Do you remember when you realized that the fancy word “pasta” really meant macaroni and spaghetti and variations on the same? I must have been in my 20s, sorry to say, before I learned that culinary factoid. There was just never any use of the word at home when I was growing up, and I had no exposure to it until I was able to visit an upscale Italian-style restaurant and see it on a menu. Expecting something exotic, I was disappointed to recognize that whatever form it took, pasta was really all the same stuff.
Now that we are gluten free given Robin’s wheat allergy, we are of course more serious about what goes into the stuff. There are so many great wheatless pastas out there that you don’t need to go without, and it comes in all the favorite forms – lasagna, penne, mostacolli, linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti and macaroni. The trick is to not overcook it, because gluten-free pasta is very sensitive to such treatment.
This is an affordable dish, requiring few ingredients, that is modified from a Chinese entree that one of our favorite buffets always served, made Italian instead. In addition to pasta, it uses bread crumbs which obviously in their ordinary versions are not gluten free. But they are available gluten free, made from rice bread, and they are really very good. Two alternatives to wheat flour, wheat bread crumbs or gluten free bread crumbs are cornstarch and potato chips. Either one works well with chicken using an egg and milk mixture to start with.
basic ingredients: chicken tenders (1 pound or so), 1 green pepper, 1 small white or yellow or red onion, celery (1 stalk), garlic, pasta, parmesan cheese, cream, and lots of butter. BREADING: 1 egg, milk and breadcrumbs
optional ingredients: use asparagus if you don’t like green pepper, use other color peppers if desired, add sliced mushrooms.
how to make it: Start with your Dutch oven size pot. Put in a tablespoon of olive oil, and a good tablespoon of butter and put it on medium heat. Beforehand you have prepared the chicken by dipping each tender in egg and milk, then rolling it in your breading choice. Fry these in the oil and butter, turning once, until they are golden brown. Remove them from the pot and toss in your slices of pepper, onion, and celery with a spoon of minced garlic, and saute the veggies until they just start to soften. Put the chicken back in and cook it all together for a few minutes, then remove from the pot. Fill the pot with water and use the energy saving method of bringing the water to a boil, adding the pasta, stirring until it comes to a boil again, and turning it off and letting it sit for 15 minutes or so. When it’s done, drain it in a colander and melt some more butter in the pot while it’s draining. Pour in a half cup or so of half and half, some garlic salt and pepper, and a bit more minced garlic. When it’s bubbling, put the pasta back in and toss. Add a good dose of grated parmesan and stir it in. Then add the chicken and veggie mixture and stir carefully – you don’t want to break all the pasta. There you have it – buttery chicken and pasta, a great dish to serve on a cool evening anywhere in the country.
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