Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Zesty Fettuccine

I wanted pasta today. Delicious noodles with tons of flavor and texture and cheeeeeeese. Nothing too heavy or over-sauced though, I craved the perfect balanced of heartiness and brightness. A buttery cream sauce, check. Broccoli with a bite, why not? Juicy grilled chicken, clutch. A touch of red pepper flakes to spice it up with tons of lemon to bring it all together. Bon appetite.

I washed, chopped, and threw some broccoli in a small baking pan. Toss the little green trees with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon love (a sprinkle of zest and the squeeze of a lemon half). Stick the pan in a 400 oven for about 15 minutes. Give the broccoli and shimmy or two while roasting.

I had big fat chicken breasts. I wanted to give them a nice sear before sticking them in the oven so they'd be super juicy. Seasoned the same as the broccoli (salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon love), I seared the chicken on a sizzling hot pan until each side had a gorgeous, crispy, brown skin. I gave the chicken one more lemon squeeze, threw the lemon skeleton in the with the chicken, and stuck my favorite little caste iron pan right in the oven.

I use the finger trick to check for doneness when cooking meats such as chicken or thicker cuts of beef. Touch your thumb to your pointer finger without tensing the muscles in your hand. With your other hand poke the fleshy pillow at the bottom corner of your palm and base of your thumb; this is the density of raw meat. Feel the bounce? Touch your thumb to your pinky finger; this is the density of well done. Touching your middle and ring fingers is medium and medium well. Compare the bounciness and firmness of your palm to the meat. Don't forget it's always a good idea to let meat sit a bit after it's taken off the heat. As the meat sits it will continue to cook. In this case, don't keep a thick chicken breast in the oven past a ring finger. At 400, my chicken took about 15 minutes. After the chicken sits a few minutes, slice and set aside.

There are a few golden rules when cooking pasta. Don't add pasta until water is HOT. A bubble or two is not a rapid boil, wait until that water is going crazy. Always add a splash of olive oil; this helps stop the noodles from sticking to each other. Stir! This will really help stop the noodles from sticking to each other. Add a heavy sprinkle of salt, because salt makes life delicious. Utilize pasta water. Noodle infused H2O is great when fiddling with sauce consistency; for example, if a sauce is thickening up just add pasta water to thin it out without destroying the flavor.

Using the golden rules, make a serving of pasta. In the meantime, melt two tablespoons of butter in a little saucer on a low heat. Throw in a clove of chopped garlic, stir around and cook slowly. Before the garlic browns add about a quarter cup of heavy cream, pinch of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stirring often, let the concoction simmer and reduce a bit. Once the pasta has that perfect al dente bite, strain and immediately add to sauce. As you mix the pasta and sauce, start to sprinkle in grated parmesan cheese. Keep mixing! Melted parmesan clumps together easily. Too thick? Well its a good thing you saved some pasta water. You're so smart. After you add a nice handful of cheese, squeeze the juice of a lemon half all over the pasta. One more stir and it's ready to plate. Top with chicken, broccoli and a lemon wedge.

I think it goes without saying that a final sprinkle of parmesan finishes the dish. While you're at it, go ahead and squeeze some more lemon love if you like.

The broccoli, chicken, and sauce all have a bright lemon pep that is beautifully balanced by the salty cheese and red pepper flakes. The crunch from the roasted chicken and broccoli is a great texture countered by the soft fettuccine. A smooth Chardonay is a lovely pairing, something velvety with a hint of citrus.

Well, I'm satisfied.


  1. Nicely done. Nice meeting you on Saturday. Good luck with the story. You can follow me at BalanceofFood on Twitter.

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