About three times a week, Chad has to work late. So I am in charge of trying to make dinner and keep two boys from killing themselves. Not the easiest task, especially when you're stuck in the kitchen for long periods of time. You're forced to choose between burning dinner and keeping peace. What ends up happening is screaming "LEAVE YOUR BROTHER ALONE" from the kitchen several times. Much to stressful.
Then last weekend, while sorting laundry, I had turned the Food Network on. Rachael Ray came on and I usually don't like watching her shows but this one had a good idea. Make dinner for five nights in one day of cooking. This was my AHA moment. I could spent half a day at the begining of the week making meals that essentially just had to be thrown in the oven or reheated. TAA DAA!!! Yummy dinners and less stressful evenings!!
Week one went wonderfully. This Make Ahead Meal (MAM) was Chicken Egg Noddle Casserole. I think when I make this again, I will add more salt and make more sauce. But the result was very yummy!
This made enough for all four of us to eat and some leftovers for lunch later.
1 small head broccoli, trimmed and cut into small, thin stalks and florets
2 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast, fat removed
1 medium onion
2 fresh bay leaves
1 pound extra-wide egg noodles
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 rounded tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
A few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
2 egg yolks
1 cup white or whole wheat panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1 cup shredded mozarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
A handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Place a large pot of water on to boil. Salt the water and cook the broccolini until tender. Remove to a plate. (do not discard water) When the broccoli is cool enough to handle chop it into bite-size pieces.
Place the chicken in a few inches of the water with a peeled quartered onion and a couple of bay leaves. Bring the water to a low boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and gently poach the chicken 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the extra-virgin olive oil in skillet over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the broccoli to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat off pan.
While the onions cook, heat the butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat, whisk in flour 1 minute then whisk in the milk and season with salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, and thyme. Thicken 5 minutes then whisk in a little of the sauce to the egg yolks to combine, then add the egg yolks back to the sauce and whisk to combine, turn heat down to the lowest setting.
Cook's Note: If sauce becomes too thick, add a splash of chicken poaching liquid and turn off the heat.
Shred the poached chicken with forks or dice poached chicken into small, bite-size pieces.
To the large pot of boiling water, add the egg noodles. Cook the noodles according to package directions for al dente. Drain the noodles very well and add them back to the hot pot. Stir in the broccoli, chicken, and sauce, and then transfer to a casserole dish. Place the casserole in the middle of the oven and broil 3 to 5 minutes until bubbly and brown. Cool and store for make-ahead meal.
To serve the casserole, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together the panko, Gruyere, Parm, and parsley. Place the casserole on a baking sheet in upper half of the oven and bake 30 minutes, add the topping and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, or until brown and crispy on top.