Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fettuccine Alfredo and Sauteed Vegetables

I think the first time I ever had pasta with cream sauce, big rube that I am, was at one of Orville Weale's music festivals right across the WV-PA line in southwestern Pennsylvania. We were working as "security" at the venue, held at a farm now bisected by a toll road, and one of the food vendors was selling some form of Fettuccine Alfredo. I kept seeing satisfied people walking away from their stand, so I bought my dinner from those nice people--I seem to remember a French accent--and it was quite good, as cream sauces and pasta perfectly complemented my mood and that outdoor environment. That's about all I remember about the festival besides a "haunted house" we were to keep people away from. Oh, and a trunkload full of punks that Orville busted as they emerged right in front of him.

Anyway, Harris Teeter was selling boxes of fettuccine and linguine at a price of five boxes for five dollars, so I suppose that is from where the idea to make alfredo emerged. I also had in my cupboard a container of sliced cremini mushrooms (Janet said she's tired of mushrooms), four chicken thighs, some freshly grated ParmReg, two orange peppers bought at a discount, some carrots, half of a large onion, and some Pasta Sprinkle, which goes into a good three-fourths of everything I make.

I diced the onion, the peppers, and the carrots finely and began sauteeing the items in a little olive oil, Salt and Pepper. As they cooked, I added the aforementioned Pasta Sprinkle. I allowed the veg to cook until they softened mostly, and then I added my broccoli, which I fully intended to keep firm. Stir, stir, stir.
Earlier, I boiled water for my fettuccine, and it was cooking along nicely. I also seasoned the thighs and placed them in the oven. When the thighs were nearly finished cooking, I added some of their rendered fat to the vegetables, adding more flavor flav to the dish.

I also added a large pat of butter and a Glug of Chardonnay. That cooked awhile to release the alcohol, and now I am just about ready to assemble the dish and eat my supper. Cooking has to be the best hobby in the world. The rewards are immediate and lasting. It is a hobby that can be shared, and that is a good thing, since everyone I've ever met likes to eat good food.

Anyhoo, into my smaller pan, I added a fair amount of the vegetable mix and poured the heavy cream atop (this dish is high on the calories, but full of vegetables, so a good yin-yang is achieved) along with a handful of fresh ParmReg and cracked black pepper. Smells very good. Usually I try to wait until the wife gets home from work to eat dinner, but not today. I did not care to wait any longer. I tore the meat from one of the thighs and placed it into the cream and veg sauce. Dogs and I are salivating now, so I treated them to a little chicken skin.

So now all that's left is dishes. Cooking and dirty dishes equal a good yin-yang, also.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chicken Piccata and Lemony Mushroom Pasta

Today I decided to cook something that I haven't cooked in a long time--Chicken Piccata. I like the dish; I just forget about it until it occasionally raises its lemony hand and waves. It just so happens that today I had all of the ingredients in stock, so I waved back and got to work.

To accompany the Piccata, I decided on spaghetti. I don't know what else could go with the dish, and I don't care. Pasta works with everything, I am convinced. I put my water on to boil, and then I moved on to the sauce.

Since Piccata is lemony, I decided to continue the slightly sour theme by imparting a little lemon flavor to my pasta sauce. I started the sauce with olive oil and two containers of sliced cremini mushrooms, seasoned with Pasta Sprinkle from Penzey's, Salt and Pepper. These items sauteed awhile before I added some chicken stock, a little Chardonnay, and a reasonable amount of lemon juice. I turned up the heat so that the alcohol could boil away, and my sauce was built. Tastes pretty good. I like it.

Next I prepared my chicken. If you want to make Piccata, really the only way to go is to use thinly sliced chicken breasts, scallopine style. You can pound the breasts yourself, which is a little messy and a pain in the arse, you can slice them in half yourself, or you can just buy them thinly sliced at the store, which is the route I prefer.

Into a bowl, I dumped some flour. I seasoned the flour with Sandwich Sprinkle, also from Penzey's, and then I dredged the chicken in the flour. In the past, I have used egg wash before coating with flour, but these days, I simply rinse whatever meat I am cooking under the spigot, shake off the excess water, and then coat it with flour. I never can tell any difference in flavor, and this streamlines the process somewhat.

Now I am ready to sautee my chicken. In a pan, I heated some olive oil until it was good and hot. The chicken sizzled when I placed it in the pan, and that is a good sign that your chicken is going to be right. The chicken browned, and I removed it. Enter the Piccata. I wiped my pan with a paper towel to remove the brown crusties. I have also, in my previous preparations of this dish, left them in the pan, but it creates a brown sauce, which I did not want today.

About two tablespoons of butter, Salt, Pepper, another good glug of Chardonnay, a handful of capers, another good amount of lemon juice, and the Piccata is ready. Spoon the sauce over the chicken breasts placed atop the pasta, and it is time to eat. I might have added some fresh basil and some freshly grated ParmReg, but I had neither of those things. The dish still turned out quite good, in my opinion. Now I am full of good foods, and I think I can hear the recliner calling my name.