Sunday, January 25th, marked the 256th anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet and lyricist, Robert Burns, aka Robbie Burns, Rabbie Burns, Scotland's Favorite Son, The Ploughman Poet, Rodden of Solway Firth, The Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland, simply as 'The Bard'. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. Robbie Burns, as my husband refers to him, was the pioneer of the Romantic movement and after his death, he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism.
Burns' literary style is marked by spontaneity, directness and sincerity which makes me feel like we are sort of like kindred spirits. Scotish Canadians have embraced Robert Burns as a kind of patron poet and mark his birthday with festivities. 'Robbie Burns Day' is celebrated from St. John's. Newfoundland Labrador, to Nanaimo, British Columbia. Every year, Canadian newspapers publish biographies of the poet, listings of local events and buffet menus, most notably featuring Haggis, a savory pudding containing sheep's pluck, (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with stock and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach lining and simmered for approximately 3 hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in sausage casing rather than the actual stomach and can be found canned in many speciality stores.
Haggis is traditionally served with 'neeps and tatties', (Scots for turnip and potatoes), boiled and mashed separately and served with a dram (shot) of Scotch Whiskey, especially as the main course for a Burns' supper. The 2001 English edition of the 'Larousse Gastronomique" describes haggis as 'although it's description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savory taste". It's also very high in vitamins A, B12, B6 and C, copper, riboflavin, folate, selenium, chromium, panthotenic acid, niacin, protein, niacin and phosphorous. My husband had his day all planned out: read his book of poems and songs by Robert Burns, given to Stephen by his late Aunt Lil who received it from a suitor in 1942, sip on 15 year old single malt Scotch Whisky, have haggies, neeps and tatties for supper, and finish it all off with Scotish shortbread cookies.
Be that as it may, there was no way I was ever going to convince our daughter Mackenzie to try haggis, which between you and I was a great relief to me because that would mean I would have to take a walk on the sheep's pluck side of life too! I promised my husband I'd give it a taste, but I could not bring myself to neither cook haggis from scratch nor sit down to a plateful. So I needed an alternative Sunday dinner for Mackenzie and I. On Saturday evening, we had a cold plate of sorts with rotissierie chicken, Greek Salad and warm bread. I had over half a rotissierie chicken leftover so I decided I was going to make something with the leftovers for our Sunday dinner. I hadn't made Chicken Noodle Casserole in a while and leftover rotisserie chicken is not oly perfect for that dish, it's practically a requirement!
At around 4:30pm, I started prepping my ingredients for my casserole. All of a sudden, my husband was by my side saying, 'You're not going to peel my vegetables or anything for my supper are you?'. I told him I certainly could if he'd like but he was pretty excited about preparing his own Robbie Burns' Supper so side by side, we peeled vegetables and got our respective ingredients together, me sipping on a glass of wine, he with his Glenlivet 15 year old single malt Scotch Whiskey.
To make the Chicken Noodle Casserole, I preheated my oven to 375 degees Fahreneit. I brought a large pot of salted water to a boil for my egg noodles. You can use whatever type of egg noodles you prefer but, in keeping with my philosophy of healthying things up, I use No Yolks Cholesterol Free Egg White noodles. White the water and subsequently the noodles, were boiling, I heated another large pot over medium high heat and melted 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter.To this I added a cup of mushrooms quartered. I let them cook and brown for about 3-5 minutes, then seasoned them with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, gave them a toss and transferred them to a bowl to add back in later.
Next, I lowered the heat under the pot I sauteed the mushrooms in to medium and added in another 3 Tbsp unsalted butter. When that was melted, I whisked in 1/3 c. all purpose flour and let that cook out until it was the consistency of a loose paste, or roux. I then stirred in 1 c. of diced onion, 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced, 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced and two sprigs of fresh thyme. I stirred that all to combine and seasoned lightly with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper. After the vegetables had been cooking for about 5 minutes and had softened, I added in 1/2 c. dry white wine, (from the same bottle I had opened for myself earlier, Toscana Bianco). I let the alcohol cook off for about a minute and then added in 4 cups no salt added chicken broth and 3/4 c. 0.5% milk. While the 0.5% milk made my sauce a little thinner than if I had used a heavy cream, I'm ok with having a less thick sauce if it means reducing the overall fat content significantly, but that's just a personal choice.
I brought the mixture to a boil, reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. In that time, my egg noodles were al dente or still a little firm, and ready so I drained them and set them aside. After the 10 minutes, I removed the thyme sprigs, folded in my egg noodles, previously sauteed mushrooms and 2 c. of shredded leftover rotisserie chicken. I poured everything into a greased 3 quart casserole dish and topped it with 2 c. shredded Gouda cheese. I then placed the casserole in the oven and let it bake for about 40-45 minutes until it was bubbly and brown.
This casserole is the perfect solution for leftover rotisserie chicken and can easily be adjusted to feed one, two or more. Rotissserie chicken itself is a fabulous bargain for singles as it costs less than it would to buy a full chicken. From one rotisserie chicken you can have a cold dinner, sandwiches, soup and this fantastic, tasty Chicken Noodle Casserole which itself is fantastic as a leftover meal or for lunch the next day.
As we sat down to dinner, Mackenzie and I with our Chicken Noodle Casserole and Stephen with his Robbie Burns' Supper of Haggis, neeps and tatties, I did sneak a taste of the haggis and I have to say, it was far tastier than I expected. However, I personally wasn't too fond of the texture and the taste of animal fat was fairly pronounced. I wasn't prepared to exchange my plate of Chicken Noodle Casserole for haggis but were we to travel to Scotland, I most certainly would immerse myself in Scotland's culture and cuisine and order up a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties!
As for our Chicken Noodle Casserole, it was delightfully light and tasty. By using unsalted butter, no salt added broth, No Yolks Eggs Noodles and 0.5% milk, this meal was indeed healthied-up. I estimate the cost per portion to be approximately $1.50...you can't beat that for value! As an added bonus, both Stephen and Mackenzie had leftover Chicken Noodle Casserole for lunch today as well as my two little dollies from other mamas, 16 month old Jane and 4 year old Grace. I couldn't get the food into Jane fast enough and even my little Gracie, who's usually the biggest challenge when it comes to trying to new food, ate a full bowl of leftover Chicken Noodle Casserole! When my husband got home from work, I asked him what he thought of the casserole and he said he loved it, adding that I had forever ruined the enjoyment he use to get from a simple meal of mashed veggies and meat. (There was a compliment in there somewhere...I'm sure there was!).
In closing, I think it's only fitting that I quote something by Robert Burns . This is 'Burns Grace at Kirkcudbright':
"Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it.
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit"
January 25, Robbie Burns' Day, Haggis and Chicken Noodle Casserole....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!