Chicken mushroom noodle gratin

For a few years, three friends and I regularly attended cooking classes held at The Seasonal Kitchen. Dick and Ginger Howell gave -- and still give -- cooking classes in their inviting kitchen in Pittsford. Dick and Ginger are informative yet comedic, their recipes delicious yet approachable. Alas, the schedule demands of school-age kids brought our time at the Seasonal Kitchen to a halt, but I'm glad to see that Dick and Ginger are still going strong.

All of still use their recipes in regular rotation, and this one is a favorite. (The picture doesn't do it justice but I'm not about to delay dinner for a photo shoot.) It's a yummy way to use up leftover chicken or turkey, and is nice enough to serve to company. My friend, Marie, assembles the whole thing ahead of time and pops it into the oven for company. I'm afraid of mushy noodles, so I get all the components ready (cut-up chicken, cooked noodles, sauteed mushrooms) ahead of time, and then I make the sauce and assemble it all right before it goes in the oven.

A couple of tips:
1. The dry noodles will not look like enough when you measure it out (see the colander to the right), but it does work out just right. When you increase the noodles, you lose the creaminess of the sauce and throw the ratio off.
2. Be sure to undercook the noodles by a couple of minutes because they will continue to cook while baking.

Chicken (or Turkey) Mushroom Noodle Gratin

1 stick butter (3 Tablespoons for the mushrooms/3 for the sauce/2 on top)
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms thinly sliced
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock (or poaching liquid from the chicken)
1 c. heavy cream
salt, white pepper to taste
1 T. rice vinegar or cider vinegar -- or use Madeira wine
3 c. chicken or turkey which has been poached in chicken stock and seasoned with salt and pepper (OR leftover cooked chicken or turkey), and torn into 2 x 1 inch pieces 
1/4 lb. wide egg noodles cooked 2 minutes less than directions for al dente and drained (do not increase amount of noodles - even if it looks skimpy)
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan
2 T. fresh bread crumbs

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until they have absorbed the butter and wilted, but not browned. Remove them, juice and all, to a small bowl.

Melt 3 more tablespoons butter in the same pan and add the flour, stirring constantly for several minutes, until thoroughly amalgamated. Do not brown. Gradually add the chicken stock and cream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook until smooth and thick about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and vinegar.

Bail out 1 cup of sauce and add it to 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese. Add this mixture to the cooked, drained noodles.

Fold the chicken and mushrooms into the remaining sauce.

Butter a 1 1/2 or 2 quart casserole and place half of the noodles on the bottom. Cover with half of the chicken mixture, then spread with the rest of the chicken mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese, mixed with the bread crumbs. Dot with bits of the remaining butter.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. (It will be a bit soupy but will thicken as it sets.)


Anonymous said...

How many servings does this make? Do you think 1/2 c heavy cream and 1/c milk would give the same creaminess. This is truly winter comfort food at it's best! Thanks. Vicky

Tracy said...

Vicky, this serves 6 with a reasonable size serving -- it is pretty rich.

Because it is thickened with flour, you probably could substitute some milk for the heavy cream. Fat-free evaporated milk also would probably work.

Another way to lighten it would be to cut back on the butter in each step.