Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

mother sauces

Roasted Chicken – The Feast That Keeps on Giving – Part II

Divine Chicken Divan

Last week, I roasted one 6-pound, $7 chicken and created 4 separate dishes and 16 meals, beginning with the roasted chicken, the ensuing stock, a Chicken and Dumpling Soup made from the stock  a luscious Chicken Divan casserole, and four substantial chicken sandwiches enhanced with a homemade Nutty Whole Grain Bread. That’s going the distance in the economical and no waste cooking department, which was, and for the long-haul is, my most intense cooking ambition these days. Along with keeping things delicious, of course.

Here’s the original post for the roast for easy reference:

Roasted Chicken – The Feast That Keeps on Giving

It was cold last week and like most of us in the snowy, Northern Hemisphere, I was in the mood for some soothing, creamy, savory comfort food.  Chicken Divan, something a Facebook friend aptly described as ‘legacy fare,’ came to mind. Named after the restaurant where it was created in the Chatham Hotel in New York City, divan is a French word meaning ‘meeting place’ or ‘grand hall.’ In addition to being descriptive, like all French words, it sounds prettier than many English words and its base is a mother sauce, a Bechamel turned cheesy, also known as a Mornay sauce. Classically, it’s prepared with broccoli and mushrooms, but I kept broccoli out of the equation (mostly because I didn’t have any to use) and beefed up the mushroom ratio with dried porcini macerated in warm, dry vermouth which was later added to the Mornay. The end result was stunning and doubles as brunch (I served it to friends as such with a side of roasted asparagus), lunch, dinner or a midnight snack.

A word on bread crumbs and mushroom feet:

Unless you are one of the rare few that seldom has a nub of baguette or left-over bread hanging around, there is no reason to ever buy bread crumbs at the grocery. Store the bread bits and pieces in the freezer and crumble them in the food processor as you’re ready to use them, as in the topping for this casserole. Same goes for most types of cheeses (except soft cheeses), which I freeze and use in forgiving dishes such as a casserole or omelet frequently. In cooking school, we were taught not to use the feet of mushrooms in dishes, except in stock, but I disagree. Except for some very tough mushroom types, such as shitake, they are perfectly palatable. With all mushrooms (except morels which are another story), clean them simply by rubbing them down with a damp paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove excess dirt.

Divine Chicken Divan

Divine Chicken Divan

(Makes 10 generous portions)

1 ounce dried wild porcini

1/2 cup extra dry white vermouth

3/4 cup chicken stock (from roasted chicken – see link above – or best quality commercial chicken stock)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

8 ounces, or 2 1/2 cups crimini mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced, feet-on

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the Mornay:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose

2 cups whole milk

Reserved strained liquid from the porcini mushrooms

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Compiling the casserole:

Shredded meat from the 1 chicken breast and one leg/thigh from the roasted chicken, skin and bones removed – approximately three cups

5 scallions, finely chopped

1 1/4 bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, halved

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Place the porcini, vermouth, and chicken stock in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, cook 3 minutes and set aside, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, stir to coat, and cook over medium low heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the chopped crimini, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to coat and saute until softened, five minutes. Set aside. Meanwhile, strain the liquid from the porcini through a coffee filter into a small bowl and set aside. Coarsely chop the porcini and add to the mushrooms in the saute pan and set aside.

Prepare the Mornay.  Melt the two tablespoons butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Cook 1 minute, or until blond and barely bubbling. Add the milk, reserved strained porcini liquid, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook, stirring, five minutes or until thickened. Season with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses until melted.

To compile the casserole, use 1 tablespoon of the butter to rub down the sides and edges of a 4-quart casserole dish.  Arrange the shredded chicken meat on the bottom. Scatter with the chopped scallions and reserved mushrooms in the saute pan. Pour the warm Mornay sauce evenly over the top. Separately, melt remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and toast lightly, stirring to coat. Top the casserole evenly with the browned bread crumbs.  Bake 30 to 40 minutes until golden, fragrant and bubbling. (Note: Can prepare/compile ahead, refrigerate overnight, and bake just before serving. Also, reheats well in oven or microwave after baked).

