Just the Time for Chicken Corn Chowder

IMG_2745

There are few things I love more than when my son asks me to post recipes on here so he can make them at school in Boston. We were talking yesterday afternoon and he said he was looking for “stewy” soups to cook. Well, last week, feeling the first fingers of fall on a typical Southern California October Sunday (yes, 89 degrees outside) I made Chicken Corn Chowder and told him I’d put a recipe up here.

Now, let’s start with this. I don’t like super heavy chowders. If they’re too thick they just leave you feeling lethargic. If you’re in Bangor, Maine in the middle of winter and you can’t open your front door anyway that serves a purpose, but here in Southern California (and frankly in most other places) too much flour in your soup is just, literally, a drag. So my chowders are more soupy than chowdery. (Just so you know).

Onward to the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 6 strips of your favorite bacon, cut widthwise into 1/4 inch pieces.
  • 1 medium brown onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 3 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
  • Healthy Pinch of your favorite dried herb mix
  • 2 Cups Frozen Corn (1 package)
  • 1-2 cups diced cooked chicken (if you don’t have any just dice a chicken breast or two and saute’ with a little salt and pepper until cooked)
  • Four cups chicken stock (not broth, stock, you want the extra flavor from the stock)
  • 2 Cups Whipping Cream or Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 TBS Frank’s Hot Sauce (or something similar)
  • 6-10 Red (baby) potatoes, diced
  • 2 TBS Non EV Olive Oil or Grape Seed Oil
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese (to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Recipe

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

In a large stockpot, cook the bacon strips until crisp, set aside the bacon and drain off most of the fat. Add the olive oil (or Grape Seed Oil) and the Mirapoix (Onion, Carrot, Celery) and the bell pepper and stir over medium heat until the onion is translucent and then add the chicken and then the flour and stir until the flour just starts to brown. Add the corn (it’s fine if it’s still frozen) and stir for one minute (two minutes if frozen). Add the dried herbs and stir until fragrant. Add the chicken stock and bring to a slow boil and then reduce heat to simmer and add the cream. Stir in the hot sauce just before serving.

While the soup is coming to temperature salt and pepper the diced potatoes and place in a greased (or sprayed) pyrex or baking sheet and roast, uncovered, for 25 minutes, until just starting to brown (and tender). Add the potatoes to each bowl of soup as it is served. Do not add them to the soup.  (I don’t like them mushy). If you want more texture, reserve some of the corn and saute’ it for a minute and scatter it over the soup as you serve the soup. You can do this with some extra, diced, red bell pepper too.  If you want to put some cheddar cheese (or almost any kind of cheese you might have) on the soup, you can do this, too.

If you’re like me and you like things with a little heat, add a little more franks with the potatoes and whatever else you scatter over the soup when you serve it.  Yum!

Enjoy.

Now – there are people who would say that the corn should be fresh off the cob, that you should reserve the corn milk (the liquid that comes off the cob as the corn is shaved off), that a chowder should be thick enough to stand up a spoon, that you should use half and half, that the potatoes should be cooked in the soup, etc.  All of these things are true.  Those people should do those things.  You should too if they’re important to you. To me, this is a simple, flavorful and easy to prepare soup that still has some texture. Knock yourself out.

Tuna/Avocado Tartare, Crispy Wantons, Mango Jalapeño Chutney, Wasabi Crema, Yum!

I went to the Hollywood Bowl last night with some good friends.  Someone else was making the entree so I was free to just make an appetizer. We all thought this was pretty damn good …

There is something about Tuna and Avocado that works. There is a part of me that thinks that certain foods were just ordained to be eaten together and this combination is one of them. Make sure you get the best Sashimi grade tuna you can buy at a very good Fish Market.  I buy all my fish at Fish King in Glendale and I will admit to being a little spoiled.

The mango, jalapeño chutney creates needed acidity for this dish and the wasabi cream was an afterthought, but it adds a nice – well – “wasabi-ness” – to each bite.

The wantons, crema, chutney and Tartare sauce can be made well ahead of time and the crema, chutney and sauce benefit from a little time in the refrigerator. Just don’t combine the sauce and the Tuna/Avocado until JUST before you serve the dish or the sauce will over “cook” the fresh ingredients.

Ingredients.

