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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Three Sisters Basque Chicken Casserole

"My friends are my estate." ~Emily Dickinson
   This is a food post--a really, really yummy, make-your-eyes-light-up-and -your-tummy-happy recipe. You will love this dish so much you won't want to talk--just eat! A bowl of this casserole prompted our nine year old grandson Kiernan to exclaim, "Nanny Jaq you are the world's best cook!"
  Why is the recipe called "Three sisters," and who you may ask, are these women? All three are boaters. Two of the women are North Americans and one is a Brummie.
   Back in 2012 Les and I enjoyed a delicious meal of Chicken Marbella cooked by Canadian Rita Talbot, (NB Maple Knot). If you ever get an invitation to dinner on her boat you are in for a treat! Rita is a skilled cook and like me, she also enjoys tweaking recipes to suit her tastes and those of her husband Scooby who is notorious for his love of hot-Hot-HOT food.
   In 2013 we we enjoyed several delicious dinners fixed by Brummie Jacquie Leek (NB Like Ducks 2 Water). She made a smoked cheese stuffed chicken breast that was to die for and a Basque Chicken Casserole which we really loved. Jacquie is another woman who knows how to tempt one's taste buds. Oooh sister-friends!!
   As you now have surely guessed, I am the third sister. I offer grateful thanks to Rita and Jacquie for introducing me to food flavors I'd never considered before. Rita opened my eyes to the use of Cream Cheese in savory cooking and both women introduced me to the holy duo of Chicken and Chorizo. Hallelujah and blessed be!
   There was something innately nourishing and filling in both recipes. As I very often do, while cooking, I think "What special things can I do make this recipe my own?" I came up with the idea of combining Rita's Chicken Marbella and Jacquie's version of Basque Chicken casserole with some techniques I've picked up over forty five years in various kitchens from my mother's (she was a restaurateur and school cafeteria manager. I once spent an entire summer as her sous chef when she took a job as cook and kitchen manager for the local Girls Scout summer camp for 75 very hungry girls), through various jobs such as kitchen worker for Northwest Airlines Flight kitchens, a pastry chef at a fishing lodge, and eventually running my own catering concern, providing everything from intimate dinners for two, four, or eight diners, to luncheons for 55. So here we go!!

Three Sisters Basque Chicken Casserole (serves four)
Here are the basic ingredients.
150 grams (1/3 of a pound or four small links) of Spanish Chorizo, with cases removed, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
2 and 1/2 boneless, skinless Chicken breasts, cut into 1 & 1/2 inch chunks
2 Tablespoon of good olive oil
2 Tablespoons of tomato puree or tomato paste
1 large red pepper, cleaned and sliced into 1 & 1/2 chunks
1 large green pepper, cleaned and sliced into 1 & 1/2 inch chunks
1 large white onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
190 grams (1 cup) of Uncle Ben's Long Grain Rice (cooks in 10 minutes)
500 grams (16 oz.) of Tomato Passata (or diced canned tomatoes run through the blender if you don't like the chunks)
60 ml. (1/4 cup) of Santa Maria yellow peppers, diced (sub Jalapeños if you want this fiery hot)
250 ml. (1 cup) of water
2 ounces of Marsala wine
150 grams (1/3 of a pound or 5.3 oz.) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
You will need the following powdered spices in varying amounts as the recipe unfolds so get out the spice jars and measuring spoons and follow the recipe closely as we build flavor in layers:
sweet paprika (not hot)
Ancho chile powder (not hot)
Smoked chipotle chili flakes

 1. Cut the chicken breasts up and sprinkle with 2 tsp. paprika, 1 & 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. Ancho chile powder, 1/2 tsp. of ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste. Toss to coat the chicken chunks and set it aside in a bowl.

2. Clean and slice the green and red bell peppers and onion, setting them aside in one large bowl. 

3. Measure out one cup of long grain rice and set it aside.

4. Remove the Chorizo links from their cases and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. 

5. Preheat the oven to 350F (Gas Mark 4). 

6. In a large saute pan add 1T. of good olive oil and the sliced Chorizo. Cook on medium, allowing the Chorizo to brown lightly on both sides and render most of the grease into the pan. Keep the grease which will add flavor to this dish without--I promise you--making it taste heavy or greasy.

Keep the grease--it's loaded with taste
7. Remove the Chorizo from the saute pan quickly with a slotted spoon and add the seasoned chicken chunks to the rendered Chorizo grease, cooking on medium until the chicken is lightly browned all over. It does not have to be completely cooked through as it will continue cooking in the oven. Quickly remove the chicken from the saute pan with a slotted spoon and set aside with the Chorizo. 

