Wednesday, 9 June 2010

How a chef honoured a legend: CHICKEN TETRAZZINI

The coloratura soprano Luisa Tetrazzini was a native of Florence, Italy, and a beloved international presence on the operatic stage of the early twentieth century. One of her most beloved cities was San Fransisco, where the fans adored her and where she performed often. 

Tetrazzini possessed an amazing voice, masterful, powerful, technically superb. I include here Tetrazzini's rendition of Rosina's aria Una Voce Poco Fa from Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia," sung in a flexible, fantastic, clear voice. Fabulous! This recording was made in 1911. I hope you enjoy it. 

The dish Chicken Tetrazzini which is a thoroughly American invention was created in her honour by a San Fransisco chef. My recipe for chicken Tetrazzini follows the video.



1 chicken
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion studded with 4 cloves
1 large onion, finely chopped 
3 stalks celery with leaves, roughly chopped 
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Tabasco sauce
4 tablespoons flour
1 pound sliced cremini mushrooms

artichokes (buy them frozen -- faster than having to clean them)
1 package penne, 8oz
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
2 cups half and half, at room temperature
2 cups hot chicken broth
8 ounces frozen baby peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves 

3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup dried Italian-style breadcrumbs
sliced almonds


  • In a kettle place the chicken, onion with cloves, celery, 1 teaspoon salt, bay leaf and carrot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender. 
  • Remove the chicken from the broth and let cool. Remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Reserve the meat, and place in a large bowl. Strain two cups of the chicken broth and reserve it, making sure it stays hot.
  • Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  • Grease a 13” x 9” x 2” baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.
  • Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté over medium-high heat until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms become pale golden. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the peas and stir until they are well incorporated. 
  • Transfer the mushroom mixture into the bowl with the chicken.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons butter in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add 4 tablespoons flour and whisk until blended. Whisk in the reserved 2 cups hot broth, 2 cups half and half, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Increase the heat slightly. Simmer, whisking until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat add the ricotta cheese and mix well.

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until it is al dente. Drain. Add the pasta, sauce and parsley to the chicken mixture. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta and the mixture is well blended.

  • Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Stir the Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and almonds in a bowl to blend. Sprinkle the mixture over the pasta. Bake until it's golden brown on top and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes.