Sunday, March 6, 2011

the ultimate winter comfort food

This was my favorite, back in the day. Whenever my dad asked what I wanted for dinner, this was my request. Coming home from college for a visit, this was what I wanted. Got a cold and feeling pathetic, this was what I wanted. Basically any night he asked, this was what I wanted. People thought I was crazy because he could make some crazy intricate gourmet feasts, but this dish is just so creamy and gooey and cheesy and filling and comforting... I could never get enough. This is his recipe, not mine, but this is the first time I've ever tried to make it, and it had been about 10 years since I'd last eaten it. Curious to see if it lived up to my memories? So was I...

Start off with the pasta. I used whole wheat pasta, as if that could possibly make this a healthier dish. I know, I'm not fooling anyone, but it made me feel less guilty somehow. Then sautee chicken breast filets and portobello mushrooms, and chop it all up into little pieces. My dad used to make it with duck. Go figure.

Then start in on the bechamel. I'd never made bechamel before! Add 4 Tbs flour to 4Tbs melted butter, make a paste, and then add 3 cups of hot 2% milk (I'm guessing that's what I used. Here they call it "semi-nonfat". Ha!), stirring like a madwoman. I'd made this once with my dad, but in my memory it all sort of instantly thickened and turned into this gooey creamy goodness. Well, the reality was non-instantaneous enough to make me worry for a good 4-5 minutes that I'd screwed it up. But then the magic happens, and it thickens. I'm sure you all know this, but it was a pretty big moment for me. After the relief and joy of success of thickening, add 1 cup of grated cheese, I used a mixture of mozzarella and emmental. Even gooier.

Now it all gets tossed together. The sauce, the chicken, the mushrooms and the pasta. And dumped into a casserole dish. And yes, topped with yet more grated cheese.

Into the oven it all goes. 375 for about 40 minutes, but you'll know it's done because it goes golden brown and bubbly and you get so excited you can't stop salivating.

And was it as good as I remembered? Absolutely. Husband says it was the best dish I've ever made. Ever. Huge casserole dish devoured by the pair of us in just 2 days. Don't make this often, because even with whole wheat pasta and semi-non-fat milk, it's gotta be not great for you. But do make it. Cause it's damn good for the soul. Thanks dad.


  1. That looks so good. And I love that your dad made a basic macaroni and cheese casserole into a fancy, complicated dish with bechamel. Of course. I remember once when we were kids he taught us how to make macaroons, and then we stayed up all night eating them and watching Bob Ross paint happy little clouds and falling over laughing.

  2. Meringe, I meant meringues.