As soon as I read Rachel's penne vodka post, I was dying to give the recipe a shot. I LOVE vodka sauce, but the closest I've ever come to making it is dumping a jar of Classico into a pot and heating it up... or just driving to the nearest Italian restaurant and ordering some! When I Twittered about giving the recipe a shot tonight, Rachel encouraged me to post my results... so here goes!
DISCLAIMER: I am decidely, emphatically not a cook. I sort of want to be, but I'm just not. I make a really fantastic apple crisp, pretty decent meatballs, and precious little else of value. I don't have knife skills. I don't have any sort of cooking "intuition". When I attempt a recipe I follow it TO THE LETTER for fear of disaster. So let's just say that Rachel is probably going to read this post and go awwwwww, what a cute effort Kimmers!
And, being fully aware of my cooking abilities (or lack thereof), I am 100% ok with that! So!
Presenting: Rachel's Unbelieveable Penne Vodka with Chicken!
(Sorry for the kinda fuzzy pics, my camera batteries were dead so I used my fiance's phone.)
I came in from grocery shopping and went straight to the kitchen to get the goodness started.
Dunkin immediately let me know that he was on hand for any taste testing opportunities that might arise:
He stayed underfoot throughout the cooking process, but he's so damn cute it's impossible for me to be annoyed with him.
He may or may not have been allowed to sample a piece of chicken at some point. I really can't say.
This is what I had to buy in order to make this meal:
This is what I already had on hand that I was able to use in this recipe:
Naturally, this was step #1 for me:
I don't drink too much these days, and I've never been a big wine drinker, so I picked this wine largely at random, because a) the package store next to us doesn't carry doghouse, which is what Rachel used, and b) I vaguely remembered someone at one time mentioning that they liked Toasted Head. Good enough for me! And honestly, it was absolutely fantastic! I'll definitely enjoy finishing this bottle off, and I'm sure I'll buy another bottle soon.
Throw 2 or 3 thin chicken breasts into a bowl with a noncreamy salad dressing. I chose this one, which smelled so good when I opened it that it almost motivated me to throw together a salad. Almost.
Here it is coating the chicken:
Set that on the counter to marinate. Move on to the next step, chopping up an onion.
Confession time: I have no freaking clue how to "properly" chop an onion. I did what I'm guessing was probably a pretty rough job, and ended up with kinda biggish pieces of onion.
I threw them onto a bigger cutting board and basically just went nuts with the knife, using no skill whatsoever. It wasn't fancy, but the end result was much smaller pieces of onion. Rachel's looked MUCH nicer though!
The end product:
At this point the onion is supposed to go into a pan of heated oilive oil. I suspect I probably used a touch too much olive oil here, but whatever. The goal was about a quarter cup. Rather than measure, I just sloshed the bottle... but it sloshed a little more than expected! Nonetheless.
(I basically included this picture because I love my polka dot spatulas and wanted to get one of them in here!)
Once the onions have cooked a bit, add about two tablespoons of minced garlic. I use the jarred stuff because I can buy a big jar of it and always have it on hand, rather than having to remember to buy fresh when I want to use it.
(In addition to not being a gourmet cook, I'm also not much of a meal planner. Rarely do we have on hand what's needed to make whatever I decide we're having for dinner.)
After letting those simmer away for a while, add about a half cup of your wine to the pan. Let it cook down a bit and then dump in your jar of sauce. I used Emeril's which I hadn't tried before, and it worked really well.
At this point I was supposed to swish about half a cup of water around in the jar and dump it into the pan to add a little extra sauce.
Now add about a quarter cup of sugar, plus two tablespoons each of onion powder and garlic powder. I think I went a little overboard on the sugar... I didn't measure but I'd bet I was closer to half a cup, maybe even a little more. I think I got a little caught up in just tossing stuff into the pan haphazardly! Next time I'd use a little less. And actually measure. Ahem.
Add a few dashes of hot sauce. Stir.
Now it starts to really look like sauce, and smells DELICIOUS.
Add somewhere around half a cup of cream to the sauce. Turn the heat down to low and just kind of ignore the sauce for a while. Stir when it occurs to you.
Now it's time to go find the chicken you stashed somewhere to marinate! Put a pan with some olive oil on medium high heat and cook the chicken for 3ish minutes on each side.
Take the chicken out when it's justbarelyalmostdone and put a lid over it so it can steam the rest of the way to fully cooked. I didn't have a lid raised enough to accomplish this so I had to use the tented tinfoil method, which felt pretty ghetto. Notice how I obsessively scrunched down the tinfoil to trap as much heat as possible under it. I was not at all sure about this "steams the rest of the way" method.
Let me tell you... this was a cooking revelation for me. My chicken almost always comes out a little dry, but tonight it was perfect - completely cooked but moist and delicious. I was really, really happy with the way the chicken turned out. So props to Rachel, I doubted you on this but you were totally right.
Next, obsessively salt a big pot of water and boil your pasta. (I used regular old penne, mostly because the grocery store where I stopped didn't have a whole lot of selection. It worked just fine. Most any kind of pasta would work well in this recipe.)
As firmly directed, I bought and used sea salt. :)
Cook the pasta for about 5 minutes, drain and return it to the pot. Chop up the chicken and dump that and the sauce into the pot. Stir it all together and set it aside.
Lastly, chop some fresh mozzarella. Stir most of it into the pasta mixture. Move the pasta into a large baking pan. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella over the top of the pasta. Stick the pasta in the oven for about 15 minutes, basically just enough time to let the cheese get all melty and delicious.
Serve, eat, and promptly die and go to Heaven. Seriously, it's that good. I don't think I can ever just dump a jar of vodka sauce into a pot again (damn you Rachel). Nick and I both really, really enjoyed this dish and I know I'll make it again soon. It's a really flavorful, satisfying meal, and even the cookig challenged can handle it!
It also gave me an excuse to drink some chardonnay on a lazy Tuesday night at home. It's pretty much a win-win situation.
So now that I'm making the effort to branch out a little in the cooking department - what's your favorite fairly simple, go-to dinner recipe?