Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cajun Ranch Chicken Pasta

It’s my first full week on the new job, and of course I came down with a cold on Monday.  On Tuesday, I was planning to have dinner with one of my oldest and best friends who happens to live in Brooklyn (I like to pretend that she followed me from VA to the NYC area :) ), but she was also feeling sick.  Spring is such a horrible time of the year to feel crummy! Luckily, this week has been bearable because I'm looking forward to a number of things coming up this weekend – receiving my May Foodie Penpals package any day now, Xtend Barre Stick class on Friday, which will be followed immediately by game night at Apt. 3D, and a friend’s "30th + 1" birthday party on Saturday night! Who else has exciting things planned for the weekend?

Any type of shaped pasta will work for this meal; KK chose Cellentani.  Although it tastes the same as any other pasta, I really enjoyed the tubular-spiral shape of Cellentani; I’d classify it as a “fun” pasta! With 16 ounces of pasta, we’ll be working through leftovers for a few days, but the pasta-to-sauce ratio was perfect.  For the sauce, use whatever you have on hand - heavy cream, light cream, or evaporated milk.  Once we learned that evaporated milk can be used as a substitute for cream, KK now ensures that there's a can of evaporated milk in the pantry for the weeks when we don't make it to the grocery store.  I used a mix of light cream and evaporated milk because I only had 1 cup of light cream in the fridge.  The absence of heavy cream required a slightly longer cook time and some extra stirring, but the sauce came together perfectly.  Finally, the big batch of homemade Cajun seasoning I whipped up a few weeks ago came in handy last night! It’s almost time to replenish my spice bottle of homemade mix, though I’ll use a tad less salt next time.

A word of caution: I  topped my serving with crushed red pepper, but that wasn't necessary because this dish already has quite a kick to it!!

Cajun Ranch Chicken Pasta

Adapted from Plain Chicken
Serves: 4-6
Time: Marination time + 20 minutes cook time

Marinade Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar

Other Ingredients
1 pound chicken breast, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
16 oz pasta, such as Farfalle or Penne
2 1/2 cups light cream or evaporated milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Parsley, for garnish

1. In a medium bowl, combine marinade ingredients and let stand for 5 minutes.  Place chicken in a gallon or quart-sized Ziploc bag and cover with the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours; the longer, the better.

2. When ready to prepare the dish, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. As the pasta water boils, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Shake excess marinade off chicken, and place into skillet.  Cook chicken thoroughly, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.  Plate chicken, and wipe excess marinade and oil from skillet using a paper towel.

4. In a small saucepan, melt butter, then add garlic, cream, Cajun seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. Heat on low, stirring frequently for 5-6 minutes. or until slightly thickened.

5. Using the skillet as a serving dish, place cooked pasta and chicken into the skillet; pour sauce on top and stir to combine.  If desired, garnish with parsley and additional Parmesan cheese.

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