I have to start this column with an apology!
In my Sept. 5 column, I omitted one word in the Chicken & Wild Rice recipe that changes the whole recipe. I omitted the word “cooked” after the rice. Thank you to my readers for reaching out and asking if the rice is supposed to be cooked. Yes, it is. I am including that recipe again in this column with that one little word added to it. Please forgive me if you tried the recipe and the rice was crunchy. I vow to be much more careful in my proofreading!
My last column was about quick dinner recipes for family weeknight meals. I’m all for getting dinner done and out of the kitchen, but I also like to serve special meals for my family and friends. One of the reasons I went into the food business is because I loved to cook for people.
I used to entertain people in our home all the time, but now that I do it on a larger scale for my customers, I don’t have much time to entertain in our home. When I do get a chance to have friends over, I don’t want to spend the whole time in the kitchen cooking. Now I prefer to serve foods that can be prepared in advance and require minimal time in the kitchen. It gives me more time to catch up and enjoy the evening.
Since I’m a casserole type of girl, I usually end up making a casserole or one-pan dish and pair it with a nice salad, bread, maybe a vegetable and a scrumptious dessert. For these occasions, I step things up a bit with specialty cheeses and seafood. Ingredients can take a common dish and make it sound all fancy. Sometimes just replacing rice with quinoa can take a dish to a whole new level.
So this week, I’m pulling out the entertaining recipes. These take a little more preparation time, but can be made up in advance and heated up while you’re catching up with old friends. I tend to gravitate to chicken when we’re entertaining because it’s usually safe to serve all groups. Seafood is always a good choice, but check with your guests to make sure no one has any allergies. Shellfish allergies can be so bad that just walking into a house with shrimp boiling can cause a severe allergic reaction.
I’ve been told by many readers that if a recipe has a long list of ingredients, they don’t even bother reading it. Please don’t do this with these recipes!
You probably already have most of the ingredients in your refrigerator or pantry. If you don’t like to chop and dice, then buy the pre-diced vegetables. One thing I do to speed along the process is to measure all the ingredients before I begin cooking. After the ingredients are prepped and measured out, the rest of the recipe comes together fast. If time is an issue, then prep the ingredients one day and assemble them the next day. Just put your pre-measured ingredients on a sheet pan or a deeper dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate until the next day, when it will come together in no time.
There is one problem with preparing these dishes for guests. They could love your cooking so much that they want to come back — maybe too often! It’s worth it, though, and you’ll look so together when they walk into a clean kitchen with a calm hostess and a delicious aroma coming from the oven. Just smile, and let them think you’re amazing!
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie’s Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
Chicken & Wild Rice
1 box Uncle Ben’s Original Long Grain and Wild Rice, cooked
2-3 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 can (14.5-ounce) French-cut green beans, drained
1 can (10.5-ounce) cream of celery soup
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup onion (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together. Bake for 30 minutes.
Gruyere Chicken & Rice
When I have no idea what to cook for supper, I’ll Google the ingredients I have in my refrigerator and see what pops up. One night I had some rotisserie chicken left over from another recipe and a piece of Gruyere cheese that needed to be used very soon. A recipe came up from Ree Drummond, “The Pioneer Woman,” and I modified it to fit what I had on hand. It called for wild rice, but I used Rice Selects Royal Blend and it was delicious! It would work with white rice or wild rice. Serves 8-10.
1 ½ cups rice, cooked
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cups half & half
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
4 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs or panko
6 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook rice according to package directions.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add mushrooms and onion. Stir occasionally until the onions are translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.
3. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and onions, stirring to incorporate. Cook for 2 minutes. Then stir in the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and cook for 4-5 minutes, until thickened.
4. Stir in the half and half and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes to thicken again. Add the soy sauce, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Fold in the drained rice and chopped chicken. Add the Gruyere and Parmesan, and fold to combine. Taste and adjust with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
5. Transfer to a 9x13-inch dish, cover and bake for 30 minutes or until center is hot and bubbly.
If using topping: Combine topping ingredients. Remove casserole from oven after 25 minutes. Remove top and cover casserole with topping. Return to oven uncovered and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Chicken, Rice and Artichokes
2 ½ cups chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained well
1/3 cup butter
½ cup self-rising flour
¼ cup white wine vinegar
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
¼ cup shredded Asiago cheese
1 cup bread crumbs or panko
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups cooked chicken
Non-stick cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and gradually stir in chicken broth. Stir or whisk unto mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly.
3. Remove from heat. Add vinegar, cheddar cheese, green onions and Asiago cheese. Blend until smooth. Stir in cooked rice, chicken and artichokes.
4. Put into a 9x13-inch baking dish (see note). In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, thyme and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over top of dish.
5. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes until bubbly.
Note: Dish can be covered and refrigerated for 24 hours at this point. To bake, remove from refrigerator and allow to return to room temperature. Top with bread crumb mixture and bake as directed.
Savannah Seafood Parmesan
I first discovered this recipe in a 1999 Southern Living magazine. I saved it and when I opened the casserole store in 2006, I included it on our original menu and still sell it. It isn’t a complicated recipe, but it does take time to gather and measure out the ingredients, which you need to do before you start cooking. Once that is done, it comes together fast and freezes beautifully! Serves 8-10.
1 pound unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
1 cup water
½ cup butter or margarine
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups half and half
1/3 cup dry white wine
¾ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons cocktail sauce
¾ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup fresh lump crabmeat, drained
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimiento, undrained
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
16 ounces bow tie pasta, cooked
Non-stick cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Peel shrimp, reserving shells. Set shrimp aside.
3. Bring reserved shrimp shells and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes. Pour stock through a wire-mesh strainer into a measuring cup, discarding shells.
4. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat; add minced garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in shrimp stock and half and half until smooth.
5. Add wine, chicken broth, cocktail sauce, Old Bay, salt and pepper. Cook, whisking constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.
6. Stir in shrimp and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add crab meat, pimento with juice and thyme, stir to incorporate and remove from heat.
7. Add pasta to sauce and toss to coat. Spoon into a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish, and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese (see note).
8. Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Note: Dish can be covered and refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for three months. To bake, allow dish to return to room temperate and bake as directed.