This is as retro as it gets. When I was growing up this was a part of my mother’s regular dinner rotation, using either chicken or turkey. My mom was a great home cook but she would do things like prepare an elaborate entrée and then serve it with a convenience side like Birds Eye Beans and Spaetzle.* Do they still sell that stuff? For those of you who don’t know the lore, this dish was invented in Anti-Diluvian San Francisco in honor of the Italian diva, Luisa Tetrazzini, who had rooms at the Palace Hotel.
Mom didn’t leave a box of recipe cards, just hand written notes in her cookbooks. So, combined with her books and my childhood memories I’ve deconstructed and re-engineered this version. It’s pretty close to the original.
Please note that this dish uses a lot of butter but it’s divided up and used at various stages of the cooking. So please take note of the measurements in the instructions.
2 but can be expanded
2 or 3
boneless chicken thighs, sliced across the grain and COOKED (about 1/2 pound)
white mushrooms, sliced
stick unsalted butter
all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups
Spanish sherry (use the good stuff, like Harvey’s)
Salt and ground black pepper
Bread crumbs such as Panko (although they weren’t using Panko in Luisa Tetrazzini’s day)
Using a skillet or a wok brown the chicken pieces in butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring water to boil for pasta. Preheat oven to 400 °F
Sautee the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter in a wide pan.
Use about 1/8 tablespoon of butter to grease up an earthenware casserole or baking dish. When the spaghetti is cooked and drained add it to the casserole. Top with the mushrooms.
Add 5 tablespoons butter to the same pan you cooked the mushrooms in and slowly color over medium flame. Gradually whisk in the flour. It should take on a nice tan color as you whisk. Now whisk in the stock---if you didn’t know you, you are making a sauce velouté.
Gradually whisk in the cream, followed by the sherry. Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Now add the cooked chicken.
Turn this into your buttered casserole over the spaghetti and mushrooms. Give it a generous grating of Parmigiano. Top that with bread crumbs and a few pats of butter. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes. It should come out sizzling hot. Allow to rest before serving.
*Note to cook: I prefer to serve it with Brussels sprouts.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.