I love to cook... It says so in my profile. Go ahead, look at it. :) Last Christmas, my Mother in Law gave me a present that I had given out before but never received. Le Creuset is, for the most part, the go to winner when it comes to cookware. I, however, am a huge fan of Lodge cookware when is comes to cast iron. But on a trip to TJ Maxx I came across a Le Creuset casserole dish. I love casseroles. I think casseroles scream "I am a parent, and I frequent flea markets." But dog-gone it, casseroles should be a semester course in school.
I lucked out, not only was the dish Le Creuset, but it was Green. Green is my favorite color and boy does it look good. Now, the casserole does not have a very big footprint, either on the counter, or in the oven. Which means that you can prep and cook with several of these without tying up your counter or oven space for multitudes of time. As an added bonus, they are freezer safe to oven safe. So, if you wanted to prep a meal and not cook it right away - you could place the whole thing in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag and pop in the freezer, to be taken out on those nights when you "don't want to cook". (Author's note: If you're like me, you pretty much know that morning if it's going to be "one of those days" - take the meal out of the freezer and place it in your fridge... You'll gradually bring the temp of the dish up, reducing the chance of cracking the dish by placing it directly from the freezer into a hot oven.) Not to mention, clean-up on this dish is a dream - it goes from dirty to almost brand new looking with a light soak and scrub. I have yet to work the grease out of my elbow with this dish.
So, last night I had planned to make fajitas for the Fourth of July. I didn't get home until 4 p.m. from the dog park. I don't know about you but I make tortillas from scratch - and I honestly just didn't feel up to it. So, I found some Chicken patties in the freezer and decided to make my version of Chicken Parmesan.
First, start your noodles boiling - salt the water first please. The type of noodles really depends on you (I used Fettuccine noodles in this case.) What you are looking for in the noodle is slightly under cooked. Everyone I know throws the word "al dente" around like an old familiar sock - but what you really want is just bendable but still kind of hard. Really, don't over think it - but if you cook your noodles too long because that's how you like it on your plate, you'll be most likely be unhappy with the end result.
Now would be a super time to pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (About 200 Celsius).
Once your noodles are under-cooked and drained, place about one quarter of your sauce on the bottom of your dish. I find that this reduces the noodles from sticking to your dish at the end. Then, place your noodles in the dish almost to the top.
Next up, the chicken patties - I bought the budget brand... Feel free to use your favorite brand if you like. Just position them on top on the noodles so that they fit well. If you have fussy kids that don't like cutting up their own food (I was one of those kids) by now the patties would probably be thawed enough to handle being chopped into cubes.
Now, I prefer to add water to my sauce in the jar almost to the top and give it a good shake. To me, this optimizes noodle to sauce coverage, and I don't have to open another bottle of sauce. As the noodles begin to cook they release some of their starch - thickening up the sauce. Viola! No watery sauce on the plate!
I also used block cheese this time as I am a heavy-handed cheese Lauder. I love cheese and Lord knows, that I would have cheese in my veins if it was medically possible. Using block cheese really helps me keep track of how much cheese goes on the dish. This time I used about 1/4 of the block.
In the oven it goes for 25-30 minutes. I placed the dish on the lower rack and put garlic bread on the top rack during the last ten minutes of cooking.
The end result was delicious, and didn't cost a fortune. I hate to say it, but it tasted equally as good as some Italian restaurants.
So check out your local home goods store. TJ Maxx or Marshall's may have one of these beauties for $15 bucks or less. In my opinion, if you spend a good deal of time in the kitchen, you owe it to yourself to invest in one or twelve. I am putting in a standing birthday / Christmas order with my family members in hopes that they might join forces and surprise me with one (or twelve) each year.
Happy Cooking, and Bon Appetit!