Creamy Mushroom and Chicken Pasta
I think for a minute there I started to go into hibernation. The grey and the cold and the snow, well, let’s just say it makes me feel awfully unmotivated. The lure of True Blood and Cougar Town, and of simple dinners consisting of nothing but rice and roasted vegetables, has sadly left this space bereft of anything new. And with holiday travel, and holiday planning, I guess writing has been pushed to the back of my mind. I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t leave you too hungry.
The thing is, too, that I’m starting to feel I’ve outgrown this space. More than a few people have mentioned to me that I’m not exactly a kitchen illiterate anymore. It’s been hard to find a way to write about what I’m doing in the kitchen these days in a way that fits in here. So I’ve been hard at work (ok, when I manage to get off the couch) creating a new site for my new food blogging project. I’ll definitely share it all when it’s ready, but never fear, I’ll still be sharing recipes one the internets, even if it’s not right here.
In the meantime, I wanted to share this delicious pasta dish I’ve been kind of obsessing over lately. I kept my distance from the rich, creamy pastas for most of the last year, but when it started to get really cold again, I was craving heavy cream something serious. And when I came up with this sauce, it was all over. This is really something special.
What, this? This is something special? I know, it doesn’t look like much. It’s kind of…beige. Garnish may have helped, but honestly, I just wanted to eat it, and taking the time for fancy touches seemed pointless.
This is comfort food made incredible. It’s a simple cream sauce, but the mushrooms add a nice earthiness, the red pepper flakes add a little unexpected heat, and the whole dish is rich and complex and really just lovely. Feel the need for something green? Broccoli would be a stellar addition to this dish, and I actually made the sauce (sans chicken) to dress green beans for our Thanksgiving dinner. Me? I like it plain and simple. A bowl of this lovely pasta made me a little less angry about the frozen world outside of my door.
Creamy Mushroom and Chicken Pasta
- 1 chicken breast (you can use bone-in or boneless, or use thighs, if you prefer)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- about 1 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 generous pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/3 cup white wine or chicken broth
- about 1 cup heavy cream
- about 1 teaspoon salt
- about 1 1/2 cups penne pasta (I used farro whole wheat pasta)
Trim the chicken breast, if necessary, to remove any tendons or extra fatty bits. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the chicken. Let the chicken cook, without moving it, for about three minutes. When it releases easily from the skillet it, turn it over. Cover the skillet and cook for another three minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate, shred with a fork, and cover with foil to keep warm.
Meanwhile, put a large pot of salted water on to boil, and cook the pasta.
In the same skillet in which you cooked the chicken, add another tablespoon of olive oil, and add about half the mushrooms. It’s best to cook them in batches, because if they are overcrowded they won’t brown as nicely. Spread the mushrooms in a single layer and sprinkle with just a bit of salt. Let the mushrooms cook without stirring for about two minutes, then give them a good stir and flip them over as best you can. Let them continue to cook for another two minutes, until they begin to brown, then remove them to the chicken plate, and cook the second batch. You might have to add a bit more oil to the pan.
When the second batch of mushrooms are done, add all the mushrooms into the skillet, along with the garlic, red pepper flakes, and thyme. Saute for about thirty seconds, then deglaze with the wine or stock. Bring the liquid to a boil and cook until the liquid is almost entirely evaporated, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the liquid is mostly gone, add the cream. Use a whisk to stir everything up (flat whisks work wonders for this kind of thing), and bring the cream to a low boil. Cook until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Season with salt, then stir in the shredded chicken. Serve the sauce over the pasta, and if you’d like, garnish with some parsley or basil.
Creamy pasta dishes might not be the smartest thing to eat on a weekly basis, but if you’re feeling as despondent about winter as I am, a dinner like this definitely makes things seem less dreary.