Thanks so much to Prerna for inviting me to guest post here on Indian Simmer! We’ve become lovely internet friends through sharing our passion for food, cooking, and photography, and it is an absolute honor to be able to share with you all 🙂
Tell us about yourself and what you would say is your food philosophy?
I am a scientist and share a passion for food and cooking with my gluten free husband – our philosophy has always been to use ingredients that capture and highlight the flavors of a dish – we’ve had a lot of fun over the years learning and experimenting together in the kitchen as we learn how to cook flavorful beautiful and tasty GF dishes.
What led you to starting a food blog?
I originally started a food blog to document my cooking, so no matter where I was I could go back and see what I made, what worked, and what didn’t – then a community began to evolve as I got to know some of the lovely people in the food blogging community, and now it is as much for those I share with as it is for myself.
Please share a recipe that best describes your blog?
One of my favorite things about the upcoming holidays is that essentially from now until the New Year for my family it is all about tradition. Favorited treasured recipes that only get made once a year, as everyone eagerly awaits the familiar aromas wafting throughout the kitchen. There’s always such a buzz of energy and excitement in the air, no matter what crazy weather/fallen trees/power outages Mother Nature decides to bring on my family’s New England home over the past Halloween.
Every year that we’ve celebrated Christmas with my grandparents, Christmas dinner has involved baked chicken and noodles as the highlight of the meal. It’s not so fancy, it’s not extravagant, a dish that would probably never be found in a high-end restaurant, but my grandparents have been making it for decades on Christmas, and it’s 100% pure happiness on the plate. Seriously, comfort food doesn’t get any more satisfying than this. But with every tradition comes the natural evolution of recipes, and while there may be a little pressure to keep a dish exactly how everyone remembers it, I cannot help but play. This year, I’m taking our family Christmas dinner tradition and bringing it to Thanksgiving.
Changing the holiday isn’t the only dramatic switch I did with this tradition – I added in a little Thanksgiving essence by incorporating pumpkin, but I also made it completely gluten free so that this year, my husband would be able to enjoy it too. There were two main alterations that were necessary to make this dish gluten free, but the good news is that with either any all purpose GF mix will do. The first is making the pasta, and the second, the roux for the sauce. I thought I would share a few tips on each, in case you have gluten free friends or family that you also would like to accommodate holiday traditions for.
Gluten free pasta from scratch is not so different from conventional pasta, and is a lot simpler to make than it sounds. The key is to make sure to substitute your ingredients by weight rather than volume so that the ratios remain the same – many gluten free flours have different densities than wheat based flour, and so cup measurements are not necessarily equal. Else, the basic process is the same – add all the flour to a bowl, make a well in the center to add the eggs, and gradually with your hands bring in the flour to the eggs until you have a ball of dough. The differences after this mainly have to do with handling the dough – it tends to be a bit more fragile than regular pasta dough, and I’ve noticed can dry out more quickly – so I wrap up the dough with plastic wrap when I’m not ready to use it yet, and work in batches. I roll it out with a rolling pin between two pieces of parchment paper, and dust often and liberally with GF flour to make sure it doesn’t stick too much, and then cut the noodles using my longest chef’s knife. No fancy rollers or machines needed, just a decent working space on a kitchen counter. It makes for a good methods for thicker eggy noodles, perfect in a baked casserole like this one 🙂
Roux is the basis of many sauces, essentially an equal parts fat to flour whisked constantly while cooked until a desired color – only a few minutes for white cream based sauces, or several minutes for the dark colored roux that characterizes rich thick stews like gumbo. And again, any old all purpose GF flour mix will do, making for a super easy substitution.
Add in a little pumpkin and thyme and sprinkle some grated parmesan on top, and this humble Christmas family tradition has been effectively transformed into an Autumnal celebration, perfect for the coming Thanksgiving, and easily made gluten free so that everyone in our family can take part and enjoy – some traditions are meant to stay around forever unchanged, and some are meant to evolve – will this dish find a new home in the coming years on my family’s Thanksgiving table? Only time will tell, but so far this holiday season it’s off to a good start 🙂
Baked Chicken and Noodles (makes about 8 servings)
For the Pasta:
250 g (1/2 lb) all purpose GF flour mix*
175g eggs (about 3 – 4 eggs), beaten
For the Casserole:
1 chicken, roasted, or 1 kg (2 lbs) of your favorite poultry cuts, cooked how you like, chopped into bite size pieces
50 g (2 oz.) butter
50 g (2 oz.) all purpose GF flour mix*
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
a couple spoonfuls of pumpkin puree
salt & pepper
2 cups (500 mL) chicken broth, room temp or slightly heated (not chilled)
4 oz. parmesan, grated
*Note – if you do not need to make this gluten free, feel free to use your usual all purpose flour
In a large bowl combine flour and salt and make a well in the center with your hands. Add the eggs into the well and slowly combine in the flour until it is incorporated and comes into a ball of dough. Depending on the flours you choose, you may need a little more flour, or a little less, so just watch the consistency and moisture content of your dough. You want it to not be so sticky, but not cracking either.
Fold it over a couple of times, and then wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for an hour. (This is also a great time to start cooking your chicken if you haven’t already).
After the dough has rested, take it out of the fridge and cut it into 2 equal sections, and wrap each of them in plastic wrap to keep their moisture locked in. Take one and pat out with your hands onto well floured parchment paper (using the same GF flour mix is fine, I typically will use tapioca starch). Flour the dough and place another sheet of parchment paper on top. Roll out with a rolling pin, flipping occasionally and adding more flour as needed to ensure it doesn’t stick. Roll out to desired thickness, about 1/8″. Then cut into long strips for your noodles about 1/3″ wide, and separate them a little bit from each other so that they do not clump together.
Bring a pot of salted water to a low boil and cook the pasta in batches, for a couple minutes at a time until tender. Rinse with cold water, and then add to a large bowl and toss with a couple drizzles of olive oil to keep them from sticking to each other.
Add the prepared chicken to the noodles, and preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan to start the roux – once the butter has melted and is hot, whisk in the flour. On medium heat whisk for 2-3 minutes until the flour has had a chance to cook but not to starch coloring. Add in the onions, garlic, and pumpkin and some salt & pepper and continue to whisk for another couple minutes.
At this point add in the broth to the roux, about half a cup at a time, stirring so that the roux mixes completely with the broth – this will help ensure that the sauce stays smooth. Bring to a simmer and then cook until smooth and thickened, stirring frequently. If much volume was lost feel free to add in a little more water or even some milk to make up the difference.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and noodles and transfer to a casserole dish, and sprinkle parmesan on top. Bake for about an hour (depending on the thickness of the casserole/size of the dish). Garnish with fresh thyme, serve and enjoy.
Winner of the “400 Best Sandwich Recipes cookbook is Maneet Jassal Gupta.
Congratulations Maneet! Please get in touch with me via email.