Mango Chutney

  • 1 Mango, diced.
  • 1 TBS red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (if you like more heat leave the seeds)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp (pinch) Cumin
  • 1 TBS Honey or 2 TBS Blue Agave Syrup
  • 1/2 Grapefruit (optional) all skins and seeds removed, diced
  • 1 TBS Sesame Oil
  • If your mango is very ripe (sweet) add 1 TBS rice wine (or champagne) vinegar for the extra acidity

Tartare

  • 1 lb Sashimi grade blue fin or ahi Tuna (cut into small cubes)
  • 1 shallot or 2 TBS onion, diced very small (minced)
  • 1 persian cucumber diced very small (almost minced)
  • 1 Avocado (Haas are best) diced the same size as the Tuna
  • 2 TBS Best Foods or Hellmans Mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp asian garlic/chili sauce (available in any market)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (if you have some in the refrigerator or your pantry that is more than a month old throw it out and buy fresh!)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 TBS honey or Blue Agave Syrup
  • sesame seeds for garnish
  • pinch of salt and a few turns of the peppermill

Wantons

  • 1 package wanton skins (any grocery store)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup neutral cooking oil for frying. (not olive oil!)
  • Salt for sprinking

Wasabi Crema

  • 1/2 Cup Mexican Crema (or 1/3 cup sour cream and 3 TBS cream stirred together)
  • 1 TBS Wasabi Powder (Buy it at your fish market)

For the Wantons.

The trick with frying wantons is your oil can’t be too hot. These things are very delicate and they burn in a heartbeat.  I salt and eat the ones I burn.  (and every once in a while burn one on purpose!). I like mine round so I use a larger round cookie cutter to cut mine down. Suit yourself. Use a small frying pan – like an omelette pan, and about 1/2 inch of frying oil heated just hot enough to bubble when you put the wanton in. Turn them quickly with tongs and remove from the oil when they start to brown. Sprinkle salt on them as soon as you take them out of the pan. Let them cool on a paper towel.  Try not to eat them all before you make the Tartare. (It takes a little while to do this right and you want to do it when you’re going to have an extra dose of patience. They can be made well ahead of time and kept in a cool, dry place).

For the Chutney

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to your desired consistency. Taste and adjust flavors as you wish. Cover and refrigerate.

For the Crema

Whisk the crema and the wasabi powder together in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. (The wasabi flavor will intensify over time so don’t use too much).

For the Tartare

Combine everything but the tuna and avocado, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. (make this as long ahead as one day and it will keep just fine).  Letting it cool for a while will meld the flavors.  When your guests are ready to devour this dish, fold the Tuna and Avocado gently into the sauce.

Serving

Stack it!  The Wanton goes on the bottom, then the tartare, chutney and crema. Sprinkle a few of the sesame seeds (black ones look nice) on the top if you want.  Try not to make yummy sounds. Eat this dish in small portions and make it last…

Home Sick Thai Inspired Chicken Soup

I hate being sick.  Detest it.  To make matters worse, I’m horrible at being sick. I have this sort of irrational perspective that if I just decide I am not sick then I am better.  Presto!  This year I avoided the bug and thought I was home free and actually celebrated with a quiet smile on my way home from work last Friday.  Mistake. Sunday morning – signature scratchy throat.  Bummer.  Down for the count.

But the upside of being sick is that I have an excuse to cook soups.  I made this one up today. Like a lot of my recipes it uses ingredients from Trader Joes.  If you don’t have one near you you can fake it.  But write to them and beg.  You’ll love them.

Today I wanted kind of a Thai Style medium spicy chicken soup.  I don’t eat noodles so I used white beans instead.  It turned out great.

