February 20, 2013

Chicken spinach pasta thing

I made chicken spinach pasta thing today.

This is my favorite meal.  I invented it!  I should have given it a real name, but I have always referred to it as chicken spinach pasta thing, so that's what I'm sticking with.  Several people have asked for the recipe, so I'm going to use this post to explain as best I can how to make it.  It's all in my head.  I've never written it down before.  I do a bunch of things at once, so I'm not sure how to go about explaining this.  It takes longer than an hour but less than an hour and a half.

A package of frozen spinach needs to be thawed.  Run water over the frozen spinach while it's still in the plastic if it's still frozen when it's time to start dinner.  This will defrost it fairly quickly.  Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta.  Cut up one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I cut it into chunks so that it will cook more quickly.  You're going to shred the chicken, so it doesn't matter what it looks like.  For this, I cut the chicken on an angle so that in theory, again, it will cook more quickly.  Season the chicken with kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper, and cook it in a saute pan on medium high heat.  Don't use a nonstick pan- you won't get the seared crust on the chicken, and you won't be able to deglaze the pan later.  Also, I put olive oil in the saute pan before putting the chicken in there.  I put the lid on the saute pan at first, but after a little while I take it off and cook the chicken the rest of the way without it.  At some point, you'll flip the chicken over.  You want a bit of a crust to develop on the chicken.

While the chicken is cooking, grate parmesan cheese.  Use a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano.  Don't use the Kraft stuff.  The cheese is used at the end and gives a distinctive flavor.  I can't give an exact amount.  I grate until I think it looks like enough.  Maybe it's an amount that would be equivalent to two fists put together?  I'm not sure how much that is exactly.  Set that aside.  Now get the chicken broth ready.  I use half of a container of Imagine free range, low-sodium chicken broth- about 14-16 ounces.  You're going to use this to deglaze the saute pan later.  Once the spinach is thawed, remove it from the plastic and squeeze out all the liquid.  This is important.  Really squeeze all of the water out of the spinach.  If the spinach is holding onto water, it won't soak up the chicken broth.  Also, you don't want spinach water diluting your meal.

When the chicken is finished, put it on a plate to cool.  Immediately pour the chicken broth into the saute pan.  It will make some noise and throw up some steam.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the saute pan and get up the bits of chicken that are stuck to the bottom.  That's calling deglazing the pan.  It will add more flavor to your dish.  Turn the heat to low and reduce the broth a bit.  Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it by hand.  I put it in a bowl with the ball of spinach.

The water will have come to a boil by now.  I usually turn the water off until I am ready for it.  If it's already warm, it will come back to a boil quickly when I'm ready to throw in the pasta.  When I think I'm about ten minutes from being finished, I bring the water back to a boil, throw some kosher salt into the water, and put in the pasta.  I use De Cecco orecchiette.  It means "little ears."  I find it goes well with this dish.  It holds little bits of spinach and chicken in the indentations.  Cook three quarters of a pound to one pound of pasta, depending on how many people you are feeding and what else you are serving with dinner.

After the pasta goes in the water, the chicken and spinach go in the saute pan with the chicken broth.  By this time, the broth will have reduced by half or so.  Break up the spinach and make sure it is spread all around the chicken.  It will soak up some of the chicken broth.  You don't want a lot of broth left at the end.  I usually don't have much left at all.  If you find that you have too much broth left, turn the heat up and let it reduce more.  When the pasta is finished cooking, strain it and put it in the saute pan with the chicken and spinach.  I use a wooden spoon to make sure the chicken and spinach are mixed evenly with the pasta.

Now it's time for the cheese.  I sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano over everything in the saute pan.  I switch to tongs and mix it all together.  The parmesan will melt due to the heat of the pasta, chicken, and spinach.  You're finished!  Transfer to a large bowl and serve.

It's delicious, if I do say so myself.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I should have used my camera and taken better photos, but I was lazy and used my phone instead.


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