Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leftovers Love: Chicken Tetrazzini

What exactly is tetrazzini? In order to use up leftovers, I made a variation on what I thought its main constituent parts to be—turkey or chicken, pasta, cream sauce, peas, and mushrooms—only to look it up after the fact and learn that there is no actual consensus on what exactly it consists of. (Also, that the dish was named after the opera singer at left.) So my variation was as good as any—not to mention being a quick and hearty reworking of leftovers to the tune of $3 in new ingredients.

Backstory: Monday, I made roast chicken, which I had marinated in Brooklyn Lager topped off with some chicken stock, rubbed under the skin with Old Bay and garlic powder, and stuffed with a sliced clementine and a head of garlic for flavor infusion. While the chicken rested, I made pan gravy with the drippings and more chicken stock plus a little of that beer brew. Also, I made frozen peas and Stove Top. (As regular readers may recall, the Rob loves his Stove Top.) This was a very satisfying meal, and also I made a very flavorful stock out of the chicken carcass.

Fast-forward to this evening (is this an action-packed saga or what?!): I purchased a bunch of parsley, an 8-oz. package of mushrooms, and a box of linguine—which frankly I should have already had on hand, but for once I was out of dried pasta.

Once in the kitchen, the first thing I did was to put a covered metal pot of salted water on a burner turned to high, to boil for the pasta. Always start boiling your pasta water before you do anything else, since it tends to take forever. I also preheated the oven to 350°.

The next thing I did was realize I was out of butter. (Gentle reader, clearly I need to stock up on staples.) So, in lieu of that Paula Deen-deified substance, I added a layer of the leftover gravy to a stockpot in which to sauté a small diced onion over medium-low heat.

Once the onion was soft, I added the mushrooms, sliced, plus a splash of white wine and a sprinkle of kosher salt, and continued sautéing, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

I stirred maybe 2 cups of milk into the remaining cup-ish of gravy (which was at room temperature), stirred the mix into the stock pot, and turned the heat up to medium-high. I let it simmer with the liquid bubbling, stirring occasionally as it cooked down. (I might have rather used part cream in retrospect.)

Once the sauce thickened a bit, I added the leftover roast chicken that I had stripped off the carcass with my fingers on Monday and hacked up into inch-long-ish chunks, as well as the leftover peas, I’d say ½ to 1 cup though it doesn’t need to be too specific. I reduced the heat down to low and let it continue cooking and stirring.

This was maybe 15 minutes in, total? At this point the water was well boiling, so I added maybe 3/4ths of the box of pasta and cooked per package directions. I tossed the pasta in the sauce and stuck the pot in the oven for maybe 10 minutes, with the lid cracked open. Then I served it with Parmesan cheese for grating; you could also add some grated Parm to the sauce before putting the dish in the oven.

Now, after making this, I got curious about the official definition of tetrazzini, since I had relied purely on my recall of how my mom used to make it when I was a kid—usually with turkey, not chicken. I Googled it and found this one recipe that is pretty similar to what I recall although I can’t remember whether my mom used to bake it with the bread crumbs. (She may not even have baked it.) But some other recipes I found were mushrooms only, not peas—and according to Wikipedia, which again says there is no exact agreed-upon recipe for the dish, one of the main ingredients is almonds. (But the photo accompanying the entry shows peas…and a truly wrong-looking layer of yellow cheese.)

So I would suggest that you just modify the dish as you see fit and/or based on whatever leftovers you have laying around. Cooked broccoli might be good instead of the peas, you could throw some sliced red or yellow peppers in there, and I certainly would like to do the bread-crumb topping next time around. Truth be told, gentle reader, I thought about packing a layer of Stove Top over the dish when I put the pot in the oven…but that seemed truly wrong.


  1. i cannot believe you were out of butter.

  2. I know right, and then like I told you I ended up spending $5 on a pound of butter!! usually i buy tons when it's on sale and freeze it. i was so pissed. $5!!!