Wednesday, February 3, 2010

OMG a Recipe: Chicken Puttanesca, Making Good Girls Go Bad

Why do only the naughty ladies of the night get to enjoy a puttanesca sauce? The story behind pasta puttanesca is that it was a simple-to-make sauce comprised of pantry staples, supposedly made by prostitutes between their clients' visits, because of its quick preparation time and inexpensive ingredients. If this is true, I must say the working girls of Italy knew their business because it's a delicious combination of flavors that makes a good girl wanna go bad. Well, not totally bad -- this version of puttanesca has the sauce made with chicken, served over a bed of roasted cauliflower puree; probably a little more involved than the original recipe. We'll just call this one the Heidi Fleiss of Chicken Puttanesca.

So delicious, this dish doesn't need to charge by the hour - Photo by Wasabi Prime

The obvious question is: where's the heck's the pasta? We are still the annoyingly reduced-carb couple, Mr. Wasabi and I. We indulge in bready, pasta goodness once in a while, more as a treat, but if nothing else, I will say this way of eating has made a more resourceful cook out of me. I could have made this dish more traditional and made a bed of polenta for the chicken to sit upon, but a puree of cauliflower seemed a more carb-conscious choice, plus I had been looking for a reason to be creative with cauliflower.

Cauliflower - not as boring as you'd think - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Cauliflower can often be overlooked, which is a shame, as it's a versatile ingredient, roasts up nicely with a nutty finish, and can be a less starchy and more vitamin-rich alternative to a potato. It's also wicked-cheap at the grocery store and keeps for a while in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. For the side dish, I removed the green stems of two heads of cauliflower and cut everything down into small, relatively equal-sized pieces, and tossed with oil and herbed salt so they would roast evenly in the oven. A couple of garlic cloves were also added, so they could caramelize. Once softened and slightly browned, everything was promptly buzzed down with some milk and shredded asiago cheese in a blender. It was easier to keep the consistency loose, so the blender could churn through everything and pour smoothly into the plates.

Do not fear the anchovy -- they come in peace. And small pieces. - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Yes, there's anchovies in this. Don't be scared. They won't bite, I promise. I was given a little jar of Crown Prince anchovies by a friend, and these little guys really do add a savory, rich flavor to things, whether it's in sauces or something as basic as a chicken Caesar salad. The wee bitty filets, chopped up small, literally melt into the sauce, giving it a salty richness that's not at all fishy if you're just adding one. Puttanesca sauce traditionally includes these, capers, chopped olives, garlic and tomatoes. It makes for a perfect pantry/MacGyver meal, as much of these items are available in most cupboards.

As for the chicken, breast meat was split lengthwise and pounded flat into paillards, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, seared in the pan with some butter. Once browned, the chicken was removed and the pan was deglazed by the making of the puttanesca sauce, giving this the one-pan meal gold star of approval. The chicken was added back in once the sauce was reduced, so that it could absorb the sauce's heavy flavor.

For the sake of food blogging, the cauliflower puree was poured into an artful little pool and the chicken and sauce was layered on top, with a final sprinkle of chopped parsley and asiago cheese. I guarantee it doesn't need much fussing, as the first tasting of this in an artful plating was just as rich and delicious as when it was eaten as a leftover out of some Tupperware. This dish could easily be modified with using pasta instead of the cauliflower puree, but if you have a chance to make this side dish, you'll find it's creamy, delicious rewards are definitely worth the preparation time.

Nice Girls' Chicken Puttanesca
(serves 4 on its own, 6 if you have the cauliflower puree)

2 chicken breasts, split lengthwise and pounded flat, cut into 6 small pieces
2 14.5 oz cans of chopped stewed tomatoes
1 cup of chopped kalamata olives, pits removed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons capers, chopped
1 whole anchovy fillet, minced
1 tablespoon of butter for browning chicken
salt and pepper for seasoning chicken
minced parsley for garnish
1/4 to a 1/2 cup of shredded asiago or parmesan cheese to finish

Heat a large pan on medium high over stove and melt butter. Sprinkle each flattened piece of chicken breast with salt and pepper, and cook in batches, browning each side of the chicken until mostly done. Set the chicken aside, lower the heat of the burner to medium, and add the cans of chopped tomatoes to deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up the brown bits. Let the heat reduce the liquid of the tomatoes down for five to ten minutes and add in the chopped olives and minced garlic and anchovy fillet. Stir the sauce for several minutes, letting the liquid continue to reduce. When the sauce is thickened, add the chicken back in, nestling it into the sauce, and let it sit on a low temperature for a few minutes to let flavors combine. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese and parsley before serving.

