Sunday, January 11, 2009

First Time's The Charm - Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

Dear readers, do you remember the very first time you ate something that you'd never had before, and that first taste changed your life? Ok, maybe not that dramatic, but do you remember being amazed, astonished, then consequently hooked for life? If yes, then let's reminisce together, you and I, because that was a wonderful moment, no? And if not, then what are you waiting for?! Get thee an adventurous spirit and try something new - you may or may not like it, but either way you'll never forget it, and whatever the result, you'll always be proud of yourself for having taken that leap!

Picture this: Paris, 2003 (yes, I'm going all Sophia from the Golden Girls on you! Hah, that ages me like nothing else!). A young woman is enjoying her first sights and smells of this amazing city. She has lived a semi-sheltered life for the most part, especially in terms of food, usually opting for the familiar and safe. Along comes this group of local Parisians who take her out to a cute little restaurant near the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera). They ask her if she would like to start off with some fois gras. Now this was something she'd only heard about on the Food Network, so the first turning point comes when she says "sure, why not?". For someone who's never had it, whose friends and family back home have never even heard of it, the idea of eating goose liver is not the most appetizing. But that's the second turning point, because the minute she takes that first bite, all kinds of bells start ringing! It's as if a new part of her brain woke up that she never even knew existed! All sorts of preconceived notions, about everything, were broken down.

This may sound ridiculous to some, but I know there's a fair group of you out there who know what I'm talking about. Suffice to say that I walked away from that dinner a few pounds heavier, forever longing for my next piece of sweet, creamy, insanely addictive fois gras. But you know, that one small, seemingly insignificant (to others) moment opened a lot of doors for me. After that I never turned away from trying something new, whether it was food-related or not, from raw oysters to hang-gliding, from chicken feet to whitewater rafting!

So would you believe I had never tried a true-blue all-American casserole before this one I'm about to share with you now? Never had I used a can of Campbell's Condensed Mushroom Soup for anything other than .. well .. soup! And it's all thanks to my girl Ree, over at Pioneer Woman Cooks. She could convince me that old shoe leather was a gourmet treat! I went into this recipe with no real expectations, but one bite was all it took to put this dish on my list of "The One Thing You Could Eat Forever If You Were Stranded On A Deserted Island". Ever since I've tried this dish, I'm constantly trying out new casseroles, but nothing compares to this one ... yet.

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole (inspired by the one at Pioneer Woman Cooks)

2 chicken thighs with skin
1 lb spaghetti

2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup (condensed)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped green capsicum
1 4oz jar of chopped pimentos, drained
1-2 jalapenos, finely chopped
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp Lawry's Seasoned Salt
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt n Pepper to taste

1. Put the chicken thighs in a pot, cover with water, add a bay leaf, salt, some peppercorns and a pinch of thyme. Boil the whole thing till the chicken is cooked completely. Once cooled, reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid (strained), then remove the chicken, discard the skin and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.
2. To the chicken pieces, add the chopped onion, chopped green pepper, diced pimentos, chopped jalapenos.

3. Break the dry spaghetti into 2 inch pieces before boiling them.

4. When spaghetti is cooked, take it out in a large bowl. To this add 2 cups of the grated cheddar, the two cans of mushroom soup, the chicken broth, the seasoned salt, the regular salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, and the chicken mixture. Mix everything thoroughly and place it in a large casserole dish.

5. Top with remained 1 cup of cheddar.

6. You can refrigerate this for upto 2 days, or bake it immediately. Place it in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes until bubbly. Then turn on the broiler for an additional 5-8 minutes, till the top gets slightly browned in places.

7. Remove from the oven and let it cool down for about 10-15 mins before you jump into this ooey-gooey piece of pasta heaven!I like to add some ketchup or hot sauce to this - really hits the spot for me! DH can't get enough of it either. Bet you can't have just one helping! This is going to be my VERY first entry to Presto Pasta Nights - an event that I love, because it brings together like-minded pasta lovahs ... yayyy carbs! This time it's being hosted by your friendly Food Hunter based in beautiful Phoenix, AZ.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, yes. Food awakenings. I had one the first time (at age 22) I ate at an Indian restaurant. I was a vegetarian at the time, and I ordered their vegetarian thali. After my first bite, all I could keep saying was, "who knew food like this existed?!?"

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see a good, warm comfort food on Tastespotting!
I tried braunschweiger for the first time when I was in high school--quite the sophisticated cuisine for this small-town Oklahoma girl. Those experiences do open a lot of doors.
I love your "About Me" :))

Muneeba said...

Whoa Grannyloohoo ... I'd never heard of braunschweiger (what a mouthful!) before you mentioned it here. Googled it right away, and learnt something new today, so thks!
Hah, Sissie Sue, I hear ya! It's funny, but I've been eating indian vegetarian food on & off most of my life, but a really great vegetarian thali STILL makes me swoon!

Simply said...

Stumbled upon this while browsing Tastespotting and I'm so glad I did! I've made something similar to this except with baby farfalle and Parmesan cheese. I'll definitely give this one a go!

test it comm said...

That looks tasty! I like the use of the jalapenos.

Anonymous said...

about how long does the chicken take to cook??

Muneeba said...

Amanda, since it's just two chicken thighs, shouldn't take more than 30-40 mins.

Doppelganger said...

Good God! Foi gras?! I admire you and WISH I could emulate you! Seriously! I'm the biggest food coward I've ever met, but in my imagination I'm a lot more culinarily adventurous. Ask Jiya! I'm even scared of chicken on the bone. :( My big eye (or taste bud) opening event was actually a party where the only food served was Haleem. I know, compared to just about anything, Haleem as an eye-opener is tame. But I can now tell you that I like it! Ok, I looooooove it! :D hehe...But! someday, I am hopefull I will be brave; I will emerge out of my tiny, cramped world to venture forth with my courage firmly in hand...and I might even try...*gulp*....*squeaky voice*...Cheesecake!

Muneeba said...

hehehe ... Shai .. be not afraid of cheesecake ... if you love it, it will love you back ten fold!

Anonymous said...

One of many for me is Hungarian Mushroom Soup from the Moosewood Lodge Cookbook. It's amazing! This casserole very plesantly surprised me when I made it last year from Ree's site. Shared some with a neighbor and they declared it the best casserole they ever had, and they are in their 70's. It's really good.

Anonymous said...

The beautiful thing about food is that first-time tastes never seem to run out. There are always more cuisines/combinations/flavors to explore.
Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog so I could find you! I've passed on a little award to you.

Ruth Daniels said...

Lovely blog, great post and thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights. I do hope you plan on joining in the fun often. This dish is the perfect start.

Muneeba said...

I do Ruth! And thks for letting my participate. I can't resist being part of this event - it speaks to my heart, I tell you!

Joanne said...

This sounds really good! I've never heard of a spaghetti casserole before, but any cheesy goodness is good for me.

Anonymous said...

how funny, i am planning a dish like this for tomorrow evening. your description is setting my expectations high - i hope i live up to them!

Muneeba said...

Good luck with it Abby! Like Joanne said, if it's full of cheesy goodness, you can't go wrong!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Mia @ TheFatLossAuthority said...

I can't believe I just found your recipe a couple of weeks ago! I had been looking for something like this a few months ago but I just couldn't find anything. My kids love spaghetti so I am always looking for new ways to make it - they LOVED this - even had seconds!!