Nice Girls' Chicken Puttanesca
Category: Main Dishes | Blog URL: http://wasabiprime.blogspot.com/2010/02/omg-recipe-chicken-puttanesca-making.html
This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.
Photo: Sheri Wetherell
OMG a Recipe: Chicken Puttanesca, Making Good Girls Go Bad
Why do only the naughty ladies of the night get to enjoy a puttanesca sauce? The story behind pasta puttanesca is that it was a simple-to-make sauce comprised of pantry staples, supposedly made by prostitutes between their clients' visits, because of its quick preparation time and inexpensive ingredients. If this is true, I must say the working girls of Italy knew their business because it's a delicious combination of flavors that makes a good girl wanna go bad. Well, not totally bad -- this version of puttanesca has the sauce made with chicken, served over a bed of roasted cauliflower puree; probably a little more involved than the original recipe. We'll just call this one the Heidi Fleiss of Chicken Puttanesca.
The obvious question is: where's the heck's the pasta? We are still the annoyingly reduced-carb couple, Mr. Wasabi and I. We indulge in bready, pasta goodness once in a while, more as a treat, but if nothing else, I will say this way of eating has made a more resourceful cook out of me. I could have made this dish more traditional and made a bed of polenta for the chicken to sit upon, but a puree of cauliflower seemed a more carb-conscious choice, plus I had been looking for a reason to be creative with cauliflower.
Cauliflower can often be overlooked, which is a shame, as it's a versatile ingredient, roasts up nicely with a nutty finish, and can be a less starchy and more vitamin-rich alternative to a potato. It's also wicked-cheap at the grocery store and keeps for a while in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. For the side dish, I removed the green stems of two heads of cauliflower and cut everything down into small, relatively equal-sized pieces, and tossed with oil and herbed salt so they would roast evenly in the oven. A couple of garlic cloves were also added, so they could caramelize. Once softened and slightly browned, everything was promptly buzzed down with some milk and shredded asiago cheese in a blender. It was easier to keep the consistency loose, so the blender could churn through everything and pour smoothly into the plates.
Yes, there's anchovies in this. Don't be scared. They won't bite, I promise. I was given a little jar of Crown Prince anchovies by a friend, and these little guys really do add a savory, rich flavor to things, whether it's in sauces or something as basic as a chicken Caesar salad. The wee bitty filets, chopped up small, literally melt into the sauce, giving it a salty richness that's not at all fishy if you're just adding one. Puttanesca sauce traditionally includes these, capers, chopped olives, garlic and tomatoes. It makes for a perfect pantry/MacGyver meal, as much of these items are available in most cupboards.
As for the chicken, breast meat was split lengthwise and pounded flat into paillards, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, seared in the pan with some butter. Once browned, the chicken was removed and the pan was deglazed by the making of the puttanesca sauce, giving this the one-pan meal gold star of approval. The chicken was added back in once the sauce was reduced, so that it could absorb the sauce's heavy flavor.
For the sake of food blogging, the cauliflower puree was poured into an artful little pool and the chicken and sauce was layered on top, with a final sprinkle of chopped parsley and asiago cheese. I guarantee it doesn't need much fussing, as the first tasting of this in an artful plating was just as rich and delicious as when it was eaten as a leftover out of some Tupperware. This dish could easily be modified with using pasta instead of the cauliflower puree, but if you have a chance to make this side dish, you'll find it's creamy, delicious rewards are definitely worth the preparation time.