Creamy Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Puree
(serves 6 as a side dish)

2 heads of cauliflower, stems removed, and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tblsp of olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper to flavor cauliflower
2 cloves of garlic (more if you want to keep the vampires away)

1 1/2 cup warmed milk (skim is fine, but whole milk is better)
1 cup shredded asiago cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss garlic cloves and cauliflower pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread out onto two baking sheets. Place in oven and check every few minutes to make sure oil is not burning. After fifteen minutes, remove the trays of cauliflower and toss pieces to get an even browning on the pieces. Place back in oven for another ten to fifteen minutes. When the cauliflower and garlic are fork-tender, remove from oven.

Use a blender to slowly puree the hot cauliflower and garlic in batches. Drizzle in the warmed milk to help the blender go through the roasted vegetables. Be patient, it may take a few minutes. Add in the shredded cheese in batches so everything blends together and the cheese has a chance to melt down. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste; the cheese is salty, so it may not need much seasoning. The finished mixture should have the consistency of a thick cake batter. Serve as a side dish, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

So delicious, you won't miss the pasta! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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  1. Denise, I really love this recipe. This is really great version. I do love pasta but sometimes pasta doesn't like me at all so a flavorful mashed cauliflower is such a great idea. I'm loving them now and they're also cheap here nowadays. How do you make your photos so good even indoors? They're really nice.

  2. This is a wonderful recipe indeed. I love mashed cauliflower too (although hubby isn't fond of the "pretend" mashed potatoes, mostly because they are not potatoes). I have never thought to roast it before, I can only imagine the complex flavors going on! I was planning on making polenta tonight, but might instead go find some cauliflower to use as my base for some braised lamb shanks!

  3. Sounds wonderful with cauliflower, great idea!

  4. Great dish! love all the ingredients!

  5. I love this. You're a genius. Even if you are a little naughty!

  6. The cauliflower puree is a really nice variation on the classic pasta dish. I think Heidi Fleiss would definitely approve of this one....I bet even Charlie Sheen would give it a thumbs up!

  7. nicely done! i never really use cauliflower in much of my cooking. i guess i need to find better recipes, like this one!

  8. Very nice. I'm not afraid of no anchovies--especially in a spicy little tomato sauce! I am afraid of life without pasta though. Can't get on board with that.

  9. Great post--loved your first paragraph! And the addition of cauliflower is perfect!

  10. I am here because Eric Rivera said you were great and he's right. He's quite often very right about quite a lot. But if that were not enough to lure me in and keep me here. You paid honor to (and defended the virtue of) the beloved anchovy. People who don't like anchovies are just plain stupid! Oops did I say that out loud? I am always doing that! GREG

  11. Awesome! You know I'm a cauliflower-lovin' fool, so I'm all over this one!



  12. I love cauliflower especially when you pan roasted it a bit. It has a good flavor. Also love the anchovies:) Stinky but yummy. This is a great low carb dish! Oh btw those Italian prostitutes were great cooks. :)

  13. Thanks for the recipe and interesting history, it sounds great.

  14. Boom! Again you inspire us with your posts. I just ate and I'm already thinking about dinner now after reading this. Great photos Wasabi.


  15. Ah, anchovies...I've been wondering whether I should buy a jar, and now this recipe has got me convinced!
    I do miss the carbs...but the cauliflower is a great idea!

  16. This is awesome - I had no idea what puttanesca was, and you summed it all up for me in one go, with the photos and recipe to boot. Outstanding post, Prime.

  17. I am so excited to try this cauliflower recipe!

  18. Being one of those on the all carb diet, I would grab a nice piece of crusty garlic bread to slop that puree up. Looks So Good.

  19. wow what a delight, this recipe definitely I have to provide my wife will go crazy when they see, with this meal again we all good to bad and back again, thanks for sharing the recipe with everyone.

  20. To eat chicken frequently can help you a lot because this meat contain many protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins portasio and its flavor is very pleasant to the palate. I particulary like to prepare the chicken with some souce or simply fried is delicous.I love and i eat it very often. and it isn´t heavy for the stomach too. So if you are doing some diet, to eat chicken is a great alternative.

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