Ingredients

  • 4 Ounces Bacon, chopped to 1/2 inch long strips
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 Jalapeno Peppers, Seeded, ribs removed and diced small (If you like heat leave the seeds and ribs)
  • 3 ‘baby’ bell peppers, diced
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, smashed
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts diced and simply sauteed.  (a little love oil and salt and pepper)
  • 2 Quarts Organic Free Range Chicken Broth (or whatever kind you like).
  • 2 cans white beans, drained
  • 1 package broccoli slaw
  • 2 TBS Curry Powder (Yellow)
  • 1 TBS Red Chili/Garlic Paste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried ginger
  • 1 Lime (Juice Only)
  • Roasted and skinned peanuts.  (For Garnish)
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

In a medium stock pot render the bacon until crispy.  Remove the bacon and eat it while no one is looking (seriously – you’re not going to use it for anything).  Saute’ the onion, celery and carrot in the bacon fat until they just start to brown.  Add the jalapeno and garlic and saute’ for another minute or two (but don’t let the garlic burn).  Add the cooked chicken and stir into the vegetables.  Add the curry powder, chili paste and ginger and stir into the mixture for about 30 seconds.  (the fragrance is amazing).  Add the chicken stock and the drained, canned beans. Add about 1 cup of the the broccoli slaw and the diced bell peppers.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and let the soup cook for at least an hour.  (the longer it cooks the more the flavors will combine).  Just before serving add the lime juice and the coconut milk. (In mine, to replace the sweetness of the coconut milk I use peas).

Garnish with a small handful of peanuts for extra yumminess.

Gloat while you eat.

Fall… Braises, Butternut Squash, Slow Food

I love fall.  Not that we have much “fall” in southern California.  There is a tree across the street from my house that changes color though, so it’s sort of like a fall, but actually more hollywood style.  It gets “cold” at night though.  Most nights this time of year the temperature gets down to about 40 or so at our home and there are a lot of nights starting in November that are in the 30s.  People don’t associate 30s with LA.  I like it kind of chilly.  The dogs’ evening walk is more fun.  It’s also the universal signal that it is time for fall food, which is my favorite time of the year.

To me, fall food is slow food.  It is a time for braises and roasts.  Squashes, most notably butternut and pumpkin, find their way on to restaurant menus.  It’s almost as though the cooler weather outside gives us permission to spend a little more time in the kitchen.  Things can take longer.  It’s okay.

Short Ribs are one of my very favorite fall dishes.  I love the gravy and the fall off the bone silkiness of these lovely bones when they are well prepared.  I have a great recipe.  It takes a little time but it’s worth it.  Invite some friends over, open a very nice bottle of full bodied red wine (we had a terrific Cabernet last night), if it’s really cold where you live light a fire.  It’s fall.

Rather than serving these over one of the more ubiquitous sides, like mashed potatoes for instance (which would be amazing but don’t work for my diet), I served these over a light balsamic, white bean, caramelized onion and garlic puree (it has the benefit of actually being good for you).

Braised Short Ribs

  •  5 – 6 lbs Beef Short Ribs.  (I just buy these at the grocery store)
  • 2 – 3 celery stalks
  • 2 – 3 Carrots
  • 1 large spanish (brown) onion
  • 1 8oz jar sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, rinsed in hot water. (discard the oil)
  • 2 TBs Crushed Garlic or 4 – 5 Garlic Cloves
  • 6oz Tomato Paste
  • 3 – 4 cups full bodied red wine (if necessary for any reason, substitute with 3 cups beef broth, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 3 TBS Worcestershire)
  • 1 rounded tsp dried Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive or Grapeseed Oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Liberally season the short rips with salt and pepper.  Heat a large oven proof pot or dutch oven (I use a Le Creuset for this and it is perfect) to hot over medium high heat.  Add a splash of the oil and brown the short ribs on each side.  Let this take a little time so they develop a rich brown color.  Remove the short ribs from the pot and discard the accumulated fat.

While the short ribs are braising either fine dice (if you like your gravy textured) or puree (if you like your gravy smooth) the celery, carrot, onion, garlic and sun dried tomatoes. When you have removed the short ribs from the dutch oven (and poured off the fat) add some more oil to the oven and immediately add the diced or pureed vegetables, using their liquid to scrape the brown bits (fond) off of the bottom of the pan.  Reduce the heat if the vegetables start to burn, but leave them in the pot, stirring often so they are well browned.

