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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Recipe of the Month – Hail Caesar

Thursday, July 29, 2010 @ 02:07 PM

ChickenCaesarSaladI have mentioned many times, that during the summer months I tend to crave salads more so than I do in the winter.  Now Adam would argue all I ever want to eat is salad, but honestly that is not true.  I do LOVE salads and their endless possibilities, there is just something so satisfying about them when it is super hot out.  And one salad I have always loved, even since I was young and thought salad to be sort of boring, was a good ol’ Chicken Caesar Salad.  Now I must admit that my palette has expanded, a Caesar is really not all that exciting, but there are times when it is the simplicity of it all that draws me back in, I just know it’s going to be good!  Now when most people, me included, think of a regular Caesar salad, the picture to the left jumps to mind.  Rarely have I had a Caesar salad appear much different than that, I am used to the usual suspects: Romaine Lettuce, Grilled Chicken, Parmesan Cheese, Buttery Croutons, and of course the creamy Caesar dressing.  Given my long time love affair with Caesar salads, it was no wonder this recipe I am featuring this month jumped out to me.  Adam and I happened to catch an episode of Rachael Ray’s Thirty Minute Meals entitled “Old Fave New Flave” one evening and both of us were immediately sucked in.  We sat in awe for the next 1/2 hour watching Rachael create a yummy chicken and pasta dish fully inspired by and with all the flavors of a typical Chicken Caesar Salad.  Let’s just say all the usual suspects were there, but in a very unconventional and intriguing way.  As the show came to a close and she presented the dish we turned to one another and exclaimed, “We have to try that.”  If you have followed us long enough you can probably understand why…a dish inspired by a salad (right up Katie’s alley) and a dish that centers around pasta (umm hello you had Adam at pasta).  Needless to say I was eager to find a time to try and whip up what was actually 2 recipes created to go together, Grilled Chicken with Arugula Pesto and Caesar Spaghetti.   The two recipes together complement one another in flavor and thus create the ultimate Caesar platter.

Grilled Chicken with Arugula Pesto

Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
10 min
Level:
Easy
Serves:
4 servings

 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds or shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup packed fresh arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 small pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast (tenders removed)

Directions

Heat a grill pan to high.

Toast the nuts lightly in small skillet over low heat, then add them to a food processor.

Add the arugula, basil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper, to taste, and pulse to combine.

With the processor on, stream in the extra-virgin olive oil to form thick pesto.

Lightly pound out the chicken, then rub all sides with the pesto. Spray the grill pan with cooking spray or rub with a little oil and grill the chicken 2 to 4 minutes on each side.

Cook’s Note: Serve sliced on top of Caesar Spaghetti or, pile it onto ciabatta bread with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella for an outta-sight sammy.

Source

 

Caesar Spaghetti

Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray

Prep Time:
5 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
15 min
Level:
Easy
Serves:
4 servings

 

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
  • 6 anchovy fillets, drained
  • 4 large cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, eyeball the amount
  • 2 medium heads escarole, washed
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, salt the water. Add the pasta and cook until just shy of al dente, according to package directions.

Heads up: you need to reserve about 1 cup of the starchy cooking water just before draining.

While the pasta is cooking, put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the anchovies and cook until they’ve melted into the oil, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, stir 1 minute then add in Worcestershire. Shred the escarole and add several handfuls at a time, wilting the greens in the garlic oil. Dress the greens with lots of pepper and a little nutmeg, then squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the pan. Add the reserved starchy cooking water to the eggs in a small bowl and beat together to temper them. Turn off the heat and add the drained pasta and the egg mixture. Stir to combine. Add half of the cheese and toss vigorously for 1 minute. Dress the pasta with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and transfer to a serving dish. Pass the remaining cheese at the table.

Source

 

I will something now, one thing I always know going in, even though Rachael is able to pull these elaborate looking meals out in 30 minutes, there is no way I am ever going to.  This is largely due to the fact that I have to read every little detail and amount, not knowing them off the top of my head.  I am also anal about measuring (unlike Rachael), and let’s be honest it takes awhile to cut and prepare all the ingredients you need.  Knowing that the pesto was likely going to take me a bit of time to prepare, I stared with the chicken dish first.  I gathered all the pesto ingredients and prepped them to go into the food processor.

IMG_2253 What happened next seems comical now, but at the time was royally annoying.  I have only used our food processor once before this occasion and thought I knew exactly how to set it back up.  Well either I did something wrong, or it is busted, because it would turn on, but nothing happened.  This caused mild panic and a mess inside the non-working processor, but I realized that the blender could maybe do the same thing.  So into the blender all the ingredients went and after a bit of hard work on its part, we had pesto!

IMG_2254 From there I followed the recipe, pounding out the chicken breast and rubbing the pesto on them.  It seemed as if there was more pesto than I needed, but this could also be because I used fairly small chicken breasts.  I then placed those to the side until I was ready to grill them.  Knowing my tendency to have one dish ready and the rest of the dish a long ways off I figured my best bet was to get the spaghetti 3/4 of the way finished and then put the chicken on.  This may have been a mistake, but we’ll get to that :).

IMG_2256 This is the point of the cooking process when things began to get hectic, because tackling the spaghetti required a lot of steps going on at once, all the while I am trying to read the recipe on my computer next to me and not freak out because there is water overflowing from the boiling spaghetti pot.  And as I began to cook up the sauce that would dress the spaghetti, I began to get overwhelmed.  Luckily it was at that moment that Adam came upstairs and was able to monitor the chicken, which I decided in the midst of the craziness, needed to start cooking, or it might not be done in time.  What started to make me frazzle was that the sauce for the spaghetti itself is actually made up of the many flavors you might find in a typical Caesar salad, which was a lot of measuring and reading, to make sure I was adding the right ingredients at the right time.  This part also involved the “salad” part, which was supposed to be wilting escarole in that mixture.  Well our store did not have escarole, so romaine it was.  Now I have never cooked romaine lettuce and was a bit skeptical that this was even a good idea, but I just decided to go for it and see what would happen. 

