Chicken Fettuccine with Wild Mushrooms and Gobbledegeek

To give this scrumptious Italian number it’s full name….Peppered Chicken Fettuccine Tossed with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Wild Mushrooms & Spinach. It may very well be known by another name but I’m afraid I have no have no idea what it might be. The original recipe was passed to me by a talented young chef in Bendigo named Adam and so the credit, and thanks, go to him.

You will notice, perhaps with some panic, that I have omitted the proportions. The reason for this is that after making it a few times, I discarded the recipe and made it to taste. For instance, I love mushrooms but the kids balk at their texture and so the amount and the variety will vary. We all adore pesto but it can make the dish a little rich and heavy, so if you have plenty of chicken to go around, cut down on the pesto and vice versa. Experiment by adding and tasting as you go. Add more of what you like and less of what you don’t but don’t go mad otherwise it will become too salty or overly rich.

Referring back to the long-winded title, if you are partial to it, you might like to add more pepper and reduce the amount of pesto. Heck! Leave out the pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and substitute cream and you have yourself a completely different meal!

 

Ingredients

Fettuccine or Tagliatelle
Chicken Breast Fillets
Sun-dried Tomatoes
Mushrooms
Spinach
Pesto
Cracked black pepper
Garlic
Butter
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese

 

Method

Start by cooking the pasta in well salted water. This should take between 8 and 10 minutes once the water is boiling, just long enough to let you prepare the rest of the dish.

Slice the chicken into equal pieces and marinate in olive oil and black pepper while you get on with the other stuff.

Slice the mushrooms and cook in an equal butter oil mix. Season and add a little garlic. Personally, I prefer to just heat them through so they remain quite firm but not still crunchy. You can experiment with wild mushrooms and I would suggest Crimini (Cremini, baby bellas, Italian Brown and Portabellini) for their richer, more earthy flavour or for the more adventurous (and if you can get them), Pied de Mouton or Porcini (Penny Buns) but any mushroom imparting earthy or nutty flavours such as Portabello, would be great in this dish. If you manage to get your hands on some good ‘uns, reduce the impact of the other ingredients and make it more about the mushrooms.

cremini mushrooms

Fry the chicken in olive oil, add mushrooms and the sun-dried tomatoes. Add the pesto and garlic. Season to taste. Other than the pasta, the chicken is the only other ingredient you actually cook, everything else simply requires warming through!

Add more olive oil for the sauce. You may leave this step out if you’re not a fan of olive oil but you don’t want it to be too dry.

Drain and add the cooked pasta, toss and add shaved Parmesan. Potato peelers are great for shaving but a standard grater will probably have the necessary grating slot.

Add the spinach, toss and add a knob of butter. If you’re not a big fan of spinach, try it anyway because it’s the marriage of flavours that make this dish so bloody lovely. If you really must, leave out the spinach, it won’t lessen the dish noticeably. You might also like to add lightly toasted pine nuts or even almond slivers.

Serve with shaved Parmesan on top and accompany with a chilly crisp white of your choice.

Perhaps I’ll add a few black olives when I do this next and I must remember to take photos. Here’s one I borrowed but it doesn’t have sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, Parmesan or any chicken for that matter!!

pesto fettucini

Gobbledegeek’s Cauliflower Cheese

So I’ve had this cauliflower in the fridge for quite some time now, hoping it would gracefully grow old and black so that I could avoid preparing a cheese sauce but to my horror, and ignoring a barely visible amount of blackening, it looked as good as the day I dumped it there. So I must bite the bullet and prepare a sauce that in all honesty, is not so much of a chore but will require a little extra work if it is to feed several hungry mouths.

A fresh hoon brain
A fresh hoon brain

We’ll start by preparing the milk. Throw a couple of bay leaves, a quartered onion and half a dozen cloves into the milk, season with sea salt and black pepper and bring to the boil. I use between 1 and 1.5 litres and this expands considerably once you start adding cheese, so bear this in mind when selecting your pan. You can experiment with other infusions if you’re feeling adventurous.

Once your infusion begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat and discard the ingredients when cool. Allowing the milk infusion to cool will help avoid lumps later.

Moving on to the cauli, start by removing the stem and any unwanted foliage. At this stage you should have already removed it from the fridge, otherwise it could get a little cramped and quite likely dangerous too. You can remove any unsightly blackening with a potato pealer or a sharp knife. Cut into florets or if you prefer, simply cut into the required amount of portions.

Boil in salted water for 5 minutes and then drain. You could save the water for another dish if you wish and I’d suggest using it for a creamy cauliflower soup made with cumin, turmeric and fresh coriander, for instance.

While the cauli cools, we’ll do the roux for our béchamel sauce by taking equal quantities of flour and butter. Over a low to medium heat, melt the butter first and whisk in the flour to create a smooth, creamy mess akin to wet sand. That’s your classic roux, used as a base for several ‘mother’ sauces, which in turn are used as bases for all other sauces.

Still whisking, gradually add the cooled milk infusion until completely combined. As the mixture heats the fat reacts with the starch in the flour and thickens the milk. You should continue stirring over the heat until the floury taste subsides but before the mixture darkens too much, that is unless you need a base for a dark sauce, of course.

Now you can gradually add your cheese, transforming our béchamel into cheese sauce unless you wish to impress your dinner guests, then calling it a cheese béchamel is acceptable.

Quite cheesy
Quite cheesy
Cheesy!
Cheesy!

Did you know that equal quantities of Gruyère and Parmesan combined with your basic béchamel create the famous Mornay sauce? However, for our cauliflower cheese, we’ll stick with good old Cheddar. Continue adding the cheese and tasting regularly until the desired cheesiness is met.

Finally, a little more seasoning can be added or try a little nutmeg before pouring over the cauliflower which has been sat patiently in a suitable ovenware dish. Grate a little more cheese over the top and chuck it in the pre-heated oven at about 180°C for 20 minutes or until slightly singed on top.

Cauliflower cheese
Cauliflower cheese

Depending on whether the cauliflower cheese is for lunch, dinner or just a side dish, you can pad it out and make it go further by adding chopped bacon or peas and even pasta, to name a few. Equal quantities of cauli and broccoli make a pleasant change when accompanying the Sunday roast, although my personal preference would be to include very little cheese in this case.

Bon appétit!
Mwynhewch eich bwyd!