When the vegetables are well browned add the cooking liquid (wine or mixture) and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let liquid reduce by about 1/3.  Add the short ribs back into the pot, arranging them so they form a layer on the bottom of the pan (on edge is fine), if necessary, add a little water or beef broth so the liquid is just below the tops of the meat.  (If the meat is submerged at first don’t worry about this as the liquid will cook off in the oven).  Place the ribs/pot on the center rack of your oven for between 3 and 4 hours, checking frequently to make sure the liquid doesn’t evaporate too much.  Remove the top from the pot about 45 minutes before serving to brown the tops of things …

White Bean, Caramelized Onion and Garlic Puree with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

While the ribs are braising away in the oven make this simple side.  Serve the ribs on top of it with a healthy portion of the sauce.  People will think you are a genius.

  • 2 15oz (normal sized) Cans Any Kind of White Beans
  • 1 Large brown onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic (or 4 cloves – smashed)
  • 1 Cup Chicken Broth
  • 2 Tbs Good Aged Balsamic Vinegar (not the crappy stuff you get in a regular store)

In a medium saucepan saute’ the onions over medium heat until well browned (adding a pinch of salt will help them brown faster).  Add the garlic and continue to saute’ for another minute or until the garlic starts to brown.  Add the beans and the broth and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquid has almost completely evaporated, about 30 minutes, stirring often.  Puree mixture in a blender or food processor.  Pour into a baking dish or back into the pan and keep warm over very low heat or in a low oven.  Add balsamic just before serving.

Put a few tablespoons of the puree under the short ribs.  Enjoy …

Grilled Peach, Arugula and Burrata Salad

I’m going to start right of with a confession.  I absolutely love peaches in almost any form.  (Well, not canned, but any other form).  Ang and I were recently out to dinner with friends and we had a variation on this salad that was so good that I had to come home and try it myself.  It is comparatively easy and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients

  • Four Ripe Peaches, Halved
  • One Store-Bought Bag of Mixed Greens (preferably a mix containing arugula)
  • One Pint (two medium ‘pillows’) Buratta Mozzarella Cheese
  • ~1/4 Cup plus 3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 TBs High Quality Sherry or Champagne Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat your grill to medium hot.  Place halved peaches in a large mixing bowl and toss with 3 TBs olive oil.  When the grill is hot place the peaches skin side down on the grill.  For fun, watch them dance around.  Grill for approximately 10-15 minutes.  (The grill caramelizes the sugars in the peaches and gives them a deeper flavor). Remove the peaches from the grill and immediately submerge in an ice bath.  (“Blanching” the peaches stops the cooking process and will make it very easy for you to do the next step).  Peel the charred skins off of the peaches.  (don’t worry if you can’t get it all off).  Do this no more than 1 hour before you serve the salad or the peaches will lose their juices and flavor.

Cut the peaches into a rough dice (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces).

In a salad bowl combine the greens and the peaches.  Cut the burrata into bite sized slices (the loose middle will run out and you don’t care) and toss it lightly into the salad.  Dress with some of the olive oil (you won’t need the whole quarter cup) and the vinegar.  Add a pinch of salt and a few turns of your pepper mill and serve.

If you’re into wines, this pairs brilliantly with one of the new style (ML) Sauvignon Blancs from Napa Valley.

Make Your Own Damn Pizza…

One of the early triumphs of any home cook is the discovery that good Pizza needn’t require a phone call, internet order or a trip to some local wood-fire pizzeria.  In fact, you can make damn good pizza yourself.  It’s fun and it has the benefit of letting you make exactly the kind of pizza you like, AKA, your own damn pizza.

Ingredients:

  • Pizza Crust (Trader Joes or whatever kind you want).
  • Pizza Sauce (Any store bought marinara you like)
  • Cheese (Traditionally Mozzarella but can be any time you want – though if it melts its better)
  • Various and sundry toppings
  • Olive Oil
  • All Purpose Flour

The crust.  (this is actually the hardest part).  Tomorrow I will post a comparatively simple recipe for good, homemade pizza crust.  For today I’m going to make it even simpler and say, go to Trader Joes and buy “pizza dough” out of their refrigerated section.  It’s about a buck, ninety-nine for a bag and a bag makes three good sized Pizzas.  (Don’t try to make one large pizza or you will end up with a doughy mess).

Let the dough come up to close to room temperature and you’re ready to roll.

Trader Joes also sells a pretty good pizza sauce but you can really use any store-bought marinara or other sauce that you like.  Remember, this is your damn pizza.  That starts with the sauce.

