Pasta with Chicken and Mushrooms

DSCF7733 (640x427)And now, I’m eating like a pauper. My body sometimes can’t take the transformations by resorting to quick pizza slices (Vegan) and sandwiches (Turkey) while I’m out or just before my training. I’ve kept dimsum at bay, and the rich, creamy, spicy and buttery Indian muttons and the heavy Chinese soy and bean sauces only for serious celebrations.  From having a luxurious cut of beef or porkloin, I was moved down to a diminutive slice of chicken breast, a bunch of greens and a small heap of pasta; unfathomable! I had never thought I would switch to this diet, and I was caught off-guard.

I encountered this dish in a steakhouse last summer when a former HS classmate visited Toronto. We went to a steakhouse, and as American as he was, went for a good old fashioned cut of steak and nachos. I’ve had several encounters with steakhouses here in the city and seeing another cut makes me avoid it all the more; moreso now with the health scare. I’ve had done pub style nachos  a long time ago and wouldn’t or can’t even touch one.  Extreme exhaustion also got the best of me; coming from work and travelling  farther up north to the suburbs to meet him was menacing. Nevertheless, it had to happen. It had been close to 25 years since we had seen each other, thus, I didn’t really mind the long travel.  So, to bring my nerves down and put me on a relaxing mode, I resorted to a lighter meal and a bottle of beer instead.

This is my rendition of that dish.  It was originally cooked with Portobello mushrooms. I used regular white mushrooms and whole wheat pasta for a healthier alternative. Mushrooms are always on sale in the oriental store and I can never go wrong by adding either herbs, a pinch of salt & pepper or wine with any kind of mushrooms. The pasta is given; tomato, pesto or even with just a drizzle of an expensive olive oil does wonders. The end product almost always tastes delicious.

I marinated the chicken breast to my liking; heavy on Pimenton and honey. The one I had was tad bland, and just had a hint of wine.  I couldn’t remember though if it was seared or grilled. My former HS classmates stared at me when I turned the dish up and about and even around.  Told them it was work related.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breast
  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti
  • Olive oil
  • Whiskey
  • Mushrooms, quartered
  • Garlic, minced to a paste
  • Onions, chopped
  • Pimenton Dulce (or Paprika)
  • Honey
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Truffle Salt
  • Condensed milk
  • Compound butter
  • Parmesan (condiment)

Chicken Marinade:

  • Pimenton Dulce
  • Honey
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Garlic

Marinate the chicken breast overnight. Pre-heat a sauté pan and sear the breast on both sides. Transfer to a roasting pan and finish off in a medium-high 350’C pre-heated oven ( really depends how big the breast is).

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Add a little more olive oil and sauté the onion and mushrooms.  Deglaze with whiskey and add a little chicken stock (or pasta water) to form a pan-sauce. Scoop a little minced garlic into the pan.

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Meanwhile, cook some spaghetti based on box instructions. Remove and set aside. Save some pasta water for the sauce.

Add the pasta (and water) and continue sautéing. Add a small amount of compound butter into the pan and finish off with condensed milk (or cream). Season to taste. Remove the chicken breast from the oven and let it rest, tinted (save the drippings to be added  into the pan-sauce).

Scoop the pasta into a dish and set the chicken atop the plate. Sprinkle with Truffle salt, and garnish with slivers of green onion.

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Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

DSCF7019 (640x426)I have been reading about American Chefs who found themselves working in kitchens out of necessity.  There was something or someone who took them to that enclave and from there blossomed and prospered their craft.  If there’s one characteristic about these chefs that amazed me, it was their sheer enjoyment in preparing food and making people happy.  Being in a hot, professional kitchen is hard living in itself and smiling and exuding happiness in that environment is a difficult undertaking and a major effort specially on a busy service.

I’ve never encountered ‘smiling’ faces in the previous kitchens I worked in. There were sneers and curses most often times, and I don’t blame them.   Life in the kitchen is ethereal. There are no weekends or holidays, and working hours are long. While everybody is out and having their ordinary routines done, cooks slave their way to get through the weekend to be over and done with.  It’s a massacre waiting to happen and delaying the fact that it would happen sooner or later only prolongs the agony.  I’m not sure if I’d ever be in this situation; long hours, nights, nights or days that seems endless.  Life has somehow caught up on me and I believe there maybe other avenues I can pursuit related to food. It’s out there, and like the American Chefs, someone, something or some uneventful turn of events can stir the ship to another course.

I bumped into this classical pasta dish when I was so engrossed reading about the lives of these American Chefs.  It’s a very simple dish to make, and I had the major ingredients in my fridge.  I had thought of giving it a hand several days ago and was not at all disappointed. I added some extras to make it my own.

Ingredients:DSCF7016 (640x511)

  • Spaghetti (I used Spaghettoni)
  • Fresh Roma Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • Tomato Puree
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Anchovy Paste
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Rosemary
  • Crushed Chilis
  • Lemon juice
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Parmesan Cheese or Romano Cheese
  • Truffle Oil (Optional)

Start a pot of boiling water and cook the spaghetti noodles based on the instructions in the box.

