Monday, March 26, 2012

3 Cheese Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

During exam week I was really stressed out and decided that on my one night off, I would cook a decadent meal to reward myself for all of my hard work (aaand also to get rid of all the perishables I had in my fridge before I left for break). I had no idea it would turn out this good. I don’t really trust myself when it comes to experimenting because I don’t have a lot of experience with things like seasoning and flavor pairing. Although I must say, I do tend to have skills when it comes to the creamy goodness we sorority girls are supposed to avoid (if I didn’t go to Elon, this would probably be an issue. Thank Themis it’s not!).    

I honestly cannot wait to make this pasta dish again though. I think it was the balsamic vinaigrette that really tied the dish together. I was so proud of myself for not using a recipe too! Usually when I do this it turns out less than satisfactory, hence why I don’t bother posting them on the blog. My sisters tend to make fun of the fact that I use recipes all the time too, but it’s the only way to learn! One day I’ll be able to make delicious stuff up all the time like they do, but for now, the occasional experiment is fine by me!

3 Cheese Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

I know it looks like a ton of ingredients, but you probably already have most or all of it in your kitchen already! I'm also a super nerd and get salads with my meal plan swipes with very specific ingredients so I can cook with them later. The ladies probably think i'm nuts when all I ask for sometimes is spinach and a bunch of extra tomatoes with no dressing. Oh well!

About a 1/3 box Angel hair pasta
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for chicken
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup freshly shredded white American cheese
¼ freshly shredded parmesan cheese
Mushrooms, sliced
About 1/3 – ½ cup Balsamic vinaigrette (I used trader joe’s brand)
4 cloves garlic, minced
About ¼ chopped red onion (optional)
1 cup fresh spinach
1 large chicken breast
1 teaspoon of Garlic powder, plus more for chicken  
Salt and pepper to taste


**Just a warning – I have no idea if my order of operations is the proper way to prepare a dish like this. However, I thought it would be better to tell you exactly how I made it, even if it is a tad unconventional. 

1. Cook the angel hair pasta in a large pot according to the packaging. (I always cook it longer, but that’s just me) – also just a tip, I was watching the food network and I learned that apparently it takes longer for water to boil if you add the salt and pepper right away. Doing so increases the boiling point of the water which means it will take longer to boil. Who knew! (I mean probably a lot of people) but all this time I thought adding salt right away made it boil faster! 

2. Rub salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic powder on both sides of the chicken breast and bake for about 6-8 minutes on both sides at 400˚.

3. In a separate pan, melt the butter and olive oil together with the garlic. Before the garlic has time to brown, add the mushrooms and balsamic vinaigrette. (I kept thinking about Julie and Julia when she says “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!” when I was making these. It’s actually a pretty good tip). When the mushrooms are dark brown and appear tender, place them in a separate bowl to the side. 

4. In that same pan, pour the milk and whisk in the 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir continuously until the milk becomes thick. (I used the same method I learned from the last mac and cheese recipe I made, which according to my mom is traditionally called a béchamel sauce – which made me feel pretty fancy and sophisticated. I made béchamel without even knowing it!) 

5. Pour the cheeses into the sauce and stir until melted and incorporated. Then pour the sauce and the mushrooms on top of the pasta. 

6. In that same pan, sauté the onions and spinach with a touch of olive oil. 

7. Add the spinach and onions to the pasta, sauce and mushrooms and mix it all together with tongs. Season with salt, pepper and a garlic powder to taste. 

8. Slice the chicken lengthwise and place on top of the pasta (or shred and mix in using the tongs. I sliced it for presentation purposes but later I shredded and tossed it because I thought it tasted better fully incorporated into the dish)