Typically a pizza is made with mozzarella cheese.  Lactose intolerant?  Fine.  Use goat cheese.  (See “your damn pizza” above).  Like blue cheese?  Use blue cheese.  (If you want to screw up your damn pizza that’s your decision).  A word of caution here, you don’t need as much cheese as you think you do.  When that stuff melts it fills in.  I’m not going to give you measurements because I don’t know how big your pizza will be.

As for other condiments, you can buy a bag of 7,214 precut pieces of pepperoni for $2.  You’re going to use 12.  Put the rest in the fridge for next time.  It’s salt cured and will stay preserved for about 52 months.  I like Italian sausage.  I cut the skins off and toss it in a frying pan and “mash” it into clumps with a potato masher.  Like slices?  (read, ‘your damn pizza’ above).  As a general rule it is a good idea to precook most of the ingredients so all you’re doing when you put the pizza in the oven is effectively heating the sauce and melting the cheese…If you have a 3200 degree wood burning pizza oven you can cook the whole damn thing together.

I like caramelized onions.  I put an onion in a frying pan with a little olive oil and let it cook low and slow until it is nicely browned.  Yum.

If you want to go crazy get some green, basil pesto (or make you’re own if buying it is beneath you).    By the way, your own will be better and it is very easy to make.  Also get some shrimp and some fresh basil leaves.  Use the pesto for your pizza sauce with a mozzarella or mild goat cheese and give the shrimp a quick sauté’ before you put in on the pizza.

OK.  How to Make Your Own Damn Pizza.

Cut the pizza dough into thirds (about a billiard sized ball).  Put a copious amount of all purpose flour on your countertop or other very flat surface and also on the pizza dough.  Either with your hands (like a real man) or with a rolling pin (like me) make your pizza flat.  The thinner the better in my mind but if you like thick crust remember (see “your damn pizza” above).  Just know that it will puff up in the oven and then die back down when it comes back out.

Heat your oven and your pizza pan or baking sheet in the oven to 450 degrees.  If you have a very very good oven then go ahead and heat it to 500.  If you are my son and you are in a tinderbox apartment building that gives me the willies, then 450 is fine.

When the baking sheet and the oven are up to temperature dust some flour on the baking sheet or pizza pan and then lay your already flattened pizza dough on the pan and put it in the oven for about five minutes.  Take it out and coat the top with a little brushed on olive oil before turning the crust over and putting it back in the oven for another 3-5 minutes.

Take the “pre-fired” (a term sure to impress your female guests) out of the oven and put on a thin coat of sauce, your cheese and toppings.  Put it back in the oven and watch through the window as the cheese melts.  When the cheese is melted you’re ready to go.

Take it out of the oven and cut it up (a decent Pizza slicer costs about $5) and serve it to your admiring friends.

Enjoy accolades and fend off friend requests from unknown coeds.

The Standing Rib (or Prime Rib) Roast… (so easy it’s funny!)

We all love that moment when the Prime Rib roast comes out to the table to be carved.  To any carnivore (and I suspect to many vegetarians) the sight of this holiday roast is enough to make your mouth water.  To the uninitiated these roasts look like they would be hard to prepare.  The fact is that they are among the easiest things to cook for any occasion.  All you need is a roast (Bone in Rib Roast, Large or Small End – but small end is more tender), some salt and pepper and a little olive oil.

Image

I learned a great technique for cooking these a few years ago from Alton Brown on the Food Network.  (I used to LOVE his show and I really miss it).  Most recipes tell you to salt and pepper the roast and then put it into an oven that is preheated to 450 – 500 degrees, dropping the temperature to 350 when you put the roast in.  While this technique is fine, I’ve found that your roast will shrink dramatically due to fat loss.  Fat is flavor and I’d rather not lose it and Alton’s technique works so much better that it is the only technique I use now.

Note in the picture above that the oven temperature is set to 220.  I put the roast in the oven in the morning or early afternoon with the oven at 220 and I let it cook “low and slow” to an internal temperature of 140 degrees for medium rare.  Cooking it this way gives the internal “tough bits” a lot longer to break down and it also brings the roast out of the oven at more or less the same size as when it goes in.  Also, you don’t need to get the roast out of the oven before it comes up to temperature as the temp will only rise a degree or two after bringing it out.  (all pieces of meat will continue to increase in temperature for a few minutes after you remove them from the heat – the hotter the heat source, the more this will happen).

