20 May 2011

get rich quick

What's a girl to do when her husband comes home a soaking wet mess craving something warm and homemade and rich?  Well, you experiment with whatever you can find in the fridge, that's what you do!  Fortunately for Mr., we always have a pretty well stocked fridge.  Unfortunately, he wanted some meaty protein and all of that was frozen.  But fear not!  I whipped up a meal in thirty minutes that hit the spot so hard that he proclaimed 'this is effing delicious!'  Here's how it was done - 

First, I pulled some chicken tenders out of the freezer.  Now I know people say that it can be really dangerous to defrost your chicken by running it under water, but I'm a risk taker and hubby wanted meat, so meat he was going to get.  Thankfully, chicken tenders defrost pretty quickly and once they were wrapped up really well, I just set them in the sink while I did the dishes.  Defrosted!  Then, I opened the pantry and pulled out a box of penne (I think this may have been the first time that the Mr. requested pasta and I was all for it since pasta is pretty much a meal in and of itself.)  There happened to be a can of chopped tomatoes next to the box... tada, instant meal!  Just kidding, we're discussing one of my meals here so it could never be that simple.  I also grabbed the pine nuts, salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic.  The counter was getting crowded and our bellies were starting to grumble.  Off to the refrigerator...

Here, I pulled out heavy cream (finally found a use for it other than endless amounts of whipped cream,) fresh mozzarella, a chunk of parmesan, a chunk of ricotta insalata, spinach, pesto, and capers.  Back to the freezer to pull out a few slices of breaded eggplant that my mama buys for me in super-bulk at Sam's Club.  Frozen eggplant is definitely a staple in our home because we both love eggplant so much and it's really nice to have it all ready to cook up, plus you can get away with making it crispy in the oven instead of having to fry it; you know, in case you care about being healthy.  Now back to the heavy cream...

I got everything started at the same time: the eggplant in the oven, the water heating up for the pasta, and another pan heating up for everything else.  A little oil, s&p, and chopped garlic in the pan and then I added the chicken, cut into small pieces.  After letting it cook so that it just about started to brown, I added the cream, grated parmesan, chopped mozzarella and then brought it to a simmer so it started to get thick, like my own little alfredo sauce.  By now, the pasta had gone into the water and the eggplant was nearing crisp perfection so I added all the other stuff to my simmering sauce, all but the spinach because I didn't want it to get too wilty.  Once the pasta was done, I drained it almost completely and tossed it into the pan with the sauce.  I think I learned that trick from Lidia or Giada, to always save some of the pasta water because it's all starchy and helps to thicken up sauces.  Brilliant!  Well, then I turned the heat down and added the spinach until it got just wilty enough.  Meanwhile, I chopped up the crispy eggplant and tossed it in with the rest of the mess in the pan and turned the heat totally off, scooped it into some bowls, topped it off with cheese and voila!  Rich, warm and creamy supper in as much time as it took the Mr. to clean his soggy self up.  And it truly was effing delicious if I do say so myself. 

Since this was a mess of thrown together foods and was totally done to taste, there isn't really a recipe for me to share, but I'll attempt one anyway so long as y'all help me come up with an appropriate name for it.

nameless yummy pasta with deliciousness
2 c penne
5 boneless skinless chicken tenders, cut to bite-size pieces
2 c heavy cream
1 c shredded parmesan 
1/4 c chopped fresh mozzarella
1/4 c chopped ricotta insalata 
1 tbsp basil pesto
1 tsp capers
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well
4 heaping handfuls fresh spinach
5 slices breaded eggplant
salt, pepper & olive oil to taste
1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Place your eggplant slices on foil and put in the oven on broil so they finish cooking the same time as everything else.  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil, s&p, and garlic then place chunks of chicken in and allow to cook thoroughly.  Add the heavy cream, cheeses and pesto bringing to a simmer. 
2. Let simmer for about 10 minutes while you start cooking your pasta (the water should be boiling now) and turn your eggplant.  Add capers, pine nuts and tomatoes to the simmering sauce, stirring frequently so the cheese doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat and allow to cook until pasta is al dente and eggplant is crispy (about 8-10 minutes.) 
3. Almost completely drain the cooked pasta, reserving about 1-2 tbsp cooking water and toss into the sauce mix.  Add spinach and stir until it starts to wilt and then turn off the heat.  Remove eggplant slices from the oven and cut into bite-size pieces, toss gently with pasta and sauce.  Serve with fresh grated pecorino romano and enjoy.  Moltobene! 

I don't want to be a jinx, but it looks like the rain has finally decided to take a break.  However, this meal was a perfect way to warm up after being out in thunderstorms all day, for the past fifty days.  And it only takes about 30 minutes start to finish so you have plenty of time to relax with you fully belly after supper. 

But now that the sun is shining I can start to think of more warm weather foods like BBQ and ice cream and fish tacos and, my all-time favorite, the HOT DOG!  And many many thanks to my gal Dana for hooking me up with the Food Network magazine devoted to Summertime grilling.  I don't have cable which unfortunately means that I don't have the Food Network.  But now that I know they have their own magazine, it's kind of like I have all the shows in a readable format which, as a librarian, I love.  You've got to check out their insanely delicious looking spread on condiments and international hot dog toppings!  These just make me yearn for a backyard and a grill.  One of these days...

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