Smoked Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

One day I wanted to quickly make a nice meal for someone that was sick, but I didn’t have my “normal” stuff around the house. I took stock and invented with this recipe out of what I had on hand. My family loves this rich dish redolent of smoked chicken, garlic, and parmesan! Because parmesan is a gift box item and because the dish has about a zillion calories per serving, we only have it for special occasions. I hope you enjoy it! This serves about 12 people, so you may need to cut it down!

1 stick butter + a few Tbs to sauté

3/4 cup flour

4 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or to taste)

2 lbs smoked chicken breast

2 lbs fresh mushrooms

2 lbs fresh broccoli

1 cup parmesan cheese

3 cups chicken stock

1 qt or more milk

pepper and salt to taste

500 g cooked pasta, cooked al dente.

I decided not to insult your intelligence by showing step by step photos since this is a fairly standard uncomplicated recipe! Here are the major players prepped and ready to begin assembly. On this day I didn’t have fresh mushrooms so used canned. Fresh are better. You can use unsmoked chicken, but it really is the smoked chicken that stars in this entree. If you don’t have smoked chicken but have smoked gouda cheese, you could also add a cup of that grated. A few julienned carrots would brighten it up even more, too. Be flexible- have fun!

Slice and sauté your chicken breasts until slightly brown and set aside.

Slice the mushrooms, sauté in skillet until brown. Set aside.

Cut the broccoli into florets, steam lightly (just until bright green). Set aside.

Melt the stick of butter in your skillet, add garlic, then slowly add the flour until smooth.

Gradually add the chicken broth, stirring to keep smooth. Cook a bit to thicken, then do the same with the milk. You have to be careful to cook this slowly on medium heat. If it boils, the milk may curdle. The only difficult thing about this dish is to take your time making it. Don’t let the anticipation cause you to rush! Trust me, it will be worth your while to cook it slowly.

When the sauce is smooth and thick, stir in the parmesan cheese. Add the mushrooms and chicken as you continue heating. After this has sufficiently warmed with all of these things added, taste for saltiness. Since broth, chicken, and parmesan all have salt, it may not need added salt, but at this point add salt and pepper to taste. I enjoy using fresh black pepper in good quantity, but it’s up to you! If it’s too thick, lighten with more milk and/or broth. If it’s too thin, thicken with a mixture of flour and milk.

At the last minute add the broccoli and heat only until warm. Don’t cook it much because you want a nice bright green crispy tender broccoli to offset the thick, rich sauce! Having the broccoli showing off in your alfredo classifies it as health food and makes you feel better.

I serve the sauce and the noodles in separate bowls and let each person mix it to taste. The noodles absorb the sauce quickly and all the “goodies” tend to go to the bottom of the bowl if you serve them premixed.

Serve it  up and dig in! Keep the sides light. Enjoy!

Those bread sticks are a story for another day. Amazing! Hopefully Faith can tell you about those… Yum.

Red Braised Ribs (also works for chicken wings or beef)

There are all different kinds of genuine Chinese food. This is a pretty classic recipe, first introduced to me by my daughter-in-love, Rebecca, who is from Anhui Province. But some of my Guangdong friends make it as well. It is a lovely flavorful dish – one of the few Chinese foods I make well!

Ingredients:

3 pounds short rib pieces that can be eaten with chopsticks OR 3 pounds of chicken wing pieces OR 3 pounds of beef stew meat in chunks

1 inch of ginger root sliced

1 small bunch green onion (optional) minced

2/3 cup of cooking sherry

1/2 cup of dark soy sauce 

1 Tablespoon of sugar

1 large piece of cinnamon stick broken into pieces

3 – 4 star anise

1-3 dried Chinese red hot peppers (depending on your personal tastes)(Optional)

1-2 bay leaves (Optional)

Oil

If you’re using ribs, wash well so that you won’t get bone chips in your dish! Add a few Tablespoons of oil to your wok along with your sliced ginger root and green onion if you are using it (I am not). Saute in wok until the oil is aromatic.

Add ribs or other meat.

Stir fry until you can only see a little blood. Then add cooking sherry. (If you’re in China, don’t buy this kind. Really doesn’t have a good flavor!) Stir it up.

Then add dark soy sauce. If all you have is light soy sauce, you may need more of it and you may also need to salt the ribs a bit. But don’t salt the meat if you have dark soy sauce. Give them a little toss to mix the sauce in there well!

Toss in your spices. I didn’t add as much spice as I prefer to this batch as I had some folks at the table who prefer milder food. My personal preference is for two of the hot peppers. If you break them in half, they permeate the dish nicely giving it a little tang but not searing your mouth. Adapt to taste. These little peppers can really give you a zing but they vary from batch to batch. It’s always a good idea to add them slowly unless you don’t care if you get it super spicy!

Add water to cover the meat.

 

Add sugar.

Toss in your bay leaves- just one or two. You can buy them here in China, but I just happen to have a bottle from the states on my shelf.

This is how it looks now. Kind of blah looking…

Cover the pan and simmer for a time.

For ribs, simmer about an hour; for chicken wings (cut in half- remember that you want to eat this with chopsticks…), half an hour is probably enough; for beef stew meat, you might need an hour and a half depending on the size pieces and the toughness of the meat. Chinese beef is usually from water buffaloes and is tough and stringy, so we probably simmer beef for closer to two hours. Every now and then, give it a little taste to see if you need to adjust flavorings. Soy sauce varies greatly in saltiness so you may need to add more of it or salt. You may also decide to toss in more star anise or cinnamon. This is not a science- it is highly subjective based on personal tastes! I prefer chicken wings cooked this way to the other meats, but at this meal we were also serving coca cola chicken wings so made ribs for variety.

