Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Baked Buffalo Chicken Dip

A backyard birthday party for a one-year old needed me to bring something for the grown-ups, and I figured that since we’re all Western New Yorkers, I couldn’t go wrong with Chef John’s (Food Wishes) baked Buffalo chicken dip. I don’t like to steal other bloggers’ recipes and basically repost their stuff, but this was another one that I just couldn’t resist. And I get the sense that he’s really cool and wouldn’t mind. Anyway, I NEEDED to make this.


I revisted Chef John’s January post before trying it out, though. I skimmed the comments and laughed when I saw that one woman had commented, “I don’t like chicken or hot sauce, so what substitutions can I make?”

She must have been disappointed by all the responses that suggested she substitute another recipe for something that didn’t involve chicken or hot sauce.

Ahem. Anyway.

I started with one rotisserie chicken. Wegman’s had many different flavors, but I went with plain.


I pulled off all the meat, discarding bones, skin, and tendons.


And then used a big knife to chop it all up.


Puppy sure loved this step. She would have loved it more if I’d dropped things.


To the chicken, I added my favorite ingredient! Lots and lots of cream cheese. You know it’s going to be good if it has cream cheese.


And then add Frank’s Red Hot sauce. I bought the biggest bottle of it that Wegman’s had. I’m not sure why, really, since it’s not something that I use often. But I know I will use it again and I will want lots of it. That’s how you know I’m a true WNYer.



Puppy is still hoping that I drop some. She doesn’t know that she won’t like the Frank’s.


This dip isn’t just about the chicken and hot sauce – it’s also about the blue cheese. I used both dressing and crumbles (the real good kind).



I may have put more in that measuring cup than I was supposed to.



Next, add some Old Bay seasoning.


And grate some pepper jack cheese, too.


Finally, add a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper.


And then mix it all up. I mixed and mixed and mixed, and then tasted. I decided to add more cayenne at this point.


After I took that picture, I mixed again and added more cayenne again. And went through that process maybe 3 times. I just wanted a lot of heat, I guess.

Finally, I smooshed everything into a baking dish.


Sprinkled a little more cayenne on top, just to give people a visual warning about the potential for heat.


And then topped with a bit more pepper jack cheese.


At the host’s house, I stuck the dip into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. When it came out, it looked fantastic!


I didn’t take pictures of it being eaten, though. I was preoccupied with holding the baby birthday girl.

But the next day, when I heated up some of the leftover dip, I did finally take a picture or two.


Chef John did good. This was yummy! It was creamy and spicy. You could taste the blue cheese and the hot sauce and it was kind of like eating wings that had been put in the blender (minus the bones). And it’s addictive.

Definitely a keeper. I might have to make this a regular dish, maybe for football parties.

Have I mentioned how happy I am to be back in NY?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stuffed Shells

I first found this recipe when I was living in my little one bedroom apartment above a photography studio in an old-fashioned Pennsylvania town.


I first prepared it when I was dating this guy long-distance and he was coming to visit me for the weekend. I think I wanted to impress him.

Honestly, I don’t remember how it turned out. I just remember how little I cared about the food once that guy showed up at my door.

The second time I made it, I had taken my relationship with that guy to the next level and had moved to Maryland to live with him. I served it when he had some friends over for dinner. His friend asked for hot sauce and immediately drenched his shells in it. I’m still mad at that guy for it, even though we’re not friends with him anymore.

This was my third time. The boyfriend is now my husband and we had just moved back to New York. We’d invited my family over for dinner and I decided to make these shells for them. The nice thing about it is that it can be prepared way in advance, so all I had to do when people were over was to get off the couch and put it in the oven.

Start off with some fresh, juicy baby portabellas.


I do love that colander. All the mushrooms get diced when they’re clean.


Sure makes for a lot. It occurred to me after I was done with this that I could have saved a lot of time by doing it with my food processor. Ah well.


Yep, definitely should have used the food processor. The onions made me cry.


But the garlic was easy (I used the stuff from a jar).


First step is to sizzle all the mushrooms, onions, and garlic in a big skillet.


It’ll cook down after a bit.


When you’re satisfied with it, add a pound of ground turkey. It had been a long time since I’d used ground turkey, and I’m not sure why. It’s good, and a lot healthier than beef.


Cook it up a bit.


Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper. I tend to forget that. Not this time!


While that was happening, I had prepped some other things. Here’s some fresh parsley.



And some frozen chopped spinach. It was in a bowl because I was thawing it in the microwave.


When the turkey was cooked thoroughly, I added the spinach (after squeezing out the water) and the chopped parsley.


And then a whole bunch of cottage cheese. I think I chose a reduced fat container of it.


And finally, some grated Parmesan cheese.


When it’s all mixed in, this is what it looked like.


I waited until this point to boil the jumbo shells because I really wanted to give the mixture a chance to cool down before sticking my fingers in it. I remembered from last time how hard it was to stuff the shells when the mixture is hot.


Once they were boiled and drained, I put them next to the cheese and turkey mixture in preparation for stuffing.


As far as stuffed shells go, these were so pretty!


Am I right? I’m right, I know.


As for topping them, this is what I had: “Grandpa’s Sauce” from Wegman’s and grated skim milk mozzarella. I’d never had that sauce before, but that name is pretty effective marketing. I needed it and I’ve never even had a Grandpa to make homemade sauce before.




Covered with foil and put it in the fridge until later. I made a big mess but had plenty of time to clean it up!


Fresh out of the oven, this is what it looked like.


And once it was served up, this is what it looked like.


None of the ingredients alone stood out – no one seemed aware of the mushrooms or the turkey or the cottage cheese – but they all worked very well together. The taste just works.


Definitely too much work for a normal weeknight, but it’s certainly doable on weekends and well worth the effort.



And they make for good leftovers. Hubby had them for lunch at work and I should have frozen some for later, too. Mmmm!