Monday, February 02, 2009

Baked Ziti and Chicken with Onion Gravy

I promised you my Baked Ziti 'recipe' last week, and better late than never, right? I'm also going to post the recipe for a meal we're going to have this week, Chicken and Onion Gravy (which is always served with mashed potatoes and a side vegetable like corn or butter beans, but I assume you can figure those out on your own). These recipes are both Harmony originals (the results of saying, "hmm, this would probably taste good...."), so be sure to tell me if you tried them. And please feel free to tell me if the recipe needs to be clarified or tweaked.

Baked Ziti
1 pound pasta (ziti, penne, rotini, etc)
1 or 2 jars of spaghetti sauce, depending on how much sauce you like*
1 zucchini, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 pound of ground beef or turkey or chicken
a handful or two of baby spinach leaves (optional)
oregano, thyme, basil to taste (fresh or dried)
garlic powder or minced garlic to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese to taste

1. Boil pasta according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350 or 375.

2. Saute the meat and vegetables until the meat is fully cooked and the vegetables are soft (you can do the meat separate from the veggies or all together; it doesn't really matter). Season the meat and veggies with the herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper as they are cooking. Apply the seasonings liberally.

3. Assemble. This can be done in two different ways:

  • The dump and mix method - dump the sauce, pasta, sour cream, meat, vegetables, and half the mozzarella cheese into a large 9x13 pan or a lasagna dish, stir until everything is evenly mixed. Top with the remaining cheese.
  • The layering method - half the meat and vegetables, followed by 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese, followed by 1/2 the sour cream, followed by half the pasta, followed by half the sauce. Repeat the layers, top with remaining cheese.
4. Bake at your desired oven temperature until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. I usually bake at 350 F unless I'm in a hurry, because the cheese tastes yummier that way. But the meal sure is ready a lot faster if you crank up the heat - 15 to 20 minutes!

* You can use homemade tomato sauce, but we almost always make our homemade sauce out of fresh or frozen tomatoes, and those are hard to come by cheaply in the winter. Also, the wonderful flavor of homemade sauce is sort of lost in the other flavors of the dish, so unless homemade sauce is cheaper for you, just buy a jar or two of whatever's on sale at the moment at the grocery store.

Chicken and Onion Gravy

1 roasting chicken
2 or 3 onions, sliced medium
1 to 2 cups of chicken stock
equal parts of flour and butter, mixed OR cornstarch and water
salt and pepper and other seasonings to taste

1. Place the chicken in a large, oven- and stovetop-safe pan.* Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you like. Cover the chicken with the onion slices, letting them fall down where they will.

2. Bake at 425 for 1 1/2 hours. (Check every now and then to be sure the onions aren't burning, and if so cover the pan for the remainder of the cooking time) When the chicken is fully cooked, remove the chicken from the pan, being sure to leave the onions.

3. Add the chicken stock to the pan, and bring all to a boil. Add in your thickener of choice, being sure to whisk carefully to avoid lumps. Season to taste. Once the gravy is to your liking, both in taste and in thickness, turn the gravy down to a low simmer until dinner is ready to be served.

*Note: this recipe can also be done in a slow cooker, but instead of following step 2, you should cook on high for 5 hours, remove the chicken from the slow cooker, and then transfer the drippings and onions into a saucepan. Continue on to step 3 as normal.

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