After simmering, when the meat is tender, this is what it looks like:

You can see that during cooking I have continued adding a bit of water because we enjoy having extra sauce to put on our rice. If you prefer your sauce thicker, simply mix cornstarch with some of the broth, then stir it into the juices and stir until thickened. We prefer the sauce thinner so that it incorporates with our rice more easily.

This is a classic blend of Chinese flavors and smells wonderful as it cooks! It is usually redder, but that day I only had light soy sauce so mine is lighter. Some of my friends take pieces of pork that are larger- perhaps 5 inches x 2 inches x 2 inches- and simmer them slowly for several hours in a pot until they are tender enough to be sliced without falling apart. At the end of the cooking time, they might peel a few boiled eggs and let them simmer in the juices for a while. They serve these two things together on a platter, cutting the pork into thin slices and the eggs into quarters. Sometimes they even toss some fennel seeds into the mix with the other spices! So you see, this is a versatile and adaptable recipe!

Soon I’ll post a “recipe” for how I make a Chinese green vegetable that makes a nice accompaniment to this dish.

But for now, give this a try! Enjoy!

Pat

Grace and Hope’s Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

As mentioned before, Grace and Hope have a little business making and selling muffins. They are popular with both ex-pats and Chinese, with one of the favorite flavors being these lemon poppy seed muffins. Though these are called muffins, they could be called cupcakes just as well as they are sweet and cake-y, though dense. I have long held the theory that if it’s not chocolate, it’s not dessert, but these muffins have changed my thinking on this!

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons poppy seeds (You can use more but they are rare here since we can’t buy them..)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 Tablespoons lemon zest

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup oil

3 eggs

Mix all ingredients. Spray muffin pans with non-stick spray or use muffin papers. Fill muffin cups 5/6 of the way full if you want a nice “crown” on the muffins. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes or until golden on top. This recipe makes 18 plump muffins such as those pictured.

We use one of two glazes on these.

Glaze number 1

3/4 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

2 Tablespoons butter

Cook on stove just until sugar is melted. When muffins are still warm, dip top in the muffins.

Glaze number 2

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Mix and drizzle over muffins once they have gotten cool.

We prefer glaze number 2. Although it has powdered sugar, it is less sweet and “syrupy”. 

If you prefer orange flavoring make as follows:

Substitute orange juice and zest for the lemon juice and zest in the muffin recipe.

In the glaze recipes, merely substitute orange juice for the lemon juice.

If you prefer almond flavoring, make as follows:

Do not add lemon zest or juice to the muffin recipe. Increase the almond extract to 2 teaspoons.

For the glaze, mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon of almond extract and 1 1/2 teaspoons of milk.

Enjoy!

Tasty Bars

We were away from home the past two days, spending time with Jeremy’s and Jason’s families for a mini-vacation. While we were gone, a former student of ours who has been living in northern China called to ask if he could come for dinner and stay with us tonight. We were very, very happy to be able to see him again, but since we would not be arriving home until almost dinnertime ourselves, we needed to come up with a super quick meal. Remembering that his favorite Western dinner had been spaghetti, the main dish was easy, and for dessert, we pulled out Chez Dexter’s standard last minute bar cookie recipe. We’ve been meaning to share this with you anyway since it has only six ingredients and takes just thirty minutes from inception to service.

Not only can you whip this up almost in the blink of an eye, but if you try hard enough you can kind of (sort of?) justify it as healthy. I mean, the health benefits of chocolate are almost endless, and nuts are good, right? Brown sugar, oatmeal…this is a veritable smorgasbord of all that is great for what ails you (kind of, sort of…)! And they don’t call these “Tasty Bars” for nothing!

Ingredients:

3 cups oatmeal

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Topping:

1 cup peanut butter (creamy works better)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Stir the first four together and press into a 9 x 13 pan. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes until set and golden.

Yes, this is our oven. (We are very fancy- we have two! The other one is bigger but  since it only works on the top burner we don’t use it unless we’re desperate.) This one, as you see, is held together by a bungee cord!

While it’s baking, make the topping. Microwave your peanut butter in a bowl for about one minute until it’s very fluid.

Dump the chocolate chips into the hot peanut butter.

Are you starting to feel the love? Now stir vigorously until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. (If you really want to make a mess, go ahead and try zapping your chocolate chips and your peanut butter in the microwave at the same time. It might work- sometimes does. But after having a few bowls full of lusciousness turn into seized up lumps of burnt chocobutter, we’re sold on this less risky technique! If perchance (There’s something so satisfying about being able to stick the word “perchance” into a sentence, don’t ya think?) your chips don’t quite melt all the way, go ahead and give this a little zip zap for a few seconds, but be careful not to overdo it!)

We know at this point some of you are going to want to forget all about that healthy oatmeal base and just eat this with a spoon…

But try to resist…

Go ahead and dump the mixture onto your oatmeal base as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Spread it around.

Good enough!

If you’re going to have this ready in 30 minutes as we’ve promised, sock that puppy into the freezer for ten minutes! In our hot Guangzhou weather, we always stick it into either the fridge or the freezer to set the top.

Love on a plate!

Now what could be wrong with that?

Seriously, five minutes to mix the base; ten minutes to bake it while you prepare the topping; five minutes to spread that on; ten minutes to zap it in the freezer to set it! Six ingredients (all of which are likely staples in your kitchen), thirty minutes to prepare, then you have time to sit and talk with your family and guests as they enjoy the fruits of your labors! Refrigerate leftovers, if there are any….