can always add more in the cooking process if it is in need of it. Halfway through the cooking in the oven I did add some black pepper because I thought it needed it.






Now comes getting the liquid into the pan with the noodless. I added the cooked chicken with the dry noodles FIRST this round because trying to mix this mess can lead to serious burns. Seriously nasty.







Once it is together, put the pan on a cookie sheet. TRUST ME on this one. Your oven will thank you. You also will thank yourself for this as, again, burnt milk smells awful and when burnt, milk becomes spot welded to wherever it fell. Scrubbing that shit off is about as exciting as a PBS special on paint drying. 

 If, perchance, there is too much liquid to go into baking dish save what is left, and put it in a measuring cup or something else easy to pour. You can always gradually add it in as it bakes. Just be careful. That liquid is like napalm. It burns, yo. 







Now that it is all together, you will think "Holy Shit, Red, are you out of your mind?" Yes, I am, but that is beside the point. It looks like a TON of liquid, but trust me, those noodles are thirsty little buggers. They will absorb more than you think. A side note about them too, I do not recommend using any other noodle but egg noodles for this. It comes down to the science. Regular noodles are too dense and would require even MORE liquid and you would get gummy results that don't have the same delicate texture. Do what you want, but in this case, stick to the egg noodles. You can use No Yolks or some other egg free noodle if you desire but stick to that style. They usually come in a bag in the pasta aisle.

Now cover with foil and put near the bottom of the oven. This is kinda critical if you want all that liquid to make it into the noodles. It is almost like you are cooking it on the stove top, heat from the bottom. Notice my filthy pizza stone in there? That helps generate the heat. If your oven has the element on top, you should get your pizza stone out and put it in the bottom of the oven to compensate for the lack of heating element in the bottom of the oven. It may result in longer cooking time but it should come together alright without any issues. If you don't have a pizza stone AND your cooking element is on top, lower the heat to 350 and keep it covered and cook it longer. Otherwise the top dries out and gets super crispy and the bottom gets soggy. Not good. 







One of the reasons I use a glass pan is that, surprise! You can see through it. When the mix starts to bubble, pull off that foil and give it a gentle stir. Leave the foil off so it can reduce down. If you leave it on, it traps condensation and take a lot longer to reduce. It will be watery in other words.



Gotta love the Godzilla-like shadow from my phone. 



 About half way through, add whatever green vegetable you like. Peas, broccoli, bok choi, spinach (frozen and drained, if you please). Whatever blows your skirt up.






Bake this bad boy until it is mostly absorbed. This is relative based on how much liquid you ended up with and how stiff (he he) you want your casserole. This could take anywhere from 20-45 minutes. If it takes longer than that, check the noodles. You may have gotten stale noodles, and they are absorbing very slowly. If they are cooked through but there is still a ton of liquid, you can spoon some off until it looks more like a stew than a soup. Don't do too much. There should be some liquid even after you pull it out of the oven. I know this is vague but once you physically try this recipe, you will get it. Just be sure the noodles are cooked through, to the point of overcooking. This is the one time that overcooking noodles is ok. You want that starch to roam free to capture liquid and set up the casserole. 

Once it is out of the oven, put the cheese on it and cover with the foil again. This next part is gonna be hard to swallow (no pun intended). YOU HAVE TO WAIT!!! This part is also critical to success. It needs time to set up. The proteins and starches in the noodles need time to settle and gel otherwise it is just noodles in liquid napalm. Your patience will be rewarded. I promise!






After about 15-20 minutes, dish out and serve. I made biscuits to go with it but it is optional, obviously, but highly recommended. 







So there you have it. A perfect weeknight dish that make fabulous leftovers. And my triumphant return to the blogosphere.


Alternate Ending of sorts:

You can make a stroganoff type casserole exactly the same in procedure. Just use cut up stew beef, cream of mushroom soup, and chop up some crimini mushrooms and put it in there. That one satisfied my German side without making others gag. I'll call that a win.

It has been lovely to make your acquaintance again, thanks for continuing to feed my narcissistic tendencies. Hey, you got a recipe out of it right?

Cheers Bitches, lets do this again soon!


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