Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blackened Chicken Pasta

I hope that by divulging this all time favorite recipe I do not become excommunicated from the St.Clair family.  Anytime we get together as a family, we are almost guaranteed to share this scrumptious pasta.  The blackening seasoning, which I ordered in bulk online, absolutely makes the meal!  We made this for Jonathan's birthday dinner, since it is always his first pick when the dinner choice is left to him.

The only real challenge to preparing this dish is timing it so that everything is finished at approximately the same time.  Sometimes I get it exactly right, sometimes I'm a little off.  Nevertheless, it is always superb!

First, prepare the chicken. I like to slice the chicken breasts in half so they are not so thick and cook up quicker.  Just start by cutting into the middle of fat side of the breast and carefully work your knife through to the other side.

Then, start your sauce.  Begin by bringing cold milk and cornstarch to a simmer.  If you are familiar with cooking at all, you know that the objective is to keep the cornstarch from clumping.  Always start with cold ingredients, dissolve the cornstarch before you turn the burner on and stir frequently as it warms.  Then, add the butter, salt, pepper, blackening seasoning and garlic powder.  Be sure to stir often so that the milk doesn't scorch on the bottom of your saucepan.  If you are nearing the end of your meal preparation and the sauce isn't thickening quick enough, you can always thicken it a little with more cornstarch.  Just remember, add cornstarch to a small dish of cold milk to dissolve before adding it to the warm sauce. You are aiming for the consistency of a thin alfredo sauce.

As soon as you get your sauce going well, heat the butter in your chicken pan.  When that is melted, liberally sprinkle the chicken with your blackening seasoning and place seasoned side down in butter.  You can then sprinkle the top side with seasoning, so it will be ready to flip once the first side is finished cooking.

We had to use an electric skillet to accommodate all of our chicken, but unless you are cooking for a small army like we were, a regular frying pan should suffice.  If your chicken is completely thawed, you will likely want to use a lid on your pan while it's cooking.  This should keep your fire alarms from going off.  For this meal, our chicken was still slightly frozen, and it added a decent amount of water to the pan.  I skipped the lid and it still never evaporated all the liquid.  If you are lucky, the chicken will be a little more charred than ours was this time.  In any case, it was lip smacking good as always!

Once the chicken is settled into its butter bath, start your pasta water and drop pasta when it comes to a boil.  Don't forget to continue to stir your sauce; you want it nice and smooth. 

Flip chicken once first side is finished cooking.  One flip, people.  Let the first side cook, then cook the second side.  There is no need for the birds to do somersaults all over the pan.

When chicken is finished cooking, transfer into a separate dish.  If you are cooking for some who prefer a little more kick to their meal, deglaze chicken drippings by adding some sauce to the pan and stirring for a minute or two.  We typically keep about 1/3 of our sauce mild and make 2/3 spicy. 

We like to serve this pasta with roasted broccoli on the side.  Of course, Jonathan doesn't fancy this part, but we don't make him eat it.  This has become our preferred way to eat broccoli; it is delicious!  Simply cut up fresh broccoli crowns, drizzle with EVOO and add some fresh ground sea salt and pepper to the top.  Pop the pan in the oven and roast at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes.  You can start the broccoli about the same time you start the sauce.

Now for the star of the show, Chef Paul Prudhomme's magic seasoning:

I ordered the large canisters at his website but, you can also find this in a consumer size in some nicer grocery stores, like Kroger.  Personally, I advise that you bite the bullet and order the 24oz can.  My family likes to sprinkle it on tilapia.  I like to toss frozen french fries in it to make them cajun.  I've even thrown it in some rice which made an otherwise plain side dish something worth remembering.  It not only has a nice heat, it has a great flavor to go along with it.  The canister comes with a plastic lid, so you don't have to worry about moisture getting in and spoiling it. 

Blackened Chicken Pasta:

3 Cups cold milk
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 stick butter
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and blackening seasoning to taste.

In a medium sauce pan, dissolve cornstarch in milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add butter and seasonings, reduce heat to medium low, stirring often.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half length-ways
1/2 stick butter
blackening seasoning

Wash, trim and slice chicken. Sprinkle with seasoning and cook in butter until done.

1 lb fettuccini or linguini pasta, cooked al dente

Assemble and enjoy!

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