Two things to talk about today. I’ve started to use “cooked chicken breasts” as an ingredient and I’m not sure if some of you find that annoying. My most used method for cooking chicken that I’ll add to soups, pastas or pilafs is probably not what you think. It’s the microwave! If you’re not doing this yet, you should start. I taught a microwave unit at the high school and the students HATED cooking meat in the microwave – they thought it was weird. Well I found it weird that they didn’t wear coats in 20 degree weather and that they couldn’t walk in front of my classroom mirror without primping (boys included). It’s not weird, it’s the fastest and easiest way to take chicken from raw to cooked. It’s not rubbery, it’s just cooked. Now it won’t brown, but in cases like this that doesn’t matter. Just put it on a plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and microwave for about four minutes. Turn it over, salt and pepper, and cook again for about three minutes. If any part of the meat is slightly pink when you go to chop, just put those parts back in for about a minute, till white throughout. Easy!
The second thing I want to talk about is the pitfalls that lie in even the most well-written recipe; you could be unhappy with the final result and blame the author (when really, it’s your fault). The best way to avoid this is to taste as you go. This meal has several different parts, and for the end result to taste great each subsequent part will have to taste great. When you make your pesto, taste it! It should be a bit salty; that way when it’s dispersed throughout the dish it will be the right amount of flavor. The tomatoes should taste great eaten on their own – the pasta should have a nice pasta-y flavor, thanks to the salted water, and the chicken should have been salted and peppered enough that it tastes okay in it’s own right. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?
Lastly – people have asked how I get the blog cooking done with two kids. If nap time doesn’t work, then I just let them do what they want, like take all the dish towels out and stand on his motorcycle.
Rotini with Broccoli Pesto, Chicken and Blistered Tomatoes
1 bunch broccoli (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into florets
1 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tbsp. toasted almonds
2 cloves garlic
1/3 c. parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/3 c. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 pints cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt and pepper
1 lb. pasta (regular, whole wheat or gluten free)
2 cooked chicken breasts, sprinkled with salt and pepper, chopped
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 tsp. salt. Add broccoli and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon onto plate to cool slightly.
2. Bring water back to a boil and add pasta – cook as designated on the box.
3. Meanwhile, combine broccoli, parsley, almonds, garlic, cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper in food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until smooth.
4. Heat oven to broil and line a baking sheet with foil. Toss tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper (about 1/4 tsp. each). Broil until beginning to turn brown and black, stirring once or twice.
5. Reserve 1 c. cooking water and drain pasta. Return to pot and add pesto and chicken. Stir to combine, adding pasta water to thin sauce to desired consistency.
6. Plate pasta and divide tomatoes between plates. Top with more cheese and serve.