Lastly, cook the rib as I have it in the picture above, with the bones on top.  This protects the loin (lean) portion of the meat and causes the juices from around the bones to run down through the roast while it cooks.

Image

A thermometer such as the one shown above is a handy tool.  When you remove the roast from the oven let it cool before removing the probe (which I insert about an inch above the bones.)

To carve the roast, simply cut the bones off (together – and save them to make barbecue ribs, YUM!) and then slice the roast as you’ve seen a million times at buffets.  Enjoy, and don’t tell your friends how easy this is.

Variations on a Theme. Simple Sauces for Simple Pasta

Let’s face it.  The Simple Pasta recipe in the previous post will satisfy hunger, but the point of this blog is to teach young men to cook (well, young men of any age) in a way that will woo women.  These variations remain simple, but they add complexity and a touch of flare to the dishes you’ll be preparing and it is in these flourishes that one crosses an important bridge between just a workaday cook and something more elegant than that.  Beware, once you start playing with these variations you will find that the average restaurant pastas are much less mystical.

Still simple.  Just more interesting.  All of these pastas start with the Simple recipe in the previous post, with one small variation.  Instead of using the full 1/4 of olive oil use about half that amountThey also all simply build on each other so this as about as simple as simple can be.  (just trying to see how many times I can type simple without being silly – probably done now).

Garlic and Olive Oil, Aglio Olio if you want to be fancy.  (hint – you do!)

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic (from a relatively fresh jar is fine)
  • 1 Tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of dried italian herbs

Preparation:

While your Simple Pasta is in the boiling water, add three to four tablespoons of EV Olive Oil to a small frying pan (an omelet pan will do) on medium low heat. Note.  Medium low heat.  not high heat.  Low heat.  The whole idea behind making this very simple sauce is that you are flavoring the olive oil with the garlic so you want to go low and slow.  Otherwise you’ll end up flavoring the olive oil with burned garlic.

Add the garlic to the olive oil while it is still cool.  Give it a simple stir and leave it but watch to make sure the garlic isn’t browning too much.  (which is how you know it’s burned – burned garlic is bitter, not good).

Add the red pepper flakes to the olive oil and give it another simple stir.

Once your pasta is done and you’ve added the ingredients in the simple sauce to the pot simply pour this olive oil & garlic into the pot and stir it to combine.  Serve with parmesan cheese.  Enjoy the adulation of your companions.

Sun Dried Tomato, Fennel

Sun dried tomatoes provide a deep, “caramelly” tomato flavor to a dish.  Fennel has the flavor of black licorice and adds a sweet depth to the flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Bottle (provided you bought one of the small bottles in the store) julienned sun dried tomatoes.  If you weren’t paying attention and you bought whole sundried tomatoes just cut them in strips and they will be Julienned.  (which just means cut in strips).
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds.

Preparation

Simply add the sun dried tomatoes and the fennel seeds to the aglio olio above while it is simmering away.  (simmering just means cooking over very low heat).  Finish the pasta in the same way by simply dumping this into the pot and stirring it in.

Chicken or Sausage

It seems strange to think that you could just add a meat, like a chicken or sausage to this and it would be fine, but in reality that is exactly the case.  You can add this either to the sauce with the Sun Dried Tomatoes and Fennel, or you can simply add it to the Aglio Olio it’s up to you.

In either case, check to see if you need to add a little extra olive oil and butter to the sauce base as proteins tend to absorb these quickly.

Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 Package Chicken Tenders cut into bite sized chunks or 2 boneless skinless breasts (thawed if frozen) cut into bite sized chunks.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • McKormick Poultry Seasoning (if available – if you don’t have it just go with salt and pepper)
  • Olive Oil (not EV) or Grapeseed Oil for sauteeing.

Preparation

Heat a medium or large frying pan to hot and add about 2 Tbs of the olive oil.  Immediately add the chicken.  Turn until just beginning to brown.  Remove and toss into pasta, reserving any amount you wish for leftovers.  (there may be too much for the pasta).

Sausage

1 package italian sausage.

