Most folks look at Hump Day as the downhill slide toward the weekend– “I’m half-way to party time!” For me, it signals the end of three days’ worth of thrown-together cooking to feed my son promptly in order to keep the evening (meaning homework) on track. After tonight’s meal, I get to cook whatever I want, chef UNinterrupted. Truly, I’m close to euphoric when unencumbered by schedules and able to look at what’s fresh and available at the market to combine with what pantry items I have at home to create a great meal. My friend Margo, who is the only other mom I know who relishes cooking on vacation, agrees that it is so much more fun to have the TIME to plan and prepare a meal properly in a relaxed environment. FOOD can be LOVE!
Since we’re going camping this weekend, I decided I should use up most of the loose items and leftovers lurking in the fridge. I always have many shapes of pasta on hand, as well as parmigiano and half and half, so I figured I’d concoct a pasta. A look into the fridge added a half-roast chicken, a half-log of goat cheese, the rest of the cabbage from yesterday’s cole slaw and a head of cauliflower to my list of potential ingredients. Another look, this time into my pantry, and I found a jar of roasted red peppers. Who knew I had the makings of fettuccine with roast chicken tossed in a roasted red pepper goat cheese sauce with barely charred cauliflower as a side? (Sorry, cabbage, you’ll probably be transformed into a saute with mushrooms, onions and crispy bits of pancetta tomorrow). Bonus points for this dish because goat cheese happens to be my son’s favorite cheese!
First, I shredded the chicken, then roughly chopped a handful of peppers. I finely diced a small onion and grated some parmigiano– some of which is shown below. (It’s way harder to remember to shoot pictures while cooking on the stove vs. baking)!
I added olive oil to a heated saucepan, and cooked the onions til soft, adding some salt and pepper. Then I threw in the chopped peppers, heated them a bit and poured in maybe 2 cups of half and half. I let that simmer til it thickened, then crumbled in the goat cheese and parmigiano, stirring everything thing til combined.
At that point, I decided I wanted a smoother sauce, so I dumped the contents into a stainless steel bowl (from past experience, I strongly recommend that you do not try to use an immersion blender in a shallow-walled pan– you’ll be cleaning up for days), whizzed it with my stick immersion blender, then added it back to the pan. I tasted it and it was fine, but I wanted a little heat so I added a few sprinkles of chili flakes.
I turned the stove off and brought my son to his violin lesson. When I got home, I trimmed the cauliflower, removing a little of the core, then sliced half the head into big 1/2 inch slices. I placed them on a rimmed half-sheet pan, drizzled generously with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Since I had to go get my son (my husband usually does this, but he has some kind of team-building event tonight), I simply sat for 15 minutes and played with our cocker spaniel.
When I returned home with the kid, I preheated the oven to 425 degrees and started a big pot of water to boil for the pasta. It takes about 30 minutes for the oven to heat and the water to boil, so life was good. Water boils, I add salt and pasta. Oven chimes ready and in goes the cauliflower.
While the pasta boils, I warm the sauce and add the shredded chicken to heat. The pasta cooks in less time than the cauliflower (10 min vs 20), which is a good thing. I drain the pasta at al dente, mix it with some of the sauce, toss and taste.
By this time the cauliflower is ready. I transfer the pieces to a serving platter, and bring both to the table. Time to dig in!