8. Toss the cleaned, sliced bell peppers and onion into the saute pan, adding a drizzle of olive oil if necessary to keep them from sticking and burning. Season with 2 tsp. of paprika, 1 & 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. of Ancho chile powder, a 1/2 tsp. of ground Cumin, and 1/4 tsp. of salt and black pepper to taste. Cook on medium high, stirring frequently until the onions have softened and separated into layers and the peppers have browned slightly.

9. Turn the heat down to medium low and move the vegetables over to one side of the saute pan. Squeeze 2 Tablespoons of tomato puree or add 2 T. of Tomato paste to the cleared area of the pan and stir it for one minute. This will begin to brown the tomato puree or paste and remove the raw taste, giving it depth and flavor. After a minute or two, stir the vegetable into the puree and mix well, coating the vegetables.
Add the tomato puree and brown it for 1 minute.

Throughout this recipe we are working on building flavor layers so don't worry about how much spice we use and don't dump it all in somewhere at once! It will not taste the same. The spices are layered into the dish to cook with specific ingredients which will eventually all marry their flavors together in the end. The other flavor builder is browning the tomato puree or paste. Tomato paste is VERY acidic. Browning the
puree or paste adds depth and will provide a smoky flavor to the dish.
9. Add the chicken and Chorizo back into the pan with any juices and grease. Stir to mix with the vegetables and add one cup of long grain rice, stirring to mix well. Cook for about three minutes. 

10. Add in 1 ounce of Marsala, setting the remaining ounce of the wine aside to use later. Stir well to bring the fond off the bottom of the pan (the browned bits of meat and veg).

What it looks like before it goes into the oven...
11. Add in the carton of Tomato Passata (or can of sieved tomatoes), stirring well to distribute the liquid and the solids throughout the pan. Fill the Passata carton halfway (125 grams) with water and rinse the remainder of the tomato and water into the assembled meat, veg and rice.

and what it looks like after 45 minutes.
12. To the saute pan now add 2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. Ancho chili powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and black pepper to taste. Now is the time to add the red chili flakes, if you want this to be spicy and fiery hot. Add the 1/4 cup of diced yellow peppers or jalapeños. Mix well and spoon everything into an oven proof covered casserole dish. 

13. Bake for 45 minutes and remove from the oven. Remove the lid and pour in the remaining ounce of Marsala wine. Mix well. Spoon in 150 grams of Cream cheese and mix very well until the cream cheese is completely incorporated into the tomato sauce. Cover and allow to sit for five minutes. Serve with warm crusty, buttered rolls or garlic crostini. and a chilled glass of wine. Salud!
The final product. Mmmm-let's eat!!


Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Sounds extremely yummy, Jaq. I make Basque chicken (had it first in Wales with some friends a couple of years ago) but I generally cook and serve the rice separately. I do like the idea of adding cream cheese as it calms down the heat which would suit my tastebuds. I think I will make your recipe for our weekend guests. Will let you know how it goes down, so to speak. Marilyn xox

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Marilyn,
Make sure you use sweet paprika--not hot. I don't add Jalapenos to mine either because Les and I like spice food but not hot. I put a bottle of Tobasco sauce on the table when I serve it so if people want to make it hot they can. I'm looking forward to hearing what you and your guests thought about it.

Anonymous said...

Jaq ... I promise absolutely to try this. It looks and sounds absolutely awesome! We have a new Chinese student living with us and just tonight I was explaining the difference between "spicy" and "hot" by showing her a jar of Tabasco (which she knows) and a drawer plus full of thirty spices.

It's Lentil Festival time here in Pullman. Students are back and ....well you know the scene. Will be riding the Segway in the parade for the LWV.

Great weather now if only the fires would stop.

you are loved,

Jacquie said...

Thanks for the compliment Jaq, I'm a bit late in reading the blog, maybe I get to taste your version one day. xxx
Take care both.
Jacquie -

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen and I apologize for not answering sooner! We ended up in a dead zone with no signal for over a week, on the Leicester arm. Now we've turned around to slowly make our way back to Cow roast for Les' surgery and we are on the Grand Union canal once more--with a full signal.

Ah yes Lentil Fest. With your love of people, bright lights and color, laughter and good food I know you were in your element on your Segueway.

Glad to hear you have a new student. It would be brill if they can cook yummy Chinese food and share recipes with you and Jim.

Do let me know what you and Jim think of this dish. It has become our celebratory go-to dish.
You are also loved--to bits and pieces!
Jaq and LesXX

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hello Jacq,
I promise when we meet up again (and I have every faith we will!) I will fix this dish for you. Meantime please know we both miss you like a fat kid misses cake.
Love you gobs and bunches,
Jaq and LesXX
p.S. We met a mutual boat friend yesterday. His name is Arthur on NB Dabchick at Weedon Bec. Lovely gent. Says to tell you hello.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs