So my “Italian-inspired” dish idea sort of fizzled after a loooooong week. 😦 And to boot, it’s Friday the 13th. Not that that really matters – it’s only just another day, but it has been a crazy week.
On top of the mass amounts of homework I have been working on, the Ryan and I have been house-sitting a friend’s two dogs and mischievous kitten this week. And by “us” house sitting, it has been me a fair distance away from our house and the Ryan at home during the night with our kitties. In his defense, he comes down after work to hang for a couple hours, but then he leaves and goes home and I am left to endure barking, meowing, scratching, climbing, a tiny dog in the small of my back while I sleep, and as of last night at 2:54 a.m., dog vomit. I have decided I should invent a drinking game that involves taking a shot of your choice every time the big dog barks at non-existent threats in the middle of the night. The other night, I would have been approximately two of the proverbial “three sheets to the wind” with as many times as I was awoken. At least I know he’s a good watchdog, right? 🙂
That all being said, I *will* make what I had originally planned – which was homemade shrimp ravioli. With today being so long (yeah…after cleaning up the dog vomit? Didn’t get back to sleep..) the thought of coming to the house and trying to mess with creating dough, rolling it out, punching it into raviolis, filling it, etc., was just not appealing. SO, sticking with my original “Italian” theme, I went with vodka sauce.
My friend’s husband has access to some pretty sweet liquor, and there was a giant bottle of French vodka sitting in the kitchen. Since I had originally planned on making an orange cream sauce with the ravioli, and with that beautiful bottle of vodka staring me in the face, it seemed the obvious choice. Instead of shrimp, I cooked chicken and threw in some mushrooms for good measure. I also kind of made this recipe up on the fly, but I researched it after I made it and it seems pretty standard.
So without further delay, I present vodka sauce! (Sorry for the low quality pictures, all I had was my camera phone – my digital cam is back at our house.)
First, the ingredients: fresh basil (about 1 tbls), fresh flat leaf parsley (half cup), two heads of garlic, mushrooms (we like them – used the whole box), chicken, bowtie pasta (you can use any kind you’d like, I just felt like using this kind tonight – about 2 cups dry), tomato sauce (I was raised on Hunts..don’t hate 😉 – the whooole can), vidalia onion (I used half), one cup cream (I chose to use light cream, as it’s approximately 30-40 calories less per serving) and, of course, vodka (one cup).
Slice the mushrooms and set aside. 🙂 In the mean time, I opted to start the tomato sauce & 1 cup of vodka on simmer to allow the vodka to start breaking down.
Next, ward off any pets that may be trying to thwart your efforts and steal your food.
Once you have thwarted furry food scavenging efforts, peel and add both complete heads of garlic to the sauce. The Ryan was particularly helpful during this step, as he was able to use the “how to peel a head of garlic” technique I linked in my aioli post. We were pretty excited to learn that this actually worked like it did in the video. 😀 And since I am not in my own house, attempting to put dishes away in their appropriate place led me to find a food chopper! Oh happy day!! Only…..it didn’t work. 😦 So the Ryan came to my rescue and pushed every single garlic clove through the garlic press and into the sauce. In the mean time, I chopped half of the onion and dropped it into the sauce.
Stir it all together, and add salt & pepper to taste. Keep the sauce simmering on low.
Next, add the mushrooms and stir to cover with the sauce. Once they are covered, start a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, salt it lightly and then add the pasta. I used about two cups of pasta for the Ryan and I.
Next, chop about a half cup of loose flat leaf parsley and add it to the sauce. Stir to incorporate and let the sauce simmer on a low setting.
Once your parsley is stirred in, prep the basil. Instead of mincing the basil, I chose to cut it into “ribbons” (I’ve been awake for more than 20 hours now, and I can’t remember the technical term..heh!). If you have never done this before, pile several basil leaves on top of each other and roll them up as shown here. Next, cut the leaves very thinly, as if you were trying to julienne them.
When you are done, the leaves should look like this. 🙂 When working with basil, it is imperative not to add it until the very end of the cooking process. Basil’s taste fades and becomes bitter when it cooks down, so it’s best not to add it too soon.
Next, I heated a skillet (be sure your sauce is still on a very low simmer setting, and make sure you are stirring occasionally) and added a little olive oil. While the oil is heating, cube your chicken into bite sized pieces. (Notice how I prep all vegetables and spices prior to cutting meat? Try to make a habit of it, it helps with cross contamination.)
Add the chicken to the skillet and start to brown. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken. Saute until there is no to very little pink left.
Once the chicken is mostly cooked, add it to the sauce and stir in. Let it continue to simmer.
Your sauce should now be looking like this. Mmmmmm!
Add one cup of cream, and stir while pouring to incorporate.
Your sauce will take on a beautiful orange color from the tomato sauce & cream mixture. Now that the garlic, onion and parsley have had a chance to blend with the sauce, it might be a good time to do a taste test again and add any salt/pepper as needed.
By now, your pasta should look like this – mmmm!!
Remove your sauce from the heat and stir in the basil you cut earlier. Let it sit for a couple minutes to incorporate while you dish out the pasta.
Dish the sauce over the pasta and voila! 😀 Yummy homemade vodka sauce.