Happy cooking! Look for the Nutty Whole Grain Bread and Chicken and Dumpling Soup recipe next week. In the meantime, please remember to keep this upcoming cookbook writing retreat and Folly Beach spring wellness vacation in mind and by all means, tell  your friends about it. We still have spots open. Beckie and I would love to see you there! It’s going to be delicious, fun, and educational.

Cracking the Cookbook Code. Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat

 

 

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Bechamel Embellished

Voila!  The stock and fumet chapter is put to bed, so now it’s onto bechamel in the new sauce book. Some might argue, and in fact some of my friends have, that bechamel is boring. One of the five French mother sauces, I agree that it is certainly basic. It’s a simple white roux, sometimes flavored with a bit of onion and finished with milk and/or cream and seasoning.

But to me, that’s a huge part of bechamel’s beauty. The simple flavor backdrop and creamy, slightly thick consistency sets a dynamic flavor potential stage that help it evolve into anything from a Nantua to a Soubise with the addition of herbs, stock, cheese, or really just about anything that makes sense depending on what you’re pairing it with. Consider a chive and Parmesan bechamel over soft-scrambled eggs and toast or seasoned with mushrooms and wine as a tasty pasta topper? The possibilities are literally endless!

Not just a sauce, bechamel is also the tasty glue that holds together casseroles and gratins, as it does in this recipe I tested in my kitchen yesterday.

Crunchy Crustacean Gratin

 

The inspiration for the recipe came from a visit to my local fish monger. I found some gorgeous seasonal shrimp and some beautiful fresh stone crab (one pound of each). I crushed the crab with a mallet, leaving the raw flesh in place, and peeled and de-veined the shrimp. Both the crab and the shrimp shells went into a large pot with a bit of butter and a finely chopped leek and a finely chopped small onion. After it softened, I deglazed the pan with a fat splash of Chardonnay, reduced it down, added 8 cups of water, and allowed the whole thing to simmer lightly, skimming along the way (see previous post) until it reduced by half. Then, I strained the entire fumet, discarding the solids, returned it to the pan and reduced it until it was down to a cup of liquid. The result is known as a glace – in this case a crustacean glace. Two tablespoons of this were whisked into the bechamel, along with some herbs and seasonings to top the beautiful fresh shrimp and some more lump crab. The result was creamy, rich goodness that utterly defies the concept of a boring bechamel! Sacre bleu!

Crunchy Crab and Shrimp Gratin

(Makes 8 to 10 portions)

Basic Bechamel

1 shallot, finely chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons All Purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cold skim milk

1 cup cold Half & Half

Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the butter and shallot and sweat to soften, for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Cook another 2 – 3 minutes, whisking, and avoiding coloring the roux. Add the milk and Half and Half all at once, whisking to incorporate smoothly. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the bechamel up to a gentle boil. Reduce heat slightly, and continue cooking until thickened enough to coat a spoon and the flour flavor has cooked out – about 5 minutes. Season careful to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve warm for the gratin recipe, which only uses half of this recipe. The rest will store fine in the refrigerator for a couple days until you’re ready to make those eggs!

For the gratin:

1/2 recipe Basic Bechamel (above)

1 tablespoon sweet Vermouth

2 tablespoons of crustacean glace (see top of the column for instructions on preparation) OR substitute best quality fish stock or clam juice

2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

Generous dash Tabasco sauce

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 pound shrimp, peeled, de-veined and coarsely chopped

1 pound lump crab meat

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup bread crumbs tossed with 4 tablespoons softened butter

Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare the basic bechamel. Divide in half reserving the remainder for future use. While still warm, whisk in the Vermouth, glace, scallions, parsley, Old Bay Seasoning, Tabasco, lemon juice. Taste carefully and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, arrange the shrimp in the bottom of a shallow,   baking dish or pie pan. Top with an even layer of the crab. Pour the bechamel over the top, spreading with a spatula to distribute it evenly. Top with a layer of the bread crumbs. Bake until golden and bubbling, 20 – 25 minutes. Serve warm! All this needs is a small salad to be a meal, and also makes a great appetizer with toast points.

Bon appetit!

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Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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