Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bacon-Infused Pasta, Jalapeno Cream Sauce & Chicken

Did I have you at "bacon?" Or maybe it was that word 'infused." What a lovely thought: a bacon infusion. Someone call 9-1-1! Surely, a cure for anything!

As you may notice, I've been on a pasta kick lately (and I still have brandy pasta to come). It's just so easy to prepare and a meal in-and-of itself. I really had planned to add a handful of frozen peas to this recipe, but they were nowhere to be found in my freezer. And, yes, I used canned mushrooms, not fresh. I have no quarrel with canned mushrooms. For one thing, they keep their shape when cooked. Second, I make judicious use of the juice (how's that for a rhyme?). Never throw it out. If you have fresh on hand, by all means add them and sub chicken stock for the mushroom liquid.

The chicken in this recipe really serves as an afterthought: it's merely the "designated driver" for the intoxicating bacon. And, really, there isn't that much bacon. As usual, I trim most of my bacon before frying. Adding a piece of bacon to the pasta water steers the taste to a new direction. But it all arrives home safe-and-sound with the cream sauce and jalapeno. The sauce is not meant to be hot or spicy. It's that depth of smoky flavor it adds.

Next time, I may just sear the tenders and serve on their own. It's your call. But I would add a handful of peas to the pasta water just before it's done.

  • 1/4-1/3 cup trimmed, smoked bacon (I used thick-sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno + 1 teaspoon, reserved, ribs and seeds removed
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced, + 1 reserved
  • 1 cup chunked chicken tenders
  • 1 4-oz. can mushrooms, drained, juice reserved
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup dry, white wine
  • 4-5 ounces spaghetti
  • Parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan-Reggiano
  • Frozen peas (optional) about a handful

Trim, wash and pat dry chicken tenders. Cut into thirds or fourths.

Fry bacon just until it begins to crisp remembering it will also cook in the sauce. Remove from pan to drain. Add a bit olive oil to pan and add the chicken, searing just until it begins to brown. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Remove.

Be sure to taste your jalapeno before cooking with it.
Some are hot. Some are mild.
Remove the inside white rib and seeds--
that's where the most of the heat resides.

Add a bit of olive oil to pan and add the one tablespoon chopped jalapeno. Stir just until it softens, about one minute. Add the two sliced garlic cloves. After about a minute or so, add the wine to de-glaze the pan stirring up the brown bits. Add the mushroom juice. Stir. Add the cream. Bring just to a boil then lower heat. Add bacon and simmer until thick, a good 5-8 minutes. About halfway, taste for seasonings and, if necessary, add the reserved jalapeno and garlic. Add several grates of cheese and mix through.

Meanwhile bring a pot of salted water to a boil with about one-half to one piece of bacon. When boiling, add your pasta and cook. Just before done, add a handful of frozen peas, if using. Drain. Remove and discard bacon.

Once the sauce thickens, return the chicken to the pan over low heat. Add pasta to pan with sauce and chicken, stir through. Add about 1/4 cup grated cheese and stir through, allowing pasta to absorb the sauce. Add a bit of chopped parsley.

Plate and serve with addition cheese grated over the top. Yea it's all about going over the top  .  .  .