Thursday, January 1, 2015

Butter Chicken and Cheesy Noodles

This is a huge favorite with the kids. They love cheesy noodles, and the chicken is lightly flavored and moist.


For the chicken:
b/s chicken breasts, 1 or 2 per person depending on size (I went crazy and used like 8)
some flour; I never measure and I always use too much
2-5 tbsp butter, depending on how much chicken you have to fry and how big your frypan is

For the Mac and Cheese
1lb short pasta; I used medium shells.
3tbsp butter
about 3 tbsp flour
2+ cups milk
About 2 cups grated cheddar.  Sometimes I add Jack, too.  Whatever cheese you like is good.  I recommend against buying it already shredded.  They coat it with something that keeps it from sticking, which will affect the texture of the sauce.

So this is how I started.  Put on the noodle pot to boil.  Get out a stainless steel saucepan, or anything that doesn't have a coating you can scrape up, because I find the cheese sauce requires some pretty vigorous stirring.  Toss 3 Tbsp of butter in that pan.  Then, in a big fry pan, throw the rest of the stick.  You may adjust these amounts based on the size of your pan and how much chicken you're cooking.

Put some flour in a shallow bowl.

Did I mention that I use this little food processor a lot?  Well, I don't.  I use it ALL the FUCKING TIME.  Please pardon my language.  It grates cheese!  They don't make them anymore but you can get one on ebay for like 20 bucks.  Oh, and see that block of cheese?  Use about twice that much.

 Here are the chicken breasts.  You'll want to pound them to an even thickness.  Throw some plastic wrap over the top of them first or you'll splatter salmonella everywhere.  I was lucky this time, they all came out of the bag pretty even and thin, so all I had to do was threaten them with the mallet.  Oh, and please ignore that tortilla in the background.  Rather than part of this meal, that is merely evidence of my slobbishness.

Melted butter!  That's a Leonard Part 6 reference.  Yes, I know, only about 3 people saw that movie.

Mix the 3 tbsp of flour into the melted butter.  You're going to want to cook this on medium low (3-4 if your stove is like mine) for a while, or there will be a stale flour taste in your sauce.  Brown it a little, but don't burn it.  I got distracted by the chicken here and burned the heck out of mine and had to start over.  Burned butter smells really, really bad.

Once the butter is all melted in the frypan, dredge (I love that word) your chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess, and put it in the pan.

You want to cook these at medium (5 if your stove is like mine) maybe 4 minutes on a side.  To be honest I never timed them, I just flip them when they look golden brown.  I do use a meat thermometer to check for doneness; anything over 170F I figure won't kill us.  If they get brown but are still cold inside, A) you didn't pound them enough, for shame, and B) throw a lid on it and turn it down to low, med-low (about 3) for five minutes or so.  That will keep cooking them without browning them further.  The breading won't be as crisp, but it'll still be good.

 You can plate them whenever they're done.  That's Simone's hand, showing off the chickeny goodness.

Okay, the burnt stuff got dumped out and it looks like the new stuff is cooked enough.  It's just a little brown, and when I stirred it I could see brown forming on the bottom of the pan.  Good enough.  The official name for this is "roux". We made a roux!  Hooray. This isn't just good for cheese sauce btw, this is how I make gravy for my pot roast, too, except I use the drippings instead of milk.

Did I say milk?  Let's add some milk! This is what I meant by 2+ cups.  I fill up a 2 cup measuring cup all the way.  It might be 2.5 cups. 

Stir this continuously until it's mixed, and then keep stirring it almost continuously after that.  You can stop for a moment or two, to do something like add noodles to the boiling noodle pot, but don't leave it alone for long because it will thicken and burn on the bottom.  Not a disaster if it burns a little, just stir it up really good.  That's why I have a whisk standing by, just in case.

It seems to take a long time to thicken even a little, but once it starts to thicken a little it'll thicken all the way very fast.  You can decide how thick you want your sauce, but you want it to thicken all the way before you add the cheese.  Oh, and if you just add salt and pepper to this sauce, it's a basic white sauce or bechamel.  Okay, traditional bechamel has onions in it, but I like the fancy name.

Add your cheese a little at a time, stirring after each addition.  The idea is you don't want to cool it down too fast by adding too much at once, because then it will take longer to melt.

 I tend to add a bit of salt as the last step.

 I just pour the noodles back into the pot and dump the sauce on them.  

Then mix it up.  Some people like to bake it.  I don't know why anyone would bake it.  It might be good to put it in a casserole and spread some bread-crumb/butter mixture on top and throw it under the broiler for a minute or two to make a yummy crust.  Mmmm...I might try that some time.

Here it is plated.  Yes, this is my favorite plate.  And, yes, it seems that Phoeb sometimes enjoys a beer or two with dinner.

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