Saturday, April 13, 2019

Smoked Chicken Pasta

My Year of Pasta continues. This follows my Year of Tacos, which, in turn, succeeded my Year of Panini. 

I undertake these obsessive cooking binges for a few reasons:

1. I find that I can't cook anything really deliciously until I've worked the category many many times, experimenting with permutations. What can I say; I'm a devotee of John Thorne.

2. I've told this story before: my Dad was a sculptor who dreamed of painting, but felt overwhelmed by color. He had a brainstorm: he'd paint only with prime colors, taking the issue entirely off the table. It was a brilliant idea that I've tried to emulate. So when I felt overwhelmed by the idea of learning to cook (having no interest in souffles or dug-out potatoes or hollandaise sauce), I decided to take most of it off the table. To this day, I can't make roasts or soup or a conventional omelette, and I haven't fried (much less deep-fried) in many years. But what I do make is hyper-delicious.

3. In order to satisfy dish cravings, I go out. When I cook at home, it's strictly about healthy eating, comfort, and whim indulgence. So I don't require versatility, I just need to be really good at making the sort of thing I like to cook and eat. And who doesn't like to eat panini, tacos, and pasta?

Ok! Smoked chicken pasta!

I don't believe in precise recipe quantities. Like "Door Open" buttons on elevators, they're fake-outs, installed solely to let people vent their anxieties. Use your taste! More or less of something will make the result different, not worse (and your result will unavoidably be different from mine, anyway, due to thousands of micro-decisions you'll make differently). Precise recipes are for people with no commitment to sustained iteration (first efforts are like first-batch pancakes).

Leftover sauceless smoked chicken. Leftover is fine, and the smokier the better (this place in Dutchess County will sell you a whole cold smoked bird that works optimally)
Pasta (enough for two)
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small tomato, 3 "cocktail" sized tomatoes or 6 grape tomatoes.
Baby spinach
Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Leftover barbecue sauce (optional)

Boil pasta in enough salted water to cover plus 2 or 3 inches (i.e. much less water than most people use).

Pull chicken meat off bones with your fingers, then chop.

Chop onion and finely-slice garlic cloves.

Grate a small amount of parmesan cheese (mostly for umami; you don't want a cheesy effect).

Thinly slice tomato (easiest with a serrated paring knife or steak knife).

Sautee onion on medium heat with a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Once onions soften, add tomato and garlic. Stir frequently for a minute.

Add chicken. Stir thoroughly then cover. When sizzling resumes, reduce heat a bit and let sit for 2-3 minutes (until hot on bottom and warm on top).

Stir chicken mixture, then cover until heated through (monitor carefully to avoid overdoing it).

Drain pasta when al dente, conserving a few tablespoons of cooking water (which will be thick because you used less of it).

Return pasta to pot, turn heat up to medium, generously drizzle in extra virgin olive oil, dump in cheese and a generous handful of baby spinach. Stir violently in wide churning circles with wooden spoon or spatula until spinach is soft. Turn off heat, add chicken mixture, stirring violently, adding several small splashes (maybe 2 tsp at a time) of pasta water as you go (this is what adds the shimmer to the pasta you see in the photo).

Assuming the chicken came with barbecue sauce, and assuming it's good quality, stir a tablespoon in when you add the chicken mixture. Don't overdo it; you don't want a sweet pungent clobber. This is just to help unite disparate flavors. If you don't have decent barbecue sauce, skip it.

1 comment:

Display Name said...

sounds incredible. Now I need to look at your tacos. The food group I am in puts everything on tacos! I'm still stuck on pizza and having fun. Bova is nearby and I get frozen balls of dough there. Pizza is pretty fun for using up leftovers. I was gonna put some leftover salad on my last pie but my friend cdc ate it before I could. I used to like good quality smoked moz from bova with sliced avocado as a topping but have moved on to finely chopped tomatos and avo. The ricotta from bova is so creamy so I used that a lot too.

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