I really like to cook. Sometimes I pretend I’m Rachael Ray or Giada De Laurentiis as I whip up (my version of) Italian dishes. I think it would be super fun to write a cookbook. Or have a cooking show. The only problem is, I’m one of those people who doesn’t really measure stuff. Measuring cramps my style. So if I create something lovely and delicious and I want to tell people about it, I kind of can’t. A recipe by me would go something like this:
Erin’s Chicken and Spinach Pasta
- Olive oil
- 3 Slices of bacon (or more, ya know, cuz you’re gonna wanna eat one)
- 2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed (or just one, if they are huge)
- Italian seasoning
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 Onion, diced (I suppose saying what kind of onion would be good, which for me would be “the cheapest onion at the grocery store when you went shopping”)
- Minced garlic
- 1/2 lb. of Penne Rigate (most boxes of pasta are 1 lb., so about a half a box)
- 10 oz. Fresh spinach (one of those boxes or bags, 5 oz. is not quite enough, a whole pound is a bit too much…whatever you get between those two sizes is fine)
- White wine
- Half and half
- Good Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (don’t you dare use that parmesan crap in the green shaker can, unless you’re cooking for my husband, in which case that IS the “good stuff”).
First, get a big skillet, like the biggest one you have. I think mine is the size of a hub cap. Make sure it has a lid. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the pan and let it heat up.
Then, get a big pot of water boiling for some pasta.
Cut your bacon into little dices and cook until crisp. Then let it drain on paper towels. Go ahead, eat a few pieces. You know you want to. That’s why you made extra. Mmm. Bacon.
Next, drop the cubed chicken into the bacon grease to brown. Do NOT begin to think about the nutritional merits of cooking with bacon grease. Just don’t worry about it. Besides. You’re going to add spinach to this dish, which totally cancels out the bacon. Seriously. Ask a nutritionist. I would never lie to you.*
Season the chicken with a bit of salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. And by “a bit” I mean, take that shaker, toss the stuff in until it looks like “enough”.
When the chicken is nice and browned remove it from the pan. If there are brown, crusty bits now stuck to the bottom on your pan, this means you have done your job well. Those crusty bits are like bacony-chickeny flavor rewards from Heaven. Do a little jig and thank the food gods for your good fortune.
Now, if your pan looks a little dry, like your bacon mysteriously was devoid of any fat (or your chicken absorbed it all), add a bit more olive oil. Ya know, like a drizzle around the pan. Some might say once around is about a tablespoon. I don’t really know. Just use “enough”.
Take a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and add them to the oil. This part really depends on your preference. If you like it hot (who doesn’t?) add a lot. If you don’t like it so hot don’t add so much, or skip this step altogether. Let them cook for just a minute so the heat of the flakes infuses into the olive oil. At least, I think that’s what it’s doing. Who knows? It sounds fancy, right?
Now add your diced onion and the minced garlic. I buy my garlic pre-minced in a jar. If my husband is watching me do this, I add 1 teaspoon which equals 1 clove. If he is not watching me, I add 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons. Me loves the garlic. If you’re the type who likes to peel and chop your own garlic, go ahead. Whatever floats your boat, man.
Once the onions are soft and translucent, add a squirt of white wine. I can squirt my white wine because I am Klassy and drink my wine from a box. So I really do squirt it. But if you are Classy and use a bottle, pour about a tablespoon-ish into the pan and scrape up the brown bits of heavenly flavor stuck to the bottom. That’s called deglazing–using liquid to scrape up the brown bits. Now go use that word in a sentence and make your friends think you’re all culinary and stuff.
IMPORTANT: If you haven’t already, you should drop your pasta into the boiling water. I would suggest also adding a liberal amount of salt. In a perfect and magical world, your pasta will be al dente at the same time you are finishing the rest of the dish.
Now add your spinach to the pan with the onions and garlic. I guarantee you at this point you are going to look at the humongous mound of spinach in your pan and you are going to say, “Erin. Are you freakin’ crazy? That is A LOT of spinach.”
And I will say, “Patience, young grasshopper. It’s like magic. That huge bunch of greenness will turn into an itty-bitty wad after it cooks down.”
Take your box, or bottle…whatever, of white wine and pour it over the top of the spinach. I’d say about a glass worth. I realize a “glass” is an open interpretation. If your wine glasses are the size of mine, that could be like half a bottle. So, in reality, I’d say about 4-ish ounces of wine. Or until it looks like “enough”.
Put a lid on top of your pan and let the spinach cook down.
Now you just have to wait. Which means your kids will choose this moment to start “needing things”. You’ve got time. Go ahead.
After a few minutes the spinach will cook down into a more manageable amount. Take the lid off the pan and stir it around, it will reduce even more.
At this point I take my half and half and add, oh, about 3 tablespoons into the pan. Which is 3 splashes straight out of the carton. Stir it around. If it doesn’t look saucy enough to cover your pasta, add some more. Whatevs. There’s no right way to do this.
Add a tiny sprinkle of nutmeg, just to warm up the creamy sauce and make you go, “Hmm. What is that delightful flavor I can’t quite put my finger on?”
Sprinkle and stir in some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Again. Whatever looks like a good amount to you. I tend to go light here because I am not a “cheese lover”. But if you are a cheese lover, cheese it up, baby.
Because your world is, in fact, magical, your pasta should be perfect right about NOW. It should still have some bite to it as it will cook a bit more when you add it to the sauce. Drain your pasta and put it into the creamy, winey, spinachy, chickeny mixture.
Stir, stir, stir and incorporate all those lovely flavors. The pasta will absorb some sauce as you go. This is a good thing. You can let it cook a few minutes to encourage the absorbtion. Give it a taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. I usually add more pepper.
Toss the crumbled bacon on top and stir into the pasta.
Voila! Dish and serve.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, if you haven’t polished off the box/bottle while you cooked, and enjoy!
What do you think? Food Network, here I come?? Am I desitined to write a bestselling cookbook?
*Spinach cancelling out bacon logic not proven by actual nutritional science. That’s just what I tell myself. Mmm. Bacon.