Last night’s chicken and pasta meal wasn’t inspired by anything from McDonald’s. It’s not a reaction against fast food junk either although I am no fast food fan. Neither did the recipe come from any cookbook. This meal was inspired by my daughters in a kind of oblique way. Let me tell you the story.
My 17-year-old daughter, Sam, is in first year college and she stays in a condo during weekdays. She is so sick of food bought in the vicinity of the university that when she comes home during the weekend, she is practically demanding that I cook this-and-that and bake too. Last Sunday, she wanted chicken but we were in a hurry to leave (she was moving from her old dorm to a condo) and I didn’t have time to cook. Her father made a SPAM-and-egg lunch. She didn’t complain. She’s on her term break now and she’s home.
At this point, you’re probably beginning to see why there is chicken in last night’s meal. Now, let me tell you about the pasta.
My almost 16-year-old daughter, Alex, did a school cooking project yesterday. She and her group mates made lemon chicken for their TLE (that’s short for Technology and Livelihood Education) class. She left the house early morning with a kilo of chicken fillets from the freezer, a chopping board, flour and a few other things.
When she got home, I asked how it went. She said it was a disaster. One of her group mates, a boy named Renee, kept pouring salt on the chicken despite her protestations. So, the chicken turned out much too salty and the sauce was too sour to boot. When she asked what we were having for dinner, I told her chicken. I had been thawing thigh fillets in the fridge all day. And she whined saying she was sick of chicken.
She didn’t have to elaborate. I knew it was a reaction to the lemon chicken disaster that she felt she’d rather not see nor eat chicken for a long, long time. She wanted pasta. With red sauce and cream. And now you know why last night’s dinner was chicken and spaghetti.
Why do I call it “Not McDonald’s chicken and spaghetti meal”? When I was assembling the bowls of pasta, my husband, Speedy, commented, “What’s that? Chicken and spaghetti meal? McDonald’s or Tropical Hut?”
And that’s the complete story behind this meal.
- 160 to 200 g. of pasta, cooked al dente
For the chicken topping:
4 large or 8 small chicken thigh fillets, skin on
2 tsps. of salt
1 tsp. of ground black pepper
juice of one lemon
2 tbsps. of olive oil
For the pasta sauce:
2 tbsps. of olive oil
50 g. (yes, you need very little) of smoked belly bacon, finely sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 fresh plump tomatoes, chopped
2 heaping tbsps. of sun-dried tomatoes, with the oil if using sun-dried tomatoes in oil (click here for more information about sun-dried tomatoes)
1 c. of cream
For the garnish:
a few sweet basil leaves, finely sliced
Place the chicken thigh fillets in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Mix, working the seasonings into the meat. Cover and keep the fridge.
Heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until a little soft and translucent. Add the bacon and garlic, and continue cooking for another two to three minutes with occasional stirring.
Add the chopped tomatoes and stir. Cover and allow to simmer.
Measure the sun-dried tomatoes. DO NOT drain. You want all that flavored olive oil in your sauce. Roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes. DO NOT chop to a pulp. You want discernible bits which will add a good texture and color to the sauce. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce. Stir. Season with salt, pepper and a little sugar to balance the flavors. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, broil or grill the chicken. I used a turbo broiler, placing the chicken about six inches from the heat and setting the temperature to the maximum (425oF). The chicken will take around 30 minutes to cook fully (really depends on the size and thickness of the chicken fillets) and for the skins to brown nicely.
After simmering for 20 minutes, check your sauce. It should have the consistency of salsa which means the individual ingredients are discernible. The flavors would have developed nicely at this point. DO NOT be tempted to add water or broth. You want your sauce to be almost dry.
Add the cream to the sauce. Stir, taste, adjust the seasonings if necessary. Just as the mixture starts to boil, turn off the heat.
Add the cooked spaghetti to the sauce, toss then divide among four individual plates or pasta bowls.
By this time, the chicken should be done.
Chop into strips and arrange on top of the pasta.
Sprinkle some finely sliced sweet basil leaves over the chicken and pasta. Serve at once.
Cooking time (duration): 40 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 4