With a sharp knife, remove the skins from the sausage.  (cut a thin line lengthwise and it will simply peel off).  Heat a medium to large frying pan to hot and add the sausage.  Break up the sausage while it is cooking.  Reserve about half of the cooked sausage.  Toss the remainder with the cooked Pasta.

I guess the point is, within reason, use your imagination.  Want to add peas?  Add peas.  Don’t add a whole package unless you really like them.  Like fresh tomatoes?  Toss some in.  Want to add a little cream?  Add it at the end over a low flame and stir until the pasta is hot to the touch.  Remove from the flame and you’ll have a nice touch of creaminess.

At any rate.  You are now already on your way to being a bonafide chick magnet.  That’s worth a day’s work, right?

Simple Pasta. First basic recipe for college guys.

Pasta for Starters.  (this post is for beginning cooks.  Preferably college aged boys in dorms in Boston but really for anyone who wants to just make a good, basic pasta without using a jar of Spaghetti Sauce).

There are really only two tricks when you’re cooking pasta. 

  1. Make sure the water is at a rolling boil when you put the noodles in and that you stir the pasta pretty consistently through the first few minutes to make sure it doesn’t stick together.
  2. Cook it for the right length of time.  While there are many comical ways to do this, I think the best way is simply to taste it.

Once you’ve made a pot of pasta the next step is to dress it.  This can be as simple as dumping in your favorite spaghetti sauce and it can be equally simple to do it yourself.

Here then, is Jim’s fool proof method for simple weeknight pasta (with lots of leftovers).

Ingredients:

  • One Bag or Box of Pasta of Choice
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Plus a drizzle for the pot of water.
  • 3 TBS Butter (tablespoons – just look at the markings on the outside of the stick)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Italian Herb Mix
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Parmesan Cheese (for garnish)

Fill a large stockpot to about 3” below the rim and bring it to a rolling boil.  Once the water is boiling add two to three healthy pinches of salt and a splash of olive oil.  While the olive oil may help to keep the pasta from sticking it’s mainly there for flavor, as is the salt.  The only way to keep the pasta from sticking to itself is to stir.

Once the water is ready (and boiling furiously away) add the pasta to the water.  If you’re working with a string pasta (spaghetti, linguini, cappellini, etc., the noodles may stick out over the water.  Not to worry.  In a few seconds the bottoms of the noodles will soften enough to let the pasta slide in.

As a rule, I stir the pot while I’m adding the pasta and for another 15 seconds or so after.  Then I come back after about a minute and stir it again. I want to see the pasta pieces moving freely and not stuck together.  Then you can leave it alone for a few more minutes while it cooks.

Almost any pasta box will have cooking instructions telling you approximately how long to cook the pasta.  These are not laws such as gravity, they are rules of thumb.  They’ll get you close, but you need to be vigilant starting about 1 minute before and to about one minute after the time on the box.  When cooked properly the pasta should be softened, not chewy, but it should still require you to bite down a little to get through it.  Al Dente is the term.  Literally translated, “to the tooth.”  This means that perfect pasta requires a little bit of tooth to eat.  It doesn’t turn to mush in your mouth and it doesn’t require a lot of chewing.

Reserve one cup (measuring cup) of the pasta water for use in your sauce and drain the rest of the pasta through a strainer in the sink.  Don’t worry about shaking out every last drop of water.  Pour the strained pasta back in the pot.  (Now – there are pasta purists who will tell you you should rinse it at this point.  If you’re making a salad, by all means, rinse away, but if you’re making pasta to eat – like – now, then don’t worry about rinsing it.  I don’t rinse it because I don’t want to cool it).

Once you have the pasta done you’re ready to sauce it.  Here’s my favorite, very simple sauce. 

To the finished pasta add 1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 TBS butter, 1/2 teaspoon dried italian herb mix, two healthy pinches of salt and several grinds from your pepper mill.  Then pour in about half of the reserved pasta water.  Stir to combine.  Serve warm with Parmesan Cheese.  You’ll never use a bottled sauce again.

It’s hard to believe it could be that simple!

Tomorrow I will post a series of variations on this theme.  The point though is that you can make this pasta quickly and easily with just a few things that you have around the kitchen.  The leftovers will last at least a week (Under refrigeration) and you can warm them up in the microwave.

 

Time to get cooking.