Part II: Unrefusable Offers

20 Feb

So I guess this is the part where I start relating the recipe I made to some personal experience in my life.  Like how it was a crisp autumn day (fun fact: the only season that has crisp days is Autumn.  Look it up.)  and a dog flopped in a pile of leaves, and that’s what reminded me about my honey almond mango chutney.

Well this isn’t Chicken Soup for the Cliched Soul, so I’m not gonna do that.  Here’s how this recipe went.

1.  Girlfriend sick.

2.  Girlfriend likes Italian food.

3.  Chicken Penne ala Vodka.

There.  Make it on a crisp day if you want, it’ll still taste delicious.  And add some Roasted Blood Orange Brussels Sprouts too, because she asked for them, damnit.  It’s all about laying down the smoothness on Valentine’s Day, so turn on the oven, heat up a pan, and get ready for some Fresh Beats, Fresh Eats.

Here’s what you need:

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Chicken Penne ala Vodka:

1 lb of penne pasta

Olive oil

3-10 cloves of garlic, minced,  depending on your taste

1/4 cup vodka

1/4 cup chopped Vidalia onion

Small pinch of red pepper flakes

1 large can (35 oz) or jar of crushed tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find it)

½ cup cream

Basil leaves, chiffonaded

1/2  cup grated parmesan cheese (get the good stuff, not that pre-shredded shit)

2 boneless chicken breasts

Blood Orange Roasted Brussels Sprouts

-3 lb Brussels Sprouts

-6 tbsp Blood Orange Olive Oil

-1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

-1 teaspoon black pepper

-Couple splashes of sherry

Note: the original calls for half this.  You’re gonna want my doubled version though.  They’re just that goddamned delicious.  Trust me.

Here’s how you do it:

We’re gonna do the Brussels Sprouts first.  They take a hell of a long time to cook, and besides, don’t you want to smell that deliciousness while you’re making the penne?

HEY.  YOU.

That’s right.  Guy in the back.  Mr “I don’t like brussels sprouts they’re green and icky”.  Shut the fuck up.  You don’t know a damn thing about brussels sprouts.  In fact, the only time you’ve actually been exposed to the sheer outstanding flavor that is the brussels sprout is probably when your hack of a mom boiled some in a pot, maybe added some salt and pepper, and called it a day.  No.  Here’s the thing:  nearly anything cooked by itself, with nothing added to it, is going to taste boring and shitty.  That’s WHY cooking exists.  Throwing some vegetables in water and taking them out is just…preparing.

Now that we’ve shut that guy up, it’s time to get down to the show.

First, preheat your oven to 400.

Take your brussels sprouts, give em a good wash, and cut off the ends.  Also, go ahead and peel off any discolored leaves you see.  (Or if you’re colorblind like me, pick off leaves at random until you feel satisfied, then pat yourself on the back and say “Look at how good chef I am!”)

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Once you’re done with that, toss your sprouts (that’s right, they’re yours now, this ain’t Cold War era USSR) in a nice big bowl, and add the rest of your ingredients.  Then toss everything around til you get a nice, even coating.

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Now look, I know we don’t all live in fancy Williams and Douchebaggery land.  If you don’t have access to blood orange olive oil, use regular olive oil.  Nobody’s gonna knock down your door and demand better.  But if you have the need for perfection, take a trip over to http://www.palmettooliveoilco.com/ and have a gander.  Or better yet, go to the real thing in Greenville, SC and get deep into some olive oil and balsamics.  It’s good stuff.

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All you have to do now is throw your sprouts on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for about 40 minutes.  They’re gonna look black and charred on the outside when they’re done.  That’s a good thing.  They won’t taste burnt, you’ll just get that sweet caramelized flavor instead.

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While that’s nestling up in the oven, start up your penne.

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You’ve done this before people, boil some water, salt it, throw in the penne.  If you screw this up, go ahead and just stick your hands in the boiling water.  You don’t deserve to have hands.  Or food.

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In the meantime, get a large skillet heated up with an 1/8 cup of olive oil.  Get it to about the medium heat neighborhood, you don’t have to be exact here.  Just let that olive oil get a nice shimmer.

Put your onion in and cook for a few minutes, until it’s translucent.

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Throw your garlic and red pepper flakes in, and let it get cooked just a bit, we’re talkin like 30 seconds here.  Don’t you dare let that garlic get brown.  Don’t do it.

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Add your vodka, in my case some fine Luksusowa.  And I shouldn’t have to say this, but for god’s sake, keep your pan AWAY from open flames when you do this.  I already threatened your hands, do I need to worry about your face too?

Cook this for about 5 minutes on medium low heat.  You wanna makes sure your vodka has reduced just a tad.

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Pour in your delicious tomatoes (which make the most awful “shlorp” sound imaginable), give it a good stir or two, and bring it down to medium-low heat.  You want to get this to a simmer, so whatever heat you need for that, do it, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Nows the part you’ve been waiting for, fatties.

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Stir in the parmesan cheese and cream, and watch your dish turn from boring-ass tomato sauce to rich, pink-creamy goodness.

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Toss in the pasta, and you’re almost done.  Go ahead and try some, though.  We all know you’re going to anyway.

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Now, I did my chicken right now, but you can do it before, during, doesn’t matter.  As long as chicken gets cooked at some point, you’re good.  Just heat up some olive oil, heat up a pan to medium heat, and give it about 7 or 8 minutes per side.  And make sure you season with a lil salt and pepper.  Cut it open if you’re unsure it’s cooked enough.  If it’s pink inside, you’ll die a horrible, painful death.  Probably.  All that’s left is to cut up the chicken into pieces (whatever size you want, I won’t be picky) and toss it into the pasta.

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You could just serve it up like that, but c’mon now…you don’t want to leave the top of that pasta all naked and cold, do you?  Go ahead and chiffonade some basil (that’s French for “tiny-ass little strips”) and grate some more parmesan on top.  It’s ok, you’ve already been intimate with that pasta…treat it right.

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By now your brussels sprouts should be done.  Or way before, depending on how long it takes you to read.

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Either way, take them out and put them on a plate with a bowl of that kick-ass penne.

Now for the real garnish.  For this dish we’re gonna chiffonade some beats to go along with that basil, and what better choice for a Valentine’s day feast than some KitchenLove from JuSoul?  Check out ILoveYou:  http://jusoul.bandcamp.com/track/iloveyou

I know I didn’t mention that this was the Valentine’s Day post up there, and that’s because the key to this holiday is simplicity.  Don’t make a big fanfare, don’t pull up with a limo made of paper mache roses and the driver all made of cherry cordial and smiles.  Just get in the kitchen, cook up a good meal, and cook up some fresh beats.  Maybe pop in the Godfather afterwards.  She digs on that movie.  See you next time, folks.  Eat safe.

That brussels sprouts recipe was tweaked from Ina Garten’s, from the Food Network website.  And special thanks to the girlfriend for her excellent photo-taking skills.  She’s pretty cool.

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