|A fresh homemade tomato sauce and a whole cooked hen make for one of my favorite spaghetti dishes in memory of my grandma.|
Grandma Mac's Homemade Chicken SpaghettiI've been thinking about my Grandma Mac a lot here lately. I was looking for a document on an old desktop PC that I rarely use anymore, and I ran across a letter I'd written to my Grandma when she went to stay with my aunt in Alabama, shortly before she died. She had started having a bit of dementia by this time and I had written the letter in that manner, "remember that they are in Japan" and "this is Rosalie, my aunt, Mama's sister." I was still working then, no Hurricane Katrina had passed our way, my sister in law Teresa, who later died just before her 40th birthday from breast cancer, was still living then, and we had just finally sold my parents house, several years after they had both passed. A lot had happened in just a few years.
When I was packing up my Mama's china at her old house, one of the last things I packed up, I wrote a little short story about the experience when I got home, and I had sent a copy of it to my Grandma. Packing up that china was an emotional moment - one day I'll post that story and you'll see what I mean. There are a lot of memories behind that china. Anyway, I had also sent her several pictures of family and typed the letter in large print so that she hopefully could read it on her own if she wanted to. Seeing that letter made me smile but also sad at the same time - does that make sense? I miss visiting with my Grandma and chatting over coffee and pound cake.
So ... with her on my mind, I decided to give Grandma's chicken spaghetti another spin. This recipe is as close as I've been able to come to duplicating her recipe, though there's still that something that is missing that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's just as simple as bein' Grandma's touch, I don't know, and even though this is very close, ya know I'm gonna keep on tryin'! In my heart of hearts, I know she's up there smilin' down on me for even tryin' and I'm sure she'll even forgive me for the times I make it with anything other than a hen. Sure do miss ya Gram.
Now ... first, this is not the chicken spaghetti casserole that is combined with cheese and baked. This is a true tomato based sauce similar to its meatball and meat sauce cousin, so no cheese! This is also a 'from scratch' homemade sauce - meaning it is made with fresh tomatoes - not canned tomatoes, meaning, well, it takes just a little more prep and time, and for some of you that might mean that it's a weekend dish. In my opinion, it is totally worth it! Course you can substitute canned tomatoes if you need too. But heck, while tomato season is winding down, why not use up some of those garden fresh babies? You'll notice the difference in the flavor, trust me.
I prefer this spaghetti with vermicelli noodles, because that's how my Grandma made it, but any spaghetti noodle you happen to have on hand will work. I hope you give this a try - it really is yummy! Enjoy.
Recipe: Grandma Mac's Homemade Chicken Spaghetti©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 40 min |Cook time: 1 hour 30 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings
- 1 small hen, boiled - reserve broth
- 1 pound package of angel hair, vermicelli or spaghetti noodles
- 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
- 3 large tomatoes, skinned & chopped (about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds), juices reserved
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 cup of chopped Vidalia or yellow onion
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped celery
- 1 teaspoon of garlic
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped
- 1 can of tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon of dried parsley flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- Up to 2 cups of stock left from the hen, or substitute chicken broth
Cut the hen into pieces and boil in salted water until meat is cooked through. Reserve 2 cups of the broth, reserve remainder for another use; set meat aside to cool. Once cooled, debone and shred the meat, discarding the bones; set aside. Next, use a soft skin peeler to remove the skins from the tomatoes, chop the tomato, reserving all of the juice that accumulates; set aside. Prepare pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain, rinse, drizzle with olive oil and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the chopped onion, celery, garlic and salt, saute for about 5 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add the tomatoes, basil, tomato sauce, sugar, parsley flakes, Italian seasoning, Cajun seasoning, poultry seasoning; bring to a boil. Add bay leaves, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour or until reduced and thickened. Stir in the chicken and enough broth from the stock you reserved from the hen (or use a commercial chicken stock) until it reaches the desired consistency. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
Note: This is a fresh, fairly light sauce recipe. If you prefer a heavier sauce to pasta ratio, you'll need to increase the sauce portion.
Don't skip peeling the tomatoes or you will end up with inedible pieces of tomato skins cluttering up your sauce. If you don't have a soft skin peeler, simply bring a pot of water to a boil; set aside a separate bowl of ice water. Lightly cut a crosshatch into the skin of the bottom side of the tomato. When the water comes to a boil, carefully add the tomatoes and let them boil for a minute or three or until the skin begins to crack and separate. Remove the tomato and plunge it into the ice water bath to stop the cooking process and cool the tomato. Once cooled, peel off the skins and then chop the tomato, reserving all of the juice that accumulates.
Shortcut this: Use a rotisserie chicken, canned whole tomatoes, and commercial broth to speed things up. Add 2 teaspoons of a chicken base, like Better than Bouillon to boost the flavor. You'll probably need at least one large can (28 ounce/1 pound 12 ounce), drained, then chopped, retaining the juices.
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