Chasing the Ratatouille Dragon

Editor’s Note: LC has one heck of a project going on. She’s pledged to archive her family’s’ recipes, chicken scratched notes and all. And although she sent this post to me acknowledging, “I have been delinquent on many things, not least of which is my recipe project,” I know she secretly loves uncovering the depths of her ancestral cabinet. Here’s a continuation of LC’s family cookbook. And here’s her first entry into ES chronicling. Now enjoy round two. And ps, her mom is a trained chef – pay attention to the appendix.


I just watched Ratatouille and at one point the cold, cynical, snobby food critic is transported back to his childhood upon tasting the dish ratatouille. You can see his presumptuousness and pomposity fall away as he takes a bite of his childhood.

The dish I’m presenting you today, Chicken Almondzini, is not that kind of a dish. There’s no transcending. No passionate memory floods upon first taste.  But it is quite delicious nonetheless.

Per my grandmother’s main criteria for dishes needing to feed armies, Chicken Almondzini will feed a lot of people.  When my mom and I recreated it we didn’t plop it in a casserole dish—which would have made it more “home cooking-y”—for fear it would have also been dry as toast.

Our creation is in recipe form, which I know is contrary to ES philosophy, but feel free to make it to your taste. If you want to make it to my mom’s taste however, her exacting standards can be met by adhering to the following:

Chicken Almondzini

1-2     Garlic cloves, minced
1/2    Small onion, minced
1 Tbs. butter or cooking oil
1/3 cup    Flour
2 ¼ cup    Milk
8 oz.    Swiss cheese, shredded
1/3     Dry white wine
8 oz.    Penne, Fusilli, or Farfalle, cooked and drained
2 cups    Chopped cooked chicken or turkey
1 ¼ cups    Sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1 lb.    Mushrooms, sliced and sauteed
1    Roasted red pepper, cut into ¼” squares
½ lb    Broccoli heads, separated and blanched
½ cup    Parmesan cheese, grated


  1. In a medium saucepan, sauté onion and garlic just until translucent, they should not brown,
  2. Combine mayo and flour, and add to the onion mixture.
  3. Gradually add milk, cook over low heat whisking constantly until thickened
  4. Add cheese and wine, stir until cheese melts.  Take off the heat. (I think at this stage you have also created a good starting point for a Mac and Cheese, if you want to skip the other stuff completely )
  5. In large bowl combine mayo mixture, spaghetti, chicken, broccoli, ¾ cup almonds, mushrooms and red pepper.
  6. Toss lightly, pour into baking dish.
  7. Top with remaining almonds and bake @ 350° for 15-20 minutes, until it is heated through and bubbling.
  8. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
  9. Serves 6-8.

Mom’s Notes:
This is a great dish for a crowd or a buffet dinner.  All of the components of the dish need to be cooked prior to adding them together.  If you are going to sauté the chicken, use the same pan to sauté the mushrooms and then the onion-garlic mixture.  When the water is ready to boil for the pasta, drop the broccoli florets in for 2 minutes and then remove and add the pasta.  This dish can also be prepared through #6 and placed in the refrigerator overnight (or in the freezer).  Bring to room temperature before heating in the oven.

LC’s notes:
We thought we had a truckload of sauce and I tried to use a whole box of spaghetti on this bad boy, which may have led to the dryness. The recipe actually called for 7 oz. of spaghetti and we all had a hearty laugh at that exactness until the sauce became inadequate for casserole purposes. Dang these recipes – they are woefully vague so that when there are moments of clarity, you brush them off completely.

I enjoy casseroles with crumpled potato chips on top and I know my grandmother agrees. The almonds try and fancy up the thing but essentially I think I would have had that *Ratatouille* moment if we just threw tuna, cream of mushroom, and egg noodles (cooked) in a casserole dish with crushed Lay’s and called it a day. You know, if you’re chasing that ratatouille dragon.

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  • gansie June 2, 2009  

    one of my “ratatouille” moments is freshly whipped cream. my oma used to make it along side her wickedly dense rum-spiked chocolate mousse. so now whenever i eat real whipped cream i instantly think back to stressful holiday dinners, but also delicious dessert.

  • MaryBeth Mullen June 2, 2009  

    I’m going to make this for the Mullen family reunion, or maybe your mom will make it for her family reunion! Get it!

  • LC June 2, 2009  

    Recipe for dense rum spiked chocolate mousse, please? I love to combine boozing and baking.

  • Genevieve Cullen June 2, 2009  

    Sadly, like the “Death in the Afternoon” cocktail for Bridge Club, this recipe precedes my presence in the family. But what it lacks in nostalgia for me, it recovers in cheese sauce. Well done!

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