Heat the olive oil in a hot saute pan and start sauteing the garlic.  Squeeze some anchovy paste when the garlic becomes aromatic.  Add the Roma Tomatoes, herbs, capers and olives and stir continuously.

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Pull out the Spaghetti noodles from the boiling water and dump everything in the saute pan. Continue stirring, and pour the tomato puree in; enough to coat all the noodles. Add more if necessary.   Sprinkle some breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce,squeeze some lemon juice, add some grated cheese, and drizzle with Truffle oil or Olive oil before serving.

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Tagliatelle Bolognese

Let’s face it. Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is probably one of the most popular types of Spaghetti ‘brand’ around. It’s almost always in kids and adults’ birthday parties. Ask yourselves if it weren’t true. It has become a tradition as eating Pancit or Lechon.  Furthermore, it’s in the menus of many if not all fastfood chains in Asia; but I strongly think it’s only in Asia.  I don’t understand the idea of mixing ham and hotdog though with the ground beef and sweetening it up for the Filipino Palate.  Anyway, if I had remembered correctly, when I opened a container of Spaghetti in one of these fastfood chains, I saw and tasted a sweet and diluted tomato ‘sauce’ and probably a teaspoon of very fine to mashed ‘ground meat’ somewhere.  However, that was more than a decade or so ago and recipe changes could have been made for that long a time.  I haven’t really eaten in any of those chains in a very, very long period of time. If I had, I would have just eaten the Fried Chicken and Gravy combo.

Call me a purist, but as a result of this major recipe adjustment in the Philippines, many ‘Spaghetti’ has been measured to this standard when it shouldn’t have been.When I had my mom tasted my tomato sauce, she wondered why it was not sweet. But honestly though, I had no idea how it was prepared until I saw and tasted an authentic Spaghetti and Meat Sauce dish  abroad, and when many other Italian-American inspired restaurants had begun popping out one after another in Manila.  When Food Channels exploded, I assumed everybody was awakened to the reality of many cooking and cooking techniques; Spaghetti or Pasta included. That was a good sign of progress.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is one of the classical dish I’d really love to make for friends alongside Spaghetti & Meatballs. And, I want to eat, taste and see MEAT as it should always have been. However,  I just don’t want to use Spaghetti as my noodles and as commonly practiced,  but would also want to at least venture out with other kinds of pasta available in the market. This brought me to make this classical masterpiece. Before approaching this dish, I had to make some on-line research just to see if what I had in mind was actually was really served out there.  After much thought, I proceeded with preparing and making the recipe.  For health reasons though, I replaced the ground beef with ground chicken. The price on the package was too irresistible to let go, and I somewhat sidelined beef until after the holidays arrive, and honestly, I can’t wait for that.  Summer is just not my season.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 of a box of Tagliatelle Pasta
  • Olive Oil
  • ½ lb of Ground Chicken
  • 1 Italian Mild Sausage
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • ½ White Onion, Diced
  • Fresh Oregano, roughly chopped
  • Dried Oregano
  • Peperoncino (Crushed Chili Flakes)
  • ½ can of San Marzano Italian Type Tomatoes
  • Red wine
  • Cheese: Parmesan/Mozza/Cheddar
  • Salt & Crushed Ground Black Peppercorns
  • Squeeze of Lemon

Blend the can of San Marzano Tomatoes (using a blender) and reduce it by a 1/3 in a sauce pan.

While waiting for it to reduce, remove the casing from the Italian Sausage, and heat a sauté pan with Olive Oil.  Start browning the now grounded Italian Sausage.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

On the same pan, add some Olive Oil and brown the grounded chicken.  Do this step in batches if the pan is not big enough. Make sure to brown the ground meat properly (important).  Once done, remove from the pan and set it aside together with the grounded Italian Sausage.

Add some more oil in the pan if necessary and begin sautéing the onion and garlic.  Once the onion and garlic become aromatic, deglaze the pan with red wine.

Return the cooked ground chicken and Italian sausage back in the pan, stir several times and slowly add some tomato sauce to arrive to the desired consistency.  Season the pot with salt & pepper and with the fresh and dried herbs. Let it simmer for a good 20-30 minutes, depending on how much meat is in the pan. Add some pasta water along the way if the meat sauce becomes too dry.  Squeeze some lemon when it’s about to be done.

Start a pot of heavily salted water and cook the Tagliatelle pasta based on the instructions in the package.

Set the noodles on a plate, top with the meat sauce, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh oregano.

*I omitted Celery & Carrots from the aromatics. Originally, these can be sauted with the onion & garlic.

Pasta in Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

The grocery I usually visit just started renovations to catch-up to the ever increasing and growing supermarket competition. It was about time. The aisles were adjusted to accommodate more shoppers and additional shelves, freezers, and fridge displays were installed in the premises. Now, that’s a plus for a choosy (cheap) shopper like me! The store’s overall shopping experience has been stuck in the 80’s, 70’s even; dark, narrow aisles with nearly empty shelves and very limited choices. There’s another grocer just across my apartment; selling just the necessary and basic stuff, but with the quality and kind of food I look for, it definitely doesn’t make the grade. I go there just for emergencies; things I might have left out during my dedicated afternoon in the grocery, and for bottled water. Moreover, service at the front moves at snail’s pace. I don’t have that luxury nor the patience to wait on long queues. I’ll take my business somewhere else if that’s the case.