 IMG_2260 IMG_2261 IMG_2262

IMG_2266I want to re-iterate that the recipe would typically require escarole, unfortunately typical me decides to research alternatives after I had already bought all the ingredients, and discovered that kale or spinach would have been a better substitute.  One website I found said that romaine would be ok, but looking back I am not sure it had quite the same effect.  It did not break down as much as spinach typically does, but maybe in this recipe it was not supposed to, I will never know :)  So in the meantime, while that “sauce” was simmering, the pasta coming off the stove, and the chicken sizzling away, I separated two eggs and added them to 1 cup of the starchy pasta water to eventually add to the pasta dish itself.  It was then time to assemble…this required adding the lettuce “sauce” mixture and the starchy eggs to the spaghetti noodles and stirring vigorously.  Then 1 cup of Romano cheese was added and more extreme stirring took place.  After a minute or so I as actually quite impressed when I began to see a thicker creamier sauce develop. 

IMG_2265 IMG_2267 IMG_2270 In the end it looked very appetizing, although I was still skeptical at how the cooked romaine would taste, but all in all I was happy that for once a from scratch “sauce” actually did what it was supposed to.  This being unlike the time I attempted Giada’s carbonara recipe, but that is another story for another day (Giada and I just don’t seem to have luck when we work together)!  And when we plated the two recipes together, albeit some minor freak outs and choice words thrown at the pots during the cooking process, I was pleasantly surprised that both dishes were ready about the same time and appeared like this.

IMG_2272I think that looks down right yummy!  And a big thanks to my lovely hubby for stepping in as my sidekick chef/photographer, so we did not end up with burnt chicken or no cooking documentation.  P.S. I love our new dishes because they really photograph so nicely!  All in all this recipe turned out well and was not as hard as I was contemplating.  It also weirdly enough tastes like a Caesar salad would, just in pasta form.

TASTE: I was amazed at the similarities in flavors between what you see above and a Caesar Salad.  All the flavor nuances were there, yet in a more hearty and comforting way.  Adam said he would have liked it better without the romaine (surprise surprise ;)), I actually enjoyed the change in texture, but did find it a little weird cooked.  I think next time I would substitute spinach, since it seems a more likely complement in cooked pasta dishes.  This is case in point why reading the recipe before hand is helpful, knowing I would be cooking the lettuce was a detail I had forgotten and when getting ready to cook all I had was romaine.  It still came out tasting really good though and I think with a few tweaks I would for sure make it again.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Rachael Ray has become uber-successful with her “30-Minute Meals” for a simple fact, they turn out yummy and beautiful and are typically not overly difficult to prepare.  Looking back, although I was struggling a bit, this recipe was not super complex.  I just am challenged when it comes to manning 7 tasks at the same time (i.e. chicken, pasta, and sauce with multiple ingredients cooking at once).  Now having done this once, I have a sense of the steps it takes and would likely be able to churn this out quite a bit faster.  Overall, I am impressed again with how simple yet beautiful a meal this was and will likely be channeling Rachael more frequently once we have more mouths to feed.

COST: We happened to be grocery shopping for a 2 week haul when I bought all of the ingredients for this dish, so I am not sure how much I spent total, but likely a little more than I might on a typical meal.  Nothing we had to buy was necessarily expensive, but this dish required a lot of fresh herbs that I never readily have on hand.  However, as I will explain, this dish made a large amount of food, so if you were cooking it for a dinner party or just good ol’ family dinner, I would say this dish would impress for a lot less!

COMPLEXITY: As I mentioned above, this dish truly is not that complex.  The most labor intensive and ingredient laden parts were the pesto (not hard) and the “sauce” which also was not difficult just needed to be monitored.  What I especially enjoyed was learning why I needed to do something, in this case save some of the starchy pasta water.  I never have understood why that was done, but now understand it helps the sauce congeal a bit better and in this case temper the eggs before just dumping them in.  Overall, I was able to understand and easily duplicate all the parts of the recipe and given the chance again could do so even better.

PORTION SIZE: I need to always remember when creating these dishes that typically serve at least 4 people, that it is just me and Adam eating, and there is going to be a bunch leftover.  Now the chicken dish was not as big of a deal, only 4 chicken breasts were made and we have already eaten the remainders in another dinner.  But I do not typically eat larger portions of pasta, so let’s just say when I made an entire box, there is a big ol’ heap still in the fridge.  Now that is not to say it won’t get eaten, I am lucky to have a man who LOVES leftovers, so most of it should not go to waste.  Which I guess just shows you, Rachael actually prepares meals for people who like to eat and in this case you will have plenty.

Adam and I were pleasantly surprised by this meal and as I mentioned I think with a couple of tweaks, I could definitely put it on our repertoire.  It is a bit more time consuming than I am used to for a typical dinner for us, but I began to learn some interesting additions I could give some of our own pasta dishes.  Overall, I thought it was a great alternative to your basic Caesar Salad, when you are in the mood for some comfort food or something with the same flavor to fill you up a bit more.  So without further adieu I give “Grilled Chicken with Arugala Pesto” and “Caesar Spaghetti”   4 Little Piggies!

pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon

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