For Round Two of the Secret Recipe Club I was assigned Fried Ice and Donut Holes, a blog written by Melissa, who is a teacher by day and cook/baker by night. She is a frequent participant in the recipe swaps I host, so I was very excited to take a closer look at her blog as part of SRC.
It's a huge understatement to say I had a tough time picking a recipe to make. I had written down 20 choices before I got through the last six months of recipes. Melissa and I have similar tastes when it comes to cooking, which made narrowing the choice down even harder. In the end I decided to make a recipe I've been seeing on a few of my favorite blogs lately - Tuscan Garlic Chicken. It has everything I like in a recipe - cream sauce (not healthy, but this one is mostly milk), chicken, spinach and pasta. I couldn't wait to make it.
When I put the plate in front of him, SP said it looked like something you'd get at a restaurant. I really enjoyed this, but we both felt the cream sauce was a little too light. I know we're both spoiled by unhealthy sauces made with heavy cream or even half and half, so next time I'll make this one with a bit more of an even split between milk and half and half for some extra body. I think it needs more garlic because I found myself wanting that flavor to come through a bit more. I think I'd like it more with tomatoes instead of red pepper, just because I'm not a big fan of peppers. Otherwise it was a great dish. I've made my changes in the recipe below.
Tuscan Garlic Chicken
Very Slightly Modified from Fried Ice and Donut Holes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
5-7 cloves garlic, grated
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
6 oz fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
1 lb spaghetti, fettuccine or linguine
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a shallow pie plate or similar dish, combine the flour, salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Dip each chicken piece in the flour mixture until both sides are well coated.
In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until the oil is hot and shimmering. Carefully place the chicken breasts in the pan, cooking them for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden and browned but not cooked all the way through. Remove the chicken to a foil-lined, lightly greased baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside and tent with foil until ready to use.
While the chicken is cooking, heat a large pot of water to a boil and add the noodles, cooking until al dente. Also, wipe out the skillet with a couple paper towels and return it to medium heat, adding the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and bell pepper, sauteing for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in one tablespoon flour and stir constantly while cooking for another minute. Add the chicken broth to the skillet and bring the mixture to a low simmer, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. In a small liquid measure, whisk together the cornstarch and cream. Add the spinach, milk and cream mixture to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted and sauce is slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with half of the cheese sauce. Place some of the coated pasta on each plate. Top with a breaded chicken breast and spoon some of the sauce over the top of the chicken and pasta. Serve immediately.