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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chicken with Pesto Pasta

We recently had new carpeting installed in our living room and dining room which meant we had to completely empty those two rooms. That meant moving a LOT of furniture and enlisting the help of friends. The bribe? Food, of course!

Those who helped us move everything back were treated to dinner. The question now became what to feed 5 people now that all the furniture was out of my kitchen. After rooting around the pantry, the answer was clear: chicken and pesto pasta.


4 trimmed boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
One jar of Classico Pesto Sauce (or feel free to make your own)
1/3 cup of Sundried Tomatoes (I used dried ones, but jarred ones would work as well)
One box of pasta, thin spaghetti or fetuccini works best
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan

Start by cooking your pasta until it's al dente. While it cooks, add the olive oil to your pan with the garlic. Cook until the garlic is softened.

Add the chicken and sun-dried tomatoes to the oil and garlic, cooking until the chicken is browned and cooked through.

Add the full jar of pesto sauce to the pasta and toss until coated. Add the chicken mixture to the pesto pasta and toss everything together. Serve hot and watch it vanish!

Our friends loved it and attacked it with such gusto that I never even got a picture of the dish. Good thing I have more ingredients for next time! Happy cooking!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dinner Tonight - Chicken Piccata

One of my favorite meals when we go out is chicken piccata.  Pan-fried chicken, lemon, capers, pasta...oh yum.  I'm drooling just thinking about it!  Since we certainly cannot go out every night (and chicken was on sale at the store this week), I was inspired to try and make my own version at home. I didn't have a recipe, so I headed right to Google. After reading over about a dozen search results, I decided to try Giada De Laurentiis's recipe from Food Network.

Why that recipe over all the others the world wide web had to offer me?  The main factor for me was the ingredients.  All I needed to add to my shopping list were the capers, lemon juice, and fresh parsley.  Everything else I already had in my pantry and always have on-hand so it will be easy to make again.  I also really liked how easy the directions were and that there were no wild ingredients needed.  It always drives me crazy when a recipe calls for something I cannot get in a grocery store.

So, after tossing my son and husband out of the kitchen I got to work.  Ok, I tossed my husband out after I had him explain to me what butterflying the chicken meant. For those who, like me, have no idea what butterflying means allow me to explain: take your chicken breast and cut it in half lengthwise, but not all the way through.  Leave them joined slightly at the end.  Now if you open up the chicken it looks like a butterfly...well, really it winds up looking like a heart.  If my description didn't help, I found a really good video showing how to do it.  For this recipe you want to cut all the way through so that you have two separate pieces of chicken when you're done.

I did immediately tweak the recipe by adding mushrooms.  Whenever I order chicken piccata at a restaurant it includes mushrooms, one of my favorite foods, so I just couldn't make it at home without them.  I simply sauteed them with butter before starting the chicken then set them to the side.  I also started the pasta water boiling in order to try and have everything done about the same time.

I took pictures at intervals while I cooked the chicken piccata so you could see what you're aiming for.  Embarrassingly enough I had to switch pans after cooking the first two pieces of chicken...while my technique was correct, the pan had issues.  Turns out it was already warped and therefore didn't like the heat needed to cook the chicken.  While the chicken was fine, the kitchen was rather smoky and the pan was toast (no pun intended).  But yum, that chicken was looking good already.

Bad pan, go on the porch and think about what you've done!

Yeah, it was so bad that opening a window wasn't quite enough...oops...

At least the chicken turned out perfect!
However switching to the new pan did allow me to get better pictures!  Melt the butter with the oil first, then add the chicken when the butter is completely melted and coating the entire pan. Just be careful of the hot, popping oil!  Trust me, it stings when it comes in contact with skin.

Be sure to keep the butter & oil moving with your spatula so that it coats the entire pan.

Flour-coated chicken waiting to be flipped.
I have to say, the three minutes per side the recipe called for was right on.  I found that using tongs to flip the chicken worked best and helped when "peeking" to see if each side was brown enough.

With the chicken done it was time to make the piccata sauce.  I added my mushrooms to the mix here before adding the chicken back in.  It smelled so good with everything blending together.  By now my pasta was done while the mix simmered - perfect timing!

Chicken, mushrooms, capers, lemon juice, and chicken broth all simmering together

Cooked thin spaghetti pasta done and waiting in the serving bowl

With my pasta done and in the serving bowl I was able to put the chicken right on top while finishing the piccata sauce.  Once the last of the butter was in and done I poured the mix over the chicken and pasta.  I have to admit, adding the parsley made it look so pretty!

The finished sauce over the chicken and thin spaghetti

Add the parsley for a pretty, delicious dish!
The result?  A very delicious dinner that easily matched (if not beat) the chicken piccata I've had in restaurants.  When I asked my husband how he liked it, he informed me that he would love to discuss it but he was busy eating...a review that speaks volumes!

Will I make it again?  Absolutely.  I even found a big jar of capers at my local warehouse club for next time.

Happy cooking!