Saturday, February 26, 2011

Linguettini and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce

     Pasta sauces like tomato herb sauce were very popular in the 1980's.  For customers, an appealing and "easy to identify" name of a pasta entree that is easy to pronounce was nice.  Pasta creations of all kinds were a trend during that era.  Previously to the 1980's, it seemed that an Italian restaurant was the only place that a good plate of pasta could be found.  French chefs and California chefs went absolutely nuts creating non traditional pasta entrees during the 1980's.  Haute cuisine gourmet ravioli creations became a favorite item for French chefs.
     During the mid 1980's I was working in a French cafe with a French chef who had taught culinary arts in two chef schools in France.  The cafe was located in a wealthy retirement area in Florida.  The cafe hosted fashion shows a few days during week.  Most of our clientele was senior citizen ladies and shoppers who wanted lunch.  A crowd like that does not want difficult to pronounce foreign language items on a menu or overly complicated cuisine.  When the chef wrote the menu for the cafe, all the items on the menu were written in plain English.  The French chef put no pastas on the menu.  I was the sous chef at the cafe and I was responsible for the lunch specials du jour.  I ran a pasta as one of my du jour offerings nearly every day.  I had a lot of Italian pasta experience, but serving Italian pasta in a French cafe is frowned upon, so I cooked pasta creations that had a french flair.
     That little French cafe's food was highly rated until the billionaire owner's assets were frozen in one of the biggest stock market scandals of all time!  One of our regular customers was a retired French chef who was the personal chef of the president of France.  He loved our food and I later worked for that chef!
     We only used fresh herbs in that cafe, so I had access to plenty of great flavor.  One of the most popular non traditional pasta sauces in the 1980's was a tomato herb sauce that was made with white wine.  That sauce appealed to many people.  Chicken is considered to be non traditional in Italian pastas, but American Italian restaurants usually offer one token chicken entree.  In the 1980's, chicken was looked upon as the healthy choice of food on a menu.
     As a chef, I liked tomato herb sauce because it gave me an opportunity to sell all the fresh herbs that may have been over stocked.  I am a great judge of knowing when it is necessary to create an entree to sell slow moving or overstocked food items.  The day before the fresh herbs started to wilt, I would sell this pasta to clear our inventory of perishable fresh herbs, so we could order new fresh herbs.  As you know, fresh herbs only stay fresh for a few days.  In restaurants and at home, it is a terrible waste to throw spoiled uncooked food in the trash.  Fresh herbs are usually sold in bunches, and it does take a few recipes to use up a fresh bunch of herbs.
      Last week, I bought three necessary bunches of herbs for some fusion and Thai recipes that I posted in my blog.  The same week, a fellow food writer wrote about always throwing fresh herbs that had turned black into the trash.  She wrote about drying those herbs as an alternative.  Well, I definitely had an overstock of fresh herbs in my refrigerator this week.  I thought to myself, "These are fresh herbs, why in the world would I want to dry them out?"  My response to that food writers ill teaching was to post a few recipes in my blog that require a tremendous amount of fresh herbs.  The Persian Kookoo Sabzi was a nice recipe that required a lot of fresh green herbs just like this pasta recipe.
     I did not have all the fresh herbs that I used to make this sauce in the past, so I added a few dried herbs that I had on hand, so the flavor would be correct.  The object was to cook the overstocked fresh herbs that were on hand and not to buy more fresh herbs to complete the recipe.  If you only have access to dried herbs, then this sauce will turn out fine too.  Fresh herbs always have a "crisper" flavor, but some herbs, like oregano, are better when dried.
     When making this entree, the pasta can be boiled while the sauce is simmering.  The pasta and sauce take about the same amount of time to cook, if good imported Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes are used.  San Marzano tomatoes require very little cooking time.  Tomato herb sauce is not Italian, but the cooking techniques should follow Italian tomato sauce making rules.  Tomato herb sauce is an American and French style tomato sauce.
     Tomato Herb Sauce Recipe:
     Fresh peeled and seeded overripe fresh tomatoes are a good choice for this recipe, but today's gassed GMO tomatoes do not ripen like old fashioned natural tomatoes.  I personally do not like GMO products at all, because they pose a health risk.  Italy and most european countries have banned GMO vegetables.  Imported Italian canned San Marzano tomatoes are the best tomatoes that money can buy.  Whole or crushed San Marzano tomatoes are fine for this recipe.
     Place 1 1/2 cups of imported Italian whole peeled and seeded San Marzano tomatoes that are packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.  Be sure to add a portion of the thick juice from the can.
     Crush the tomatoes by hand.
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 6 ounces of small bite size pieces of boneless chicken breast filet.
     Gently saute the chicken pieces, till they become fully cooked and lightly caramelized.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add the reserved crushed San Marzano tomatoes and their juices.
     Add these finely chopped fresh or dried herbs:
     - 1 teaspoon of minced basil
     - 1 teaspoon of minced cilantro
     - 1 pinch of ground sage
     - 2 pinches of marjoram
     - 1 pinch of oregano
     - 1 pinch of dill weed
     - 1 pinch of tarragon
     - 1 teaspoon of chives
     - 1 pinch of thyme
     - 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup dry white wine.  (I used a French white burgundy chablis.  I only cook with a wine that I would drink!)
     Add 1/3 cup of chicken stock.
     Note:  Now is the time to start cooking the pasta.  Cook 1 portion of linguettini pasta in boiling water over high heat, till the pasta becomes al dente.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Drain the water off of the pasta when it becomes al dente.
     Add the portion of al dente cooked linguettini pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Use a long straight tine carving fork to twist and coil the pasta as you pick the pasta up from the pan.
     Place the coiled pasta across a plate.
     Most of the chicken and excess sauce will remain in the pan when using this coiling pasta presentation method, so spoon the excess sauce and chicken over the pasta.
     Note:  The Italian cardinal pasta rule still applies!  Make only enough sauce to flavor the pasta and not flood the pasta with sauce!
     Sprinkle a little bit of grated romano cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with a small basil sprig.
     Delicious and healthy!  This simple pasta recipe has such a great flavor.  The white wine combines with the tomatoes and herbs to create a very nice aroma and flavor.  The flavor of the sauce is perfect with chicken.  Linguettini, linguini or fettucini are the best pastas to use for this recipe.  Coiling long pasta adds a professional looking touch to the pasta presentation and it builds height.
     The mixture of herbs for the sauce is a personal choice.  Use a wide variety of herbs.  Chervil is nice in the herb mixture too.  The herb mixture in the recipe was the same as what I used to make this pasta at the French cafe.
     Yum!  Bon Appetite!  ...  Shawna                    

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