The vegetable and fruit counters were replenished with fresher and more vibrant looking colours of the sun and the rainbow which just makes you want to buy more just for nothing else. The grocery also carries a variety of fresh mushrooms which I really love to have whenever I come there. They are also sold by the pound which is more favourable for me knowing that I can’t finish a package of just one kind in a couple of days or so. I can pick-up several of each and cook each one differently from the other. Anyway I took three kinds and while proceeding home, thought of a recipe I do miss.

I’ve always wanted to cook a Spaghetti & Mushroom combination dish without using heavy cream, milk and eggs or making a more potent Bechamel Sauce as commonly practiced and used in many Italian-American recipes. If it were Carbonara, I would indeed load it up since there’s already bacon and bacon fat pan-fried prior to cooking, which by themselves already pack a punch to the belly. I’ve also seen many pouring heavy cream directly into the sauté pan when making this one. I feel that would be too heavy to the bite for just pasta and mushrooms. I came up with this one as a result.

Ingredients:

• Olive Oil
• 1/3 of a box of Spaghetti
• Assorted Mushrooms (White Button, Cremini, Oyster)
• 2% Evaporated Milk (Condensed)
• 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
• Cheese: Parmesan/Mozzarella/Cheddar
• Compound Butter (Garlic, Wine, Onion Powder)
• Salt & Ground Black Pepper
• A Squeeze of Lemon

Optional: Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley/White Wine

Start a pot of heavily salted water and drop the Spaghetti. Follow the instructions indicated on the package for the required time.

Start chopping the mushrooms and mincing the garlic while waiting for the Spaghetti to reach desired doneness.

Heat the sauté pan with Olive oil and butter and stir-fry the garlic until aromatic. Slowly add the mushrooms and toss until cooked. Add some of the pasta water followed by the Spaghetti when done. Stir some more until everything comes together, and pour in the condensed milk until the desired creaminess is reached. Start adding the Mozzarella or Parmesan Cheese, and squeeze some lemon juice to give it a final shine.

Plate and garnish with chopped Italian Parsley and drizzle with Olive oil before serving.

I used chopped green onions as garnish. White wine can be added after sauteing the onion and garlic.

 

 

 

 

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Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Capers & Basil

Busy days are here again. When a heat wave strikes the city, rest-assured, ‘beer gardens’ as what many Filipinos coin them; begin to open the patio sections of their restaurants to accommodate awaiting patrons seeking for the sun outside. Drinking and conversing are the way to go on a hot, summer day here in the city.

Summer here is extremely short, and I’m not sure if I had mentioned before; each weekend or extra weekend thereafter is precious and rigorously planned. In my case, it’s the season I work days and nights and pretty much nothing else. By fall or winter, my schedule becomes less stressful and more manageable. Summer is just crazy; no matter how short or long my shifts would be.

Anyway, work is relatively easy, but with volume that’s about three times as much as the usual, the whole story of the ballgame changes. Moreover, operating hours are longer, following the longer day shorter night pattern, and of course, work demand rises along with it. With almost the same man hours, workload for each one in the line becomes tremendously stressful. This is the basic reason why I really look forward to fall. Kids are back to school and everything becomes normal for those involved in operations.

Since my time has been stretched until late in the evening, my time in my own kitchen diminishes as well. For this basic reason, cooking for myself becomes more of a chore than an enjoyment. And, I really don’t want that to happen. I’d like to sit down, relax and enjoy my food. I avoid fastfood as much as possible. I’d eat a Shawarma every now and then, but that’s about it. I don’t consider fastfood as real food. I don’t understand how North Americans can eat those almost everyday.

To make this happen, I’d be starting a series of easy-to-cook pasta dishes. I just love pasta! It’s simple, straightforward, healthy, and satisfying. I have somehow cut down on my rice intake too, and have switched to a higher protein, more vegetables diet lately. Leaning towards this kind of diet led me to re-think my daily food requirements for the week. This brought me back to Italian Pasta dishes which, somehow, I am re-discovering lately.

Ingredients:
1/3 of a box of Spaghetti
2-3 Pcs. of Ripe Roma Tomatoes, Diced
2-3 Cloves of Garlic, Diced
Capers
Lemon Juice
Dried Basil
Assorted Cheese (Parmesan, Mozzarella & Cheddar)
Salt & Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Optional: Fresh Basil/Anchovies

Start a pot of heavily salted water, and cook the Spaghetti based on the required time indicated in the package. Strain, and set aside about a cup of pasta water.

In a hot pan, start sautéing the garlic in olive oil until aromatic. Add in the Roma Tomatoes, followed by the dried herbs. Continue seasoning while sautéing. Add some pasta water followed by the Spaghetti. Squeeze some lemon juice thereafter

Toss and stir and add the cheese. Set it on a plate. Drizzle with Olive Oil and garnish with fresh basil.

Fresh anchovies can be sautéed with the garlic. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any in the grocery, and I forgot to buy some Fresh Basil.