Friday, April 18, 2008

Our Comfort Food


The scenario: I'm tired, I've just endured two hours of traffic to pick up Daniel from work. We've both last eaten about 6 hours ago and our stomachs are complaining. Its been a hectic day for Daniel... work was busier than usual. We are both venting about our days and I mention that I took out some chicken breasts. Daniel says nonchalantly, "We have garlic."
Oh? Garlic? And chicken? Hmm. We both know what he is thinking. We need it. The food we crave is our comfort dinner. If our muses have left us without any other ideas, this is the meal we turn to.
My mouth waters at the thought of roasted garlic, saucy pasta, and perfectly cooked moist chicken. We need our comfort food tonight.
In our kitchen, its a quite capricious recipe. It has gone through phases of using full-fat sour cream, to reduced fat, and now I find that non-fat works (and tastes) just as good, I also change up the dry spice used often... I like sage, but sometimes I add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a nice bite.
Daniel just loves Fettuccine Alfredo, but unfortunately, we know how bad it is for us. After conducting some research on different sauces, I decided to try combining sour cream and milk and chicken stock, then reducing the sauce with the pasta until it was thick enough (the starch from the pasta works well for that) but I'd end up with very sticky pasta if I didn't watch closely.
After much trial and error, we have a recipe that isn't to thin, and not to thick, without too much babysitting. I can have dinner on the table in about 30-45 minutes, but it's taken me a while to get that organized. Anyways... due to it's mutable nature this recipe has actually been quite difficult pinpointing what to write down... I'm an eyeballer... most of the time... so writing down exacts for times and measurements is hard for me... but I've done it and practiced it a few times this way and even decided to submit it to Presto Pasta Nights at Once Upon a Feast to see what Ruth thinks. Here, dear readers, is the final recipe.


Roasted Garlic Cream Pasta with Chicken
Print Recipe Only

2 brined chicken breasts, skin removed
3/4 cup chicken stock

1/2 medium onion, diced
1 head of garlic, plus a few extra cloves

1/2 cup milk, skim
1/2 cup sour cream, reduced fat or nonfat
1 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon ground sage

2-4 oz fettuccine*

extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper

First, preheat your oven to 450F. Rinse your brined chicken, and season tops with pepper, then set aside.
Take a head of garlic and slice it through the middle of all the cloves (so that you have a top half, and the bottom half of a bundle of cloves -see picture) Place two halves on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and crack some fresh pepper over the halves. Put the top back on the bottom half and fold the foil into a package, all the way around the head of the garlic. Place on top shelf of oven for about 20-25 minutes (or until you are done with chicken, and first part of sauce).
Meanwhile, boil water for the pasta.
Now, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Mince a clove of garlic and toss in sauté pan with oil. Dice your onion, then sauté in pan until translucent.
Add your pasta to the water, if you haven't already, (follow the package directions, I salt the water just a pinch, and make enough pasta for two portions, which really depends on your appetites.) Cook it until it's al dente, (if it finishes before your chicken, just strain it and leave it in the strainer).

Now, back to the saute pan, lay your chicken breasts peppered side down, now season the other side. Brown first side (should only take a minute or so) then flip to brown other side.
Now, pour in 3/4 cup of chicken stock. Depending on how big your sauté pan is, the chicken should just barely be sitting in the stock. Turn your heat down until you have a simmer (about medium) and cover.
Remove the head of garlic from the oven, unwrapping foil (careful, it's HOT). Set aside to cool. Now, begin the sauce. Whisk together the sour cream, milk, chicken stock, sage, and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
To extract the garlic from it's papery skin, take a half in your hand and gently squeeze until the cloves pop out (if the roasting was successful, this should happen pretty easily). You can either press this through a garlic grater or you can simply mash with a fork (fork tines work quite well for this actually). Combine with the milk/sour cream mixture.
By now, your chicken should have been cooking for almost 10 minutes.** Remove breasts from sauté pan and set aside. Add milk/sour cream mixture to pan, then add pasta and toss together, coating pasta with sauce.
Transfer a serving of pasta to a plate. Slice your chicken breasts on a bias, and fan across the pile of pasta to serve.

*This amount, in your hand, is about the diameter of a quarter. Make a ring with your thumb and forefinger into the size of a quarter, now imagine that void filled with dry pasta, thats how much you want for two people.
**Depending on the size of your breasts, you may need to cook longer (If you are a beginner, it will take a while to learn when your chicken is done, what you can do is cut into the thickest part of the breast to see if there is still pink, if there is, keep it cooking!)


Doesn't it look so good!?! It is! Try it, its a wonderful go-to. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as we do!Stumble Upon Toolbar
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Friday, April 11, 2008

Post-Holiday Sales

Looking for new recipes that are healthy and look fabulous is always fun. I spend countless hours looking for recipes that we can do. I like easy, I like healthy, and I love gourmet. We have been trying to stay away from red meat, but after Easter there was a great sale on lamb and we just couldn't pass them up.

(Photo courtesy of cookingwithbooze.com)

We bought lamb stew-meat, and a rack of lamb, already frenched. They also had other cuts, but I still need to familiarize and educate myself on the different cuts so I can learn the best ways to prepare them.

I found this recipe from the good guys at cookingwithbooze.com and was so excited to tell Daniel about it. Being German, Jägermeister is a big thing in his family... even before it was so popular with the college crowds.

This recipe was great for us because it gave us another chance at deglazing the roasting pan (which didn't turn out as planned for the Easter ham.) Daniel was sure the Jäger would give the lamb an anise-y taste, but it actually turned out quite good. Juicy and tender, Daniel caught me sucking the sauce and bits of meat I couldn't actually cut off!
The original recipe called for two racks of lamb, we had one medium-sized rack, so we eyed the amounts and had just a little bit extra gravy at the end (which of course we didn't mind).


Jäger Roasted Rack of Lamb
Adapted from cookingwithbooze.com

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh rosemary (or about 1 tablespoon of the dry stuff - which we had to use in a pinch)
10 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup Jägermeister
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1-2 frenched racks of lamb (depending on the size or equaling about 1 pound)

For the deglazing:
3/4 cup cabernet sauvignon
2 teaspoons cornstarch, plus 1 cup of cold water
1 tablespoon butter

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Blend first six ingredients in a food processor or blender. Cover tips of bones on rack of lamb with aluminum foil. Rub mixture over lamb and place bone side down in a roasting pan. We roasted ours for 30 minutes for a medium-rare. (The guys at cookingwithbooze.com suggest the use of a meat thermometer and 25 minutes for rare, or 35 minutes for medium)
Remove from heat and tent with foil.
Time to deglaze! Place the roasting pan over medium high heat (on your stove-top) and pour in the wine. Scrape those carmelized bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Dissolve cornstarch in water and whisk into roasting pan along with the butter. Strain gravy through fine-mesh strainer** and season with salt/pepper to taste.
To serve, we carved the lamb between the bones and made a tee-pee over some brown rice, then drizzled it with the gravy.

* We put the said ingredients in a tall measuring cup and then used an immersion blender as it is the only food processing appliance we had - a hand-me-down from my parents who have absolutely every gourmet kitchen appliance on earth (okay, well, maybe thats an exaggeration) Just a note on how improvisation is a big element in the kitchen, not only for flavor!
** If you don't have a mesh-strainer, use a cheese cloth (or even a dishcloth in a pinch) in the bottom of your sieve, in a bowl. Pour in the gravy and bundle up the cloth to squeeze the liquid through the cloth, leaving the chunks behind.Stumble Upon Toolbar
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