When I’m cooking and blogging, I try to maintain a semblance of balance in my choices. Ideally, I would avoid my recipe archives being so heavily laden with tales of cheese and carbohydrates. However, this notion of blog-balance is an art I am yet to master. There are certain ingredients that are undeniably “psycho,” and this post reeks of them. This pasta is flavored with onions, mushrooms, and chicken. It is prepared like risotto: by adding small increments of chicken stock to the simmering pot until the pasta is cooked through. Everything cooks together in chicken stock. Unlike traditional pasta cooking methods, the liquid is never strained. Instead, it is added gradually, so all the flavors in the ingredients are self-contained. If you are not a fan of mushrooms, I would recommend you stop reading here and go make yourself a nice grilled cheese sandwich. The mushrooms are the crux of this dish, and nothing else will do in their place.
The recipe below is courtesy of Mark Bittman and I made minimal changes. (He is smart, although allegedly obnoxious. I have never seen him do anything on TV, and I would like to keep it that way, so I can remain blissfully ignorant of any truth in the obnoxious allegations). To be honest, I was a little trepidatious about the method of cooking the chicken: raw chunks of chicken are added towards the end of the cooking process. I’m sure my mother is gasping in horror at the slightest notion of cross-contamination. However, I followed the method and I have lived to tell the tale with no gastrointestinal distress. Just keep stirring the pasta so that the chicken can cook evenly and thoroughly. Make sure the liquid continues to simmer, and add more stock if you need it. Also, wash your cooking utensil halfway through, and make sure to slice open a few chunks of chicken before eating to check for doneness. You will be just fine.
The recipe below includes the minor changes I made in italics. Next time, I would definitely add peas. This recipe was practically screaming for peas. The earthy flavor and texture of mushrooms would pair just beautifully with the sweet pop of peas. I would recommend taking about a half cup out of the freezer before cooking to thaw, and adding them at the end, stirring to heat through.
Pasta With Chicken and Mushrooms, Risotto Style (adapted from Mark Bittman)
2 tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups crimini, shiitake or button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced (I used half button mushrooms and half oyster)
1/2 pound cut pasta, such as gemelli or penne, or long pasta broken into bits (I used rotini, but would have gone for gemelli if I could find it)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or water (I left this out)
3 to 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (definitely use chicken stock)
½ to 1 tablespoon Dijon or whole grain mustard (optional. It was an impulsive, but delicious addition)
2 boneless chicken thighs, diced
Chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan
1. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When hot, add shallot, garlic and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms soften and begin to brown on edges, about 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then wine. Stir and let liquid bubble away. (Or skip the wine and go right step two)
2. Ladle stock into skillet 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. (I poured stock directly out the box it came in into the pan). When liquid is just about evaporated, add more. Mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep heat at medium and stir frequently.
|uncooked chicken (gasp)|
|cooked chicken (yum)|
3. Begin tasting pasta 10 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but with a tiny bit of crunch. When pasta is about 3 to 4 minutes away from being done, add chicken and stir to combine. (If you are going to use the mustard, add it before the chicken). Continue to cook until chicken is done — it will be white on inside when cut — and pasta is how you like it. (I cooked the chicken for about 5-7 minutes) Taste, adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and Parmesan.
Yield: 4 servings.