Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chicken and Broccoli with Pasta

Having grown up in a large family with eight kids, going out to eat was something we did extremely rarely.  We hardly did it at all unless it was a very special occasion and even then going out usually meant walking to the local pizzeria and sitting in their dinning room getting fancy pizza (i.e. pizza with toppings other than cheese).  I remember going out to eat one year with my family and grandparents for Mother's Day, and since it happened so long ago there were a lot less of us kids (I think maybe only 5? I'm not sure, less than 8 anyway).

We were all crammed at a long table filled with your standard plates, flatware, napkins and glasses of water, one setting for each of us, as you'd expect.  As the waitress came to get our orders, somehow one of us kids managed to bump their large, full glass of water, spilling it over onto the table.  We all scrambled to fork over napkins, first needing to remove the utensils hidden within, and the waitress hurried off to get dry napkins and a fresh glass of water.  Chaos ensued.

My poor Grandpa and my poor Dad (not to mention the poor waitress).  I can still picture them now.  Both bristling and blustering at the embarrassment, inconvenience, and mess we kids caused as we proceeded to knock over nearly every single glass of water at that table.  My brother Joseph maintains that he did not knock any over, as he was too busy guarding his own glass.  Honestly, I can't recall who started it or even who participated.  I am not even entirely positive of Mom and Grandma's reactions at the time, only their laughter whenever they recounted the tale (especially when it was done in the hearing of my Dad or Grandpa).  Perhaps not going out to eat was less a matter of ability or desire and more a means of self-preservation for my parents.  After this, I don't think we went out to eat again until the oldest of us graduated from High School.

During the years that Hey, Babe and I were dating, we use to often accompany his parents to eat at any one of the typical variety of chain restaurants after church.  Unlike Hey, Babe, I hardly ever order the same thing twice in any given restaurant, preferring instead to experiment and try new things.  This pasta dish is along the lines of something that I first tried while I was out to eat one of those Sundays.  It is a simple Alfredo sauce, served along with broccoli and lightly seasoned, baked chicken.  It isn't very time consuming or difficult.  And if there is any risk of a cascading domino of water glasses in your future, I say skip going out and make this instead.

Chicken and Broccoli with Pasta
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced in half, horizontally
1 box of your choice of pasta (we almost always use whole wheat pasta)
1 bag of broccoli florets, (not pieces) defrosted
1 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese (NOT the powdered kind, trust me)
pinch of red chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.  On the chicken fillets, drizzle with oil and season with some salt and pepper. Place them on a baking sheet and put into the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until cooked.

Meanwhile, bring a pots of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until 2-3 minutes shy of the box instructions for becoming al dente.  Add the defrosted broccoli to the pot for the remaining cooking time.  Once the pasta and broccoli are cooked, remove from heat and strain.  The broccoli should still have a vibrant green color.

While the pasta is cooking, stir the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to thicken. Toss in the garlic, parmesan cheese, basil, rosemary, and chili flakes. Continue to whisk to prevent the cream from burning, and allowing it to thicken.

Remove the chicken from the oven, and cut into quarters. Add most of the sauce to the pasta and mix. Top chicken with reserved sauce and serve with the pasta and broccoli.

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