|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|