I’m in love with this dish. It is elegant. It is pretty. It is fun to make. It makes enough to feed an army. And, if pressed for time, you can make a lot of it ahead of time.
This version of the recipe which dates back to the early 1900’s and a bold opera singer named Luisa Tetrazzini is from the Neiman Marcus Taste cookbook by Kevin Garvin and John Harrisson. I changed a few things here and there but their recipe is brilliant. I’ll list the ingredients as they have them and just let you know where I made substitutions.
You will need a 9 x 13 casserole dish, a large skillet, a stockpot, and two small saucepans for making the Veloute. A word on Veloute, first. A while back when I found myself curiously lacking a can of Cream of Whatever soup (yes, I do use them occasionally…and there are certain dishes that just aren’t right without them…get over yourself already) I set about recreating the Campbell’s magic with the ingredients I had on hand. In a small saucepan, I melted some butter, stirred in some flour to make a roux, added a can of chicken broth and then added some milk. I brought it to a simmer and POOF in four minutes I had a really delicious alternative to the can. Now, imagine my surprise when I looked in the Neiman Marcus cookbook and found that had I only chosen the evil and beautiful Heavy Cream instead of milk, I could have called it Veloute and been all French-and-Fancy. It is worth making this on its own just to see what it is. It is so simple and delicious that you will have a hard time saving it for the recipe and you will instantly start thinking of all sorts of neat ways you are going to use it next. Add cheese and it is a velvety cheese sauce, serve it as a base sauce with any pasta dish, go crazy.
On another note, do yourself a favor and spend some money on your chicken. I get my chicken at Kuby’s here in Dallas, which is a German Deli and Grocery here in town and they choose natural and exceptionally good birds. I cook them with the skin on and then remove the skin. The difference in my dishes when I take the trouble to get my chicken (and meat) there instead of at my local chain grocery stores is staggering. I am better off buying and freezing my chicken from Kuby’s than buying it “fresh” at the grocery store. I am a huge fan of finding the best deal, but working all afternoon on a dish that turns out mediocre due to mediocre poultry is not a cost effective use of my (or your) time.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and add the flour, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Meanwhile in another small saucepan and heat the broth to a boil. Add the cream to the broth and bring to a simmer. While whisking the broth mixture, add the flour mixture into the broth working to eliminate any clumps. Bring to a simmer and cook for four additional minutes. Pour this through a wire mesh strainer and season with salt.
OK, now onto the main recipe.
2 Tablespoon olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt & Pepper
1 pound linguini
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
¼ dry white wine (I used chicken broth)
2 cups warm Veloute
2 cups heavy cream
1½ parmesan cheese, shredded
2 Tablespoon fresh parsley (I skipped this)
1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon (I used dried)
½ cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter your casserole dish. (I used cooking spray).
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook in a pan over medium high heat to which you have added the olive oil. Cook until they are slightly under-done because they will cook for about 15 minutes more once the casserole is assembled. Remove them to a plate to rest. Keep the skillet handy and do not clean it.
Bring a stock pot of water to a boil and cook the linguini until al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water. Set this aside.
Meanwhile add a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet in which the chicken was cooked. Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté for 3 or so minutes. Add the white wine or chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Make sure you scrape up all of the delicious brown bits. Reduce the liquid by half.
Add the Veloute and cook for two minutes while stirring continually. Add the cream and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add a cup of the parmesan and mix it in. Pour this cream mixture into the large stock pot and add the linguini back in. This requires some dedicated mixing to distribute the mushrooms and the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the casserole dish. (At this point I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for several hours…just make sure to let it come to room temp a bit before cooking it later if you do this). Cut the cooked chicken into thin slices and pile it on top of the casserole. Sprinkle it with the remaining cheese and sliced almonds. Bake for 15 minutes. (if you are taking it from the fridge it will take longer in which case you might wait to add the chicken until the last 10 or 15 minutes so it does not overcook.
Remove the dish from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.