Thursday, June 25, 2009

It’s a winner!

The lazy days of summer are bringing on boredom, and there’s no better way to break up the boredom than trying a new recipe, which is exactly what I did last night. Let me tell you, this was yummy! I made some modifications to the Chicken Rigatoni with Bell Peppers, Kalamata Olives, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes from the Top Chef cookbook.

Top Chef is one of my favorite shows, but the recipes always look so gourmet and exotic. Just for kicks I was browsing the show's website and happened on the recipe search function, and up came Chicken Rigatoni.

Since I’d never cooked this before, I prepped all of my ingredients before I heated up the pots and pans. This took some extra time, but at least I wasn’t running around trying to find the ingredients once the cooking started.

Once everything was chopped and set aside, I put the pasta water on to boil, and added the bacon to a cold stainless steel pan. Once the bacon was in, I turned the heat up to medium. Meanwhile, some pine nuts were toasting in my non-stick skillet. Once the nuts were slightly brown, I moved them to a bowl, and added a tablespoon of olive oil to the non-stick skillet. Next, I seasoned up the chicken chunks with salt and pepper, and browned them in the non-stick skillet. Once those were cooked, I moved them to a separate plate to hang out. After the bacon was crisp, it was removed with a slotted spoon to a plate with paper towels. The pasta was dropped into the now boiling water, and it was time for the vegetables to get sizzling in the bacon renderings!

To the bacon fat, I added one tablespoon of olive oil, the peppers, onions, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Once those veggies hit the pan, you know you are in for something good—it will smell like a fancy Italian restaurant in your kitchen. The veggies sweated for about 5 minutes until the softened up, and then I added the garlic, and let that cook for one minute more before adding in the chicken and dried rosemary.

Next, the pan was deglazed with the chicken broth, and I let that reduce until the pasta was ready. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente it was drained and added to the veggies along with the kalamata olives and pine nuts to heat through (which only takes a few moments). Next, the cheese and parsley were stirred in and the dish was served.

I really enjoyed this, and my picky hubby also liked it. I was thrilled he went back for seconds since it had olives in it (and he thinks he hates olives). The key to getting him to eat them was chopping them up very finely and not telling him they were in there!

Chicken Rigatoni from Top Chef (with my modifications. Click here for the original recipe).(3 BIG servings)

6 ounces of Rigatoni pasta

2 tablespoons of Extra-virgin olive oil

4 slices of center cut bacon, chopped

½ onion, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

¼ cup of chicken stock

2 5-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

Freshly ground black pepper


½ cup pitted & chopped kalamata olives

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ teaspoon of dried rosemary

I had to make some modifications because of lack of ingredients, and I wanted to get three meals out of the dish (the original recipe makes two servings.) Bacon was substituted for pancetta, chicken broth for the wine, and dried rosemary instead of fresh. To make it a little healthier, I did not sauté the chicken in butter as the recipe calls for.

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