Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Baked Potato

This piled-high potato has been my go-to bachelorette dinner (and snow-day lunch) for the past week and a half. Whenever I have plans for the evening and my husband doesn’t, you can pretty much guarantee that he gets Peruvian chicken from a place near our house. (It has amaaaaazingly good chicken. And fries. And sauce. Two kinds of sauce actually. A spicy green one and a tangy mayo-y one. Sooooo good. I’d probably go there too but I am one of those people who hates eating out alone, even if it only means standing in the take-out line by myself.) So, if I’m the one on my own for dinner, I usually cook something easy.

This dish happened because, well, I had a lot of leftover cooked chicken from making that soup from the last post, but I really didn’t feel like making soup again and I wasn’t in the mood for chicken salad. And also because my parents made some dynamite scalloped potatoes over Christmas that I was kind of craving, but that’s not the type of thing you can easily make a single serving of. I ended up making a cheese sauce based on the scalloped potatoes recipe my parents had, and then using it to top a baked potato filled with leftover chicken and steamed broccoli. Even though the cheese sauce tastes rich, it’s not over the top: it contains the equivalent of one slice of cheese and has only a minimal amount of butter, and I used 1% milk because that’s what we keep around. Plus, it’s fast and simple. Seriously it takes less than 10 minutes from prep to finish. You essentially sauté a little chopped onion and garlic in some butter, then add some milk and cornstarch, then add some cheese, and voilà. The only way to mess it up is to turn the heat up too high.

Except for the sauce, everything else can be made ahead of time to make it even easier to throw together. You could cook several potatoes and steam a bunch of broccoli, then reheat them when you want them. My leftover chicken was in the freezer, and I just defrosted a little bit at a time as a needed it. I’m sure rotisserie chicken or grilled chicken would work too. It’s a whole meal delivered on a spud—you’ve got your starch, your veg, your meat, and your dairy. No sides necessary. And you could easily omit the chicken to make it vegetarian.

In other news, pantryhero is now on Instagram. Some of the photos will overlap, but I’ll also be adding photos of other (non-leftover-using) culinary adventures that don’t make it to the blog.



 Note:  The cheese sauce is an adaptation of this scalloped potatoes recipe from food.com. It firms up pretty quickly as it cools, so you want everything else to be hot/reheated and ready to go before you start making it.


Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Baked Potato

serves 1 quite generously; can easily be double, tripled, etc.

For the potato, fillings, and assembly:

  • 1 medium russet potato
  • 1 1/2 c. broccoli florets (about 1/2 medium crown)
  • 1/2 c. diced cooked chicken
  • 1/2 Tbsp. chicken broth (optional)
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 recipe of cheese sauce (see below)
  1. Cook the potato: Preheat the oven to 350º. Scrub the potato clean and prick it with a fork a few times. Rub it with some olive oil and kosher salt, and place it directly on a rack in the center of the oven. Bake until the skin is crispy and the inside is easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.
  2. Cook the broccoli: Steam the broccoli until cooked to your taste. For this recipe, I like it bright green and not overly tender.
  3. Reheat the chicken if necessary. I added 1/2 Tbsp. chicken broth to it and popped it into the microwave for 20 seconds.
  4. Split open the warm potato and sprinkle it with a little kosher salt and pepper. Add the chicken, then the broccoli, and season with another sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  5. Make the cheese sauce and drizzle it on top of everything. Serve immediately.

For the cheese sauce:

  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  • small pinch of cayenne
  • 1 oz. cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (I used sharp)
  • more salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk the cornstarch into the milk and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  3. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft and translucent, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the milk/cornstarch mixture, salt, and cayenne, and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the grated cheese. Whisk until the cheese has completely melted into the sauce—this will hardly take any time at all. You will still see some lumps because of the onion and garlic. Let it bubble for a minute or so to thicken.
  6. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning if needed, and use immediately.

Smoky Roasted Broccoli

 

Lesson learned: It's hard to make cooked broccoli look appealing.

Lesson learned: It’s hard to make cooked broccoli look appealing.

I consider myself lucky to have a husband who likes cooking and is good at it. We take turns cooking dinner on a weekly basis, and sometimes we argue about whose week it is because we both have recipes picked out that we want to try. But I can’t really get annoyed because my husband is insisting that it’s his turn to cook. Or complain if we eat late because he’s perfecting his pepperoni pan pizza with a home-made crust. Or get grumbly because I have to fit into a dress for a friend’s wedding in a couple of weeks and he made some amazing short ribs and mashed potatoes that I’m having a hard time resisting seconds of. Unfortunately, not whining has never been my strong suit, but honestly, our sharing of dinner duty is a pretty great situation.

The only real problem happens if one of us doesn’t check the fridge very well before we go grocery shopping, because sometimes we buy produce that we already have. This is how we ended up with two large bunches of broccoli this past week. Fortunately, I have a new favorite way to prepare broccoli.

I first tried making broccoli like this after having a something similar in a restaurant while traveling over the summer. It was tender but still had some tooth, and it was a little charred—in the good way— in some spots. I think only the florets were served in the restaurant, but in my version, I use the whole broccoli: both the crowns and the stems.

IMG_2835

I haven’t fully embraced the “crisp-tender” phenomenon for vegetable cooking, because sometimes they still taste raw to me. If I want that sort of flavor, I’ll probably just eat the raw vegetable. And I’ll admit I’m not averse to Southern-style, cooked-til-they’re-army-green vegetables. For this recipe, I wouldn’t call anything crisp, but nothing is mushy. The stems are first cooked separately from (and for significantly longer than) the florets, so that they take on a texture like most any other roasted winter vegetable. The florets are steamed/boiled for a very short time, and then seasoned. I use powdered onion and garlic, which I tend to avoid, but they work well here, plus they’re simple. Smoked paprika is also added, and let’s be honest, smoked paprika makes everything better. It is like the bacon of spices. Finally, everything gets put under the broiler for a few minutes, until the florets get just a little bit blackened.


 

Note: My bunch of broccoli yielded about 1 1/2 cups of stems and 5 cups of florets. You might want to add more or less seasoning and/or olive oil depending on how big your bunch is. Also, I cook the florets in a small amount of water in a covered pan because it’s quick, easy, and there are fewer dishes to wash, but you could also steam them in a steamer basket. 

 

Smoky Roasted Broccoli

serves 3-4

  • 1 large bunch broccoli
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400º.
  2. Trim and peel the broccoli stems, then chop into about 1/3″ chunks, discarding any tough or woody pieces. I start cutting from the part of the stem that was closest to the crown, and if I reach a part where my knife stops slicing easily, I don’t use the rest. Toss the chopped stems with 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil and 1/4 tsp. of the kosher salt. Add fresh pepper to taste. Spread onto a baking pan and roast in the middle rack for about 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Stir every 5 minutes or so. While the stems roast, prepare the broccoli crowns.
  3. Cut the crowns into florets. Fill a medium saucepan with water to about 1/2″ depth and bring it to a boil. Add the florets, cover, shake a couple of times, and cook until tender. This will happen very quickly, in only about 3 minutes, maybe fewer if you like your broccoli on the crisper side. Drain the broccoli well, then place it in a bowl and toss it with the onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and remaining 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.
  4. After the stems have finished roasting, remove the pan from the oven, crank the heat up to broil, and put a rack directly under the broiler. Spread the seasoned florets in the pan with the stems. Once the broiler has preheated, place the pan back in the oven for a few minutes, until the florets have just started to blacken. This took about 6 minutes in my oven. Remove from the oven and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve hot.