Tuesday, December 24, 2013

RECIPE TIME: Spicy Romano Chicken Pasta Revamped!

I went through a major pasta phase as a teen. Anytime my parents took us out to eat, I'd (not so subtly) suggest we go to Macaroni Grill or Carrabba's. In college, the obsession continued and Johnny Carino's became my establishment of choice. 

In a fortuitous twist of fate, I married a former Johnny Carino's cook. It seems that while I was chowing down on Johnny Carino's during college at the University of Georgia, he was slaving away in the kitchen of the same restaurant in his college town, making dinner for hungry Ball State University carb addicts.

So every once in awhile, we feel the need to whip up our favorite Johnny Carino's dish to remember old times by - Spicy Romano Chicken. The only problem is... the original dish has 1,219 calories and 65 grams of fat (34 of which are saturated). This dish is literally a heart attack on a plate. 

Clearly, the only way we can feel good about this dinner is by giving it a makeover! You know, a look that's a little less deadly!

The biggest offender in this dish is the heavy cream. But there's a sneaky way to solve this problem - make a cream (without the cream!) at home. Eating Well has a simple recipe that we used to make ourselves feel a bit better about our indulgent pasta night.

And since I can tell you're aching for the deets, I present to you our Cream-Free Spicy Romano Chicken Pasta! (NOTE: This dish can be made GLUTEN-FREE by using brown rice pasta OR DAIRY-FREE by omitting the cheese and using oil instead of ghee/butter... it'll still be good!).

The original "cream" recipe makes 6 cups, but our dish only needs 3 cups so that's what we're showing here. To make the "cream", finely chop 1/2 cup of onions (any color is fine).
In a medium saucepan, heat about 1Tbs. of ghee (or organic butter/olive oil) over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft (not brown) - about 5 minutes.
Now add 1/3 cup of any long or medium grain rice (we went with jasmati) and stir for 2 minutes.
Now add 2.5 cups of reduced-sodium chicken broth (free range is best!)...
...and 1/2 cup of dry white wine (which still leaves you enough to enjoy a glass or two while you cook!). Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for approximately 25 minutes (until the rice is soft and the liquid is greatly reduced). Take off the burner and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, prep for your pasta dish. Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic, dice 1 medium-sized red onion, chop a handful of sundried tomatoes into thin slivers and wash and chop 1 lb. of mushrooms.
Now chop about 1 lb. of organic, free-range chicken into bite size pieces.
When your "cream" has cooled down, transfer the mixture to a blender, food processor (or NutriBullet in our case!) and puree until smooth. The texture should be like a pourable sauce. Season with a bit of sea salt and pepper to taste. If you find your mixture to be too thick, just add a bit of water until it reaches the consistency you like.
In a large saute pan, cook the garlic and onions in a Tbs. of ghee/organic butter/oil for 2-3 minutes until slightly brown, then add the chicken and cook through. Lightly season with sea salt, black pepper, oregano and cayenne pepper (only IF you like it spicy).
Now add the sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and 1 can of artichoke hearts.
If you're using cheese, add a sprinkle of asiago and mix well while the vegetables cook.
Once the veggies are cooked through, pour in the "cream" (you can use all of it if you like your pasta extra creamy or less if you prefer a light coating).
Add approximately 1/2 cup more of asiago cheese (this will thicken up the sauce) and a bit more cayenne pepper (if it needs more kick).
Stir well to combine and heat through.
Now plate and enjoy erasing all those extra calories!
Doesn't being good taste so very bad? Merry Christmas to you all!

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