COOKING ADVENTURE #6: Cajun Chicken Pasta
My decision to carefully back away from baking may have been the right one this week. After my pineapple upside-down cake disaster, I knew that a change of style was needed. At the end of last week’s blog post, I’d hurriedly searched the web for an easy chicken recipe. When Cajun chicken pasta popped up, I jumped on the idea of making a spicy recipe that might just be simple enough even for me. Then, after committing to it in my blog post, I read the recipe. My eyes zeroed in on one fatal ingredient: heavy cream. I knew this would probably be my undoing.
Heavy cream wasn’t the only tricky ingredient in this recipe. It also called for lemon pepper, something I’d never desired to own in my kitchen because I knew I’d never use it. For that reason alone, I didn’t buy any. The rest were simple foods to get: chicken, linguine, butter (of course), peppers, and a whole plethora of other spices, including Cajun seasoning. I was under the impression that I already owned some of this magical mojo. Having hosted a Pampered Chef party, I bought a slew of pots, pans, knives, and other things that I haven’t even touched yet. At some point, I’d collected four or five different spice mixes from them. A few of them I use often and one, a lovely reddish orange color, has sat in the shadows at the back of the shelf for over a year. This, I automatically assumed, was comprised of hot spices (ie: red pepper flakes, paprika, chile powder… etc.) and therefore, must be some type of Cajun spice.
I did my shopping earlier today and having not printed out the recipe ahead of time to get some specifics (…), I botched up a few things. Heavy cream in my mind suddenly became half-and-half. Green onion morphed into yellow onion. I swapped a green pepper for a yellow one. I forgot to get basil. And I purposefully overlooked the mushrooms. A half an hour later, while checking the recipe, I commenced the forehead slapping and proceeded with the dangerous part; actually cooking.
The recipe was very cut and dry and easy to follow which I really liked. At this point, I did print out a copy to follow. (I know… finally!) The only problem was the portioning on a few of the ingredients; key ingredients. I’ll explain later. For now, I was supposed to boil some lightly salted water for the linguine. Got that going no problem. Next , measure out the Cajun spice mix into a bowl and coat the chicken pieces in it.
I reached up into the crowd of spices, groping for the untouched red bottle somewhere within. I found it and when the light hit the label, most of my hope for the recipe turning out okay went down the drain. Thai Red Curry. I took a few moments to myself, wondering just why in the heck I’d ever buy TRC and when I’d ever use it. It didn’t matter though. I wasn’t going back to the grocery store. It would have to do. I scanned the list of ingredients and found that a few of the same spices were in the TRC. I had oregano and thyme which I added to the mixture. Then I coated six pieces of chicken and laid them out on a plate.
Next: heat up the skillet. I sliced a block of butter from the stick (2 tbsp!) and tossed it in the pan. I watched it swirl around as it sizzled away. I casually checked on the water for the pasta and found it hadn’t begun to boil yet. Strange. I turned up the heat. When the butter had all melted, I placed each chicken tender in and put the lid on.
I did some dishes while I waited for the chicken to cook and then cut up the two peppers into bite-sized pieces. I didn’t even bother cutting up the onion because I knew it wasn’t even close to the green onion that was supposed to be in it. As I stirred the heating food in the skillet, I checked the water for the pasta. It was steaming… but not boiling. I turned up the heat again. Why I didn’t have the thing on “High” already is beyond me… My oven and stove top usually run kind of hot. In the past, I’ve always turned the burners on medium and things have boiled… Don’t ask me. I don’t understand it much.
Next was the creme de la creme… the heavy creme. The recipe called for one and a half cups of the stuff. I got about a cup of the half and half in when I realized that there was WAY TOO MUCH in the saucepan. I added the next half a cup anyway because… well… I wanted to stick to the recipe. I also assumed that perhaps it would thicken up and actually become a sauce like the recipe implied. No such luck.
By this time, the water for the pasta had finally begun to boil. I put in about 8 oz. and let it boil. I had absolutely no other problems with the pasta and it was drained and in a bowl waiting for the sauce within another ten minutes.
I tested the sauce with my finger. It tasted like paprika… and garlic powder… and half and half. I growled as I went for some pepper and salt and sprinkled it into the sauce. I also had noticed that the temperature was about luke-warm. That didn’t seem right to me. It had told me to turn the heat down to low. But it was taking forever to “heat through” like the recipe wanted me to do. So, I turned it up to medium.
As I took care of the pasta, I let the chicken and sauce sit on the burner. By the time I got back to it, the cream had curdled. A midst an onslaught of “ew’s” and “dear lord’s”, I flipped off the heat, removed the pan from the burner, and tried desperately to mix everything in. I failed. Worse, I still had chicken and peppers languishing in hot soupy half-and-half. I looked from the pasta to the soup back to the pasta. Frig it. I poured the soup over the pasta and mixed everything in the bowl. Then, sensing that some bread would be a needed addition, I made up some garlic bread slices and put those under the broiler for 3 minutes.
My parents arrived for dinner right as those came out of the oven. Looking at the pasta in a bowl was quite unappetizing. However, once I’d put some on a plate with the garlic bread, it looked much more appetizing. And wouldn’t you know it? It actually tasted pretty good, too. Despite a few things going wrong, this cooking adventure ended up still being edible and as long as that’s the end result, that’s just fine with me.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, we’ll be doing it up for Valentine’s Day with this sweet and sexy recipe for Oven-Baked Caramel French Toast. Mmm-mmm! It’ll be my second breakfast recipe for Cooking Adventures. Let’s hope I have more luck than I had with the buckwheat pancakes.