Thirty some years ago, before today’s current interest in food and cooking, a group of young men attending a culinary institute in Connecticut asked to schedule a retreat at Bethany. None of them were known to us except for one, but it took no time for all of us to feel at home with each other. I have fond memories of that experience.
I was of course pleased that they appreciated the food prepared for them, in particular a chicken dish which we served for many retreats back then and which they unanimously praised. It was my version of a recipe adapted from an old homemaker’s paperback of prizewinners. It still amuses me to remember these “professional chefs in the making” as they left, each of them clutching a copy of this recipe from a housewife’s collection of favorites, and featuring a bottle of store bought salad dressing.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place chicken, skin side up, in baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with margarine; broil until brown.
- Combine salad dressing, peaches, cherries, onion and chili sauce; spoon over chicken.
- Bake for 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Serve over hot cooked rice or noodles.
This week’s recipe was inspired by an Asian guest that we were hosting for lunch at our guest house. As a novice learning to cook, I was always taught by the Sisters to really think about the person that I was cooking for: What would they like to eat? What would bless them? Subtle subtext here: it’s not about what I like to cook, or what blesses ME! So a gluten-free, colorful Thai soup came to mind — a recipe that I squirreled away awhile ago in hopes that some time I would have the opportunity to make it. I made a few adaptions which resulted in the recipe below.
As I was chopping, I noticed that all of the ingredients were vibrant shades of green, so I dubbed them the liturgical ingredients of ‘ordinary time’. We rounded this lunch off with a delicate spinach and spring mix salad topped with avocado, fresh strawberries and candied almonds, and pita crisps. The dessert was a homemade Mango and Vanilla Panna Cotta — a recipe that I hope to share in future weeks!
** This recipe was adapted from Once Upon a Chef **
Thai Chicken, Spinach and Rice Noodle Soup
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup shallot(s) thinly sliced, from 1-2 large shallots or red onion
- 1 tbsp. ginger minced, fresh, about a 1" piece, peeled
- 2 tbsp. curry paste Thai green
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 can coconut milk (13.5 fl oz), unsweetened
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 4 packed tsp. brown sugar light or dark
- 2 tbsp. lime juice fresh, from 2 limes
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- For Serving
- 4 oz. rice noodles thin
- 2 cups chicken cooked, shredded, from a rotisserie or roast chicken
- 4 handfuls spinach baby, stems removed
- 1 handful cilantro fresh, chopped
- 3 scallion(s) thinly sliced
- Sriracha sauce
- Lime wedges
- Heat the oil in a medium soup pot over medium-low heat.
- Add the shallots and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the green curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more.
- Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and turmeric; bring to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. If not using immediately, let them sit in a bowl of cold water.
- When ready to serve, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
- Gently reheat the noodles in the microwave, if necessary (remove from water first!).
- Place baby spinach in the bottom of the serving bowl, place the rice noodles and shredded chicken on top and ladle the hot broth over top and sprinkle with cilantro and scallions.
- Serve with a lime wedge for garnish.
Every now and then when our convent dinner is some kind of a one dish meal, Sisters like to have it served right from the big skillet in which it has been cooked. This is especially so as the weather becomes cooler. When we are a little chilled around the edges nothing comforts one as much as a piping hot bowl of savory soup or stew. Today was such a day, cool, wet and rainy out of doors. Warm, dry and welcoming inside, with the aroma of a tasty combination of the day’s harvested vegetables.
Our convent chef has been eager to make a hearty chicken stew with an Italian twist. Using the last of our autumn garden vegetables she produced a most flavorful dish and chose to serve it from the skillet, which gave everyone a warm comforting sense of generously being cared for in a special way. A along with some crusty home baked bread and a beautiful kale salad we shared a dinner which magically lifted our spirits and pleased us all.
Hearty Italian Chicken and Autumn Harvest Veggie Stew
- Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Place the split chicken breasts on the baking sheet, and drizzle them with a little oil, and a couple of good pinches of salt and pepper.
- Cut the tops off of the heads of garlic, drizzle each head with a little oil, plus a pinch of salt and pepper, and wrap each head in a small piece of foil; place on the baking sheet next to the chicken.
- Roast the chicken, along with the garlic, for 45 minutes; then allow both to cool until they can be handled.
- Once they are cooled, shred the chicken, and set it aside; then, squeeze the roasted garlic from the papers, and using your knife or a fork, make the cloves into a paste; set the paste aside for a moment.
