Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In the Kitchen With Chris: Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Typically when I look for a recipe that I want to try, I gravitate towards anything with the words "simple" or "easy" in the title (also, the word Doritos). If it looks like I'm going to have to chop something, or figure out what sauteing is, or use a vegetable that doesn't come in a can, I'm not really all that interested. In fact, I get more than a little annoyed if I see that I'm going to have to reduce the heat halfway through. Good god, I'm only one person!

I'm not learning anything by not pushing myself though, and that's supposed to be the point of this whole thing! All of this crock pot cooking I've been doing is delicious, but that's not cooking, that's opening and dumping (and stirring if the recipe is super fancy). I'm never going to know the right way to chop an onion if I don't actually make myself learn.

Plus, if I'm ever going to hook a husband, I'm gonna need to bring something to the table (something other than charm, wit, every album ever recorded by The Corrs, and Velveeta Shells and Cheese).

This week I picked out a dish that looked like it was going to actually require some effort. Cajun Chicken Alfredo (you can view the original recipe at All Kinds of Yumm or you can find it from my Pinterest board here). 

There are thirteen ingredients in this one, you guys. Thirteen.

I'd be lying if I said that getting to use wine wasn't one of the deciding factors when I chose this one. I've been looking for ways to convince the guy who always seems to be working the register at the Cub Foods Liquor store that I'm not an alcoholic. Casually slipping into conversation my plan to cook with the wine and implying that maybe that's what I'd been doing all along was just the kind of ruse I needed!

Now, I'm really not in there that least I wasn't until January when one of my favorite wines went on sale for $3.99 a bottle. I couldn't stop myself. The deal was just too good! I was going in multiple times a week, multiple days in a row. And each and every time there was the same guy working the register.

I spent the first few weeks trying to play off my sudden excessive wine consumption. I brought friends in with me to hopefully give the impression that maybe I just had a lot of social events this month. I took the time to browse the racks as if I didn't know exactly what I was coming in for, and one time I even faked a phone call to someone, asking them what kind of wine they'd like me to pick up (not kidding).

By week three I'd given up and just tried to appear as put together as I could every time I was in there. If he was going to think I'm an alcoholic, I was going to at least give the appearance of being a high functioning alcoholic.

I was relieved as the end of January, and the end of the wine sale neared so I could finally get my life back in order. I stopped in on the 31st to grab one last bottle and saw them start setting up the display for February's sale.

Buy one, get one free.


I was planning on having a productive day on Sunday by staying in, taking down my Christmas tree (I don't need your judgement), cleaning, and cooking, so I got all of the ingredients together on Friday night.

2 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts
Cajun Seasoning Spice
1 tbs. butter
1 tbs. cream cheese
1 tbs. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
1 1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper
1lb uncooked fettuccine 

When Sunday rolled around I was actually pretty excited to test my abilities. I got all of my stuff together and as I was getting ready to start photographing the process, I realized something was missing. That's when I remembered the events of the night before. 

It was the night after Valentine's Day, so that was still stinging a bit, and I made the mistake of putting P.S. I Love You into the DVD player. I was ten minutes in and I was already having too many feels (why doesn't anyone want to fight with me like that?!). I remembered I had a bottle of wine, but I knew I needed it for the next day...but, I mean, I only needed 1/4 cup of it. I could have one glass of it and still have plenty left...yeah...I'd just have a bit...not even a full glass.

25 minutes later
God dammit, Hilary Swank.

Since it was Sunday, and apparently we're a bunch of Puritans in Minnesota, the wine was all locked safely in the closed liquor stores. So I had to go buy chicken broth to use instead.

I was devastated, but still committed to make the best out of a wine-less situation.

I started out by preparing the chicken. I was supposed to have gotten medium sized chicken breasts, but I didn't really pay attention when the guy at the meat counter got them for me, and I ended up with giant mutant chicken breasts. Like I'm pretty sure this chicken probably terrorized a small village for a month before their three bravest men got together and took it down, marching through town with its head on a spike while children danced around a maypole and women (and some of the other men) threw themselves at them, overcome by their incredible strength and courage.

The recipe called for me to flatten these behemoths, but I would have needed the hammer of Thor to do any real damage to these guys, so after five minutes of pounding away in vain, I coated each side with Cajun seasoning and called it good.

You're also supposed to include salt and pepper, but I was flustered, so that got left off.

At this time I preheated the oven to 350, and I threw the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, using a wooden spoon to ensure the melted butter and olive oil were combined well. Then I threw the chicken in the pan, cooking each side for 3-5 minutes.

After cooking the chicken in the skillet, I put it on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for another 30 minutes to finish cooking (the recipe said 20 minutes, but again...giant chicken). At that point I took it out and cut it into thin slices.

At this point I got started on the noodles. I don't really think I need to explain the process for this because that shit's on the box already. I'm not going to spoon feed you guys.

Moving onto the sauce, I added a bit more olive oil, and reheated the skillet over medium heat, added the chicken broth (or your wine if your drinking habits allow you to have wine in your residence for more than an hour at a time), and whisk with the chicken drippings for 2-3 minutes. 

Btw, the pictures from here on out get a bit fuzzy because I was super anxious about not f%#!ing everything up, and less concerned about getting good photos. I need to get a photographer for when I do this stuff.

At this point I added the minced garlic (I had to YouTube how one goes about mincing garlic, but I pulled it off) and the halved grape tomatoes. Whisk again for 3-5 minutes until the garlic is slightly brown, and then add the half and half.

From here I whisked constantly for one minute, and then I added the cream cheese. I whisked this until it was combined, and I added salt and pepper and (you guessed it) whisked some more.

Everything was mixed smoothly together, I removed it from the heat and added the Parmesan and feta cheese, stirring constantly until the cheese had melted and the sauce was smooth.

It was so freaking delicious. I felt like a f%#!ing sorcerer, combining all these things to make something amazing! Is this how cooking always feels, 'cause honestly I'm not sure that this kind of power trip would be healthy for me on the regular. It was the most proud I've been of myself since that time I figured out how to add windshield washer fluid to my car all by myself.

Btw, to any boys who read this and thought, "Oh man, if his ability to mince garlic is any indication, he'd probably make like a super good husband." You're exactly right, I would, but I feel like I also must point out that if we live together you'll be seeing a lot of this while I cook...

'Cause don't nobody got time for bangs in their face.

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