Saturday, October 4, 2008

Birthday Dinner

Last month I was parousing through the cable channels when I came across The Food Network and saw that Rachael Ray was on. I checked out the episodes and saw one that interested me. It was called "You and Me, Babe". It sounded like an excellent date night dinner, and that's exactly what she prepared.

Matt's birthday is today (Happy birthday, honey!) and since we planned to get together with friends tonight, I thought a good gift would be to make him dinner by cooking something that is out of the ordinary for me - lots of ingredients, lots of things on the stove, etc. - but it was less complicated that I thought. It did take more than half an hour - probably forty five minutes - but my hubby was completely satisfied. I paired it with a Kelsey Wine that really brought out all the flavors of the dish.

And the dessert. Words cannot describe how much we loved it! We each had two pieces, and I think I'll be bringing it to game night one of these weeks.

I have to say that I was really nervous about making this dinner. However, it turned out so well that all the nerves went away when I saw Matt's face as he tasted the chicken. And that was my ultimate goal. :)

CKS note: I was very fortunate to run into my friend Jenny at Trader Joe's. She is a chef and teaches cooking classes, so I asked her opinion on the recipe. She reccomended using cremini mushrooms instead of portobellos and shitakes, so that's what I did, and it not only saved my sanity (having to not clean out the shitakes) but made it easier on my budget!

On the dessert I only used strawberries as blackberries are out of season.

Chicken Marvalasala and Pappardelle with Rosemary Gravy
(Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray)

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 2 servings


3/4 pound pappardelle pasta (wide ribbons, substitute fettuccine if unavailable)
4 large, thin pieces boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
Ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced
12 shiitakes, stemmed and sliced
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste, look for this in a tube (it's easy to store that way)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, eyeball it
2 tablespoons minced rosemary leaves, a couple of sprigs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup Marsala wine
Grated pecorino Romano cheese
A couple handfuls arugula or baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When it comes up to a boil, salt the water, drop in the pasta, and cook to al dente.

While the pasta is working, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large nonstick skillet with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium to medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the pan and brown lightly on both sides; remove to a platter and cover with foil to hold in heat. To the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons more extra-virgin olive oil and 1 clove garlic. Cook garlic a minute or so, then remove and add the mushrooms. Let the mushrooms brown evenly and become tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

While the mushrooms work, start gravy for pasta. In a deep medium skillet melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add a clove of crushed garlic and cook a couple of minutes then remove. Whisk flour and tomato paste into garlic infused butter. Cook the flour a minute or 2 then whisk in the stock. Add rosemary and whisk in tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer to thicken, 5 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to your taste.

To the cooked mushrooms, add capers and Marsala and reduce a minute or so. Add 2 tablespoons butter in small bits to finish sauce and shake the pan to incorporate. Slide the chicken back into sauce and warm. Drain pasta and toss with sauce and a handful of cheese. Serve pasta alongside Chicken Marvalasala. Scatter arugula or spinach across both the chicken and pasta, to garnish.

Devilish Angel Cake with Wine Soaked Berries
(Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray)
Prep Time: 5 min
Inactive Prep Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4 servings (you can have seconds, on a date night)

1/3 cup dry Italian red wine
3 tablespoons sugar
A few grinds black pepper
1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
1/2 pint blackberries
1 store bought angel food cake
Whipped cream, canister
Finely chopped fresh mint leaves or orange zest, for garnish

Combine wine, sugar, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add berries and soak 20 minutes. Cut the cake into thick slices. Serve wedges doused with wine soaked berries then garnish with whipped cream and fresh mint or orange zest.

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