- Place a medium-large pot over medium to medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of the oil, plus add in the tablespoon of butter; once melted together, add in the onion and allow it sweat for about 3-4 minutes, until translucent and softened.
- To the onion add the roasted garlic “paste”, and stir it in to combine.
- Next, add in the diced carrots, parsnips, celery and butternut squash and stir to combine; add in the Italian seasoning, plus a pinch or two of salt and black pepper, and the red pepper flakes, and stir to incorporate.
- Add in the tomato paste and stir, and allow it to cook with the vegetables for about 2-3 minutes, or until the “raw” flavor of it is cooked out of it.
- Next, add in the chicken stock and stir, cover with a lid and simmer very gently on low for about 20-22 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender.
- Turn off the heat, if using; add in the kale and stir to incorporate it, and allow it wilt into the soup for a few minutes; then, finish the soup by adding in the shredded chicken, the basil and the parsley (also, check your seasoning at this point to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed).
- To serve, add about ¼ cup or so of cooked gnocchi to your bowl, and ladle some of the stew over top; garnish with some grated Parmesan, if desired, and serve with warm bread.
Exciting as it is to try brand new recipes, there is also a certain thrill to reviving old favorites. That’s what we did this Easter at the convent when we chose Cumberland Chicken for our Easter dinner.
This was something we served to guests and retreatants and at several events over many years, and having it on Sunday brought back many memories that provided much of the table conversation. It was like having an old friend among us again for this special day.
This recipe takes a plain chicken breast and transforms it into a buttery corn-crusted bundle of goodness that is enhanced with an unexpected sparkling red currant sauce. We served it with fresh
asparagus and a lovely medley of wild rice. It could not have been a more welcomed choice…a perfect springtime meal followed by many requests to please not wait so long to serve it again.
- Sprinkle onion salt and pepper over the chicken breasts, dip in melted butter, roll in stuffing crumbs, and place in shallow pan.
- Bake approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and serve with Cumberland Sauce.
- Combine sauce ingredients until smooth, warming if necessary to melt the jelly.
Winter has finally hit Cape Cod. With our first snow flurry and single digit temperatures, I felt it was time to create new twists on some old recipes, to warm and delight the cockles of our guests’ hearts: a summer favorite bundled up and served on a puddle of roasted red pepper sauce, giving it just that bit of flair. From the comments I heard, I believe we struck it right with this recipe.
Hot Chicken Salad Bundles with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Prepare the Chicken Salad
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Mix all of the chicken salad ingredients together in a bowl and set aside
- Roll out two puff pastry sheets to 11 x 11” and cut into 2- 5 x5 “ squares (removing one inch of the border – the pastry needs to be this measurement to be thin enough)
- In the center of the square put about a ½ cup of chicken salad and draw the sides up to create a bundle, twisting and pinching the top to secure.
- Place the bundles on a parchment lined pan and brush with egg wash
- Cook for about 15 min. or until golden and cooked through
Meanwhile prepare the pepper sauce
- Heat the oil in a saute pan.
- Add the shallot and cook until soft.
- De-glaze the pan with white wine and cook 1 minute longer
- Add the stock and the drained roasted red peppers. Cook 5 min.
- Cool slightly, and puree in the blender
- Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper and transfer to a small saucepan to reheat a few minutes before serving.
Near the first of June, everything is accelerated here in the Community of Jesus, including special events. Attention to gardens, increased numbers of guests and events require increased work. Sisters from our convent kitchen are called on to help with the cooking and serving in our retreat kitchen and guest house. Still, every effort is made to maintain care in preparing meals at the convent with the same attention to details and care.
One of the tricks to doing this is to come up with menus that are as time-saving as possible to prepare but are still healthy, flavorful and appealing. Our menu planners are great at this, as proven by this Asian chicken meal we had for dinner last night. Because the chicken and it’s sauce was so flavorful we served it with plain white rice and fresh rainbow chard sautéed in a little olive oil and fresh garlic.
- Preheat oven to 500°Fahrenheit
- Whisk together all ingredients except chicken, then coat chicken all over with sauce.
- Arrange pieces, skin sides up in 1 layer without crowding, in a foil-lined large shallow baking pan (1 inch deep).
- Roast in upper third of oven until chicken is cooked through and glaze is brown, 30-40 minutes- basting several times.