Cooking With Brad: Farfalle With Chicken In Dijon Cream Sauce

Farfalle With Chicken In Dijon Cream Sauce
Farfalle With Chicken In Dijon Cream Sauce

Here’s a dish that sounds like it might be complicated but is really, really easy to make. Lots of times I will want to make a cream sauce for pasta, but I get sort of tired of the usual. This has a slight tang to it and it’s tasty.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1lb Farfalle pasta (or penne)
  • 1 Onion
  • 1.5lb boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 3/4c Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 3T Butter
  • 1T Dijon mustard
  • 3T Rice Vinegar (or white wine)
  • 1.4c grated Parmesan cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

If you use your time wisely while the pasta water is coming to a boil, you can get it all done pretty quickly. The trick is to get ready while the water is boilng, and then do everything at once. Here’s how to make it.

Get ready:

  1. Start the salted pasta water boiling
  2. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, each about the size of a small walnut. Season aggressively with salt and pepper
  3. Dice onion (use this onion slicing method)
  4. When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, heat a saucepan over medium high heat. When it is hot, add olive oil to coat the bottom, and let the oil heat until it shimmers. Toss in about 2TB of butter and let it melt.

Up to this point you can take it easy. But now that the oil is ready, it’s go time! Tell everyone you’ll be eating in about 15 minutes.

Go:

  1. Add the chicken pieces to the hot saucepan. There’s a trick to this! Use tongs to place them one at a time, quickly, so that they are covering the bottom of the saucepan. They should be sizzling. Start the timer so you know how long the chicken is cooking.
  2. Add pasta to the pasta water
  3. Let the chicken pieces sit. DO NOT check them! After four minutes, try turning one over with tongs. If it turns easy and is browned on one side, then you can turn the rest. If not, wait one more minute and turn them all. Do this quickly so they are all pretty much turned at the same time.
  4. Meanwhile, be mindful of the pasta water! When it’s boiling, start a timer for 11 minutes. (This will prbably be about halfway through the chicken part, but it depends on various factors.)
  5. Let the chicken cook for one minute on the second side. Remove them and set them aside in a bowl.
  6. Drain the saucepan of oil and turn the heat to medium
  7. Add 1TB of butter and the onions. Salt the onions so they will break down. Let them soften for 2 minutes. Add the 1T of Dijon mustard and mix it around for 1 minute.
  8. Deglaze the pan with the rice vinegar or white wine. Just a little bit! Scrape up all the bits and let the liquid boil a bit.
  9. Pour in the heavy whipping cream and let it come to a boil so it starts to reduce. (Stir it!) Add in a handful of Parmesan cheese, and lots of pepper.
  10. Once it has reduced, lower heat to low and add the chicken (and whatever juices have drained into the bowl). Let it warm for one minute.
  11. Drain pasta, pour into saucepan, and then turn that out into a large pasta bowl for serving.
  12. Mix the pasta a bit so it is covered with the sauce (but don’t bury the chicken pieces, which should stay at the top when you flip the saucepan). Top with pepper and Paremsan cheese.

Enjoy! This is tasty with some Italian country bread.

Cooking With Brad: 'Who Needs Pancake Mix?' Pancake Recipe

It’s Saturday morning, 8:30. You’ve gone out to get the car washed and your hair cut. But it’s still too early to mow the lawn. And the family is waking up hungry. What do you do? Pancakes, that’s what!

Believe me, this takes about as much time as making toast, and is a lot more fun. Plus, you get the satisfaction of thinking to yourself, “Who needs pancake mix?” and you can tell everyone at work on Monday that you made pancakes from scratch.

“Who Needs Pancake Mix?” Pancakes

  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 C Flour
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 1 T Baking Powder
  • 1 ½ t Salt
  • 2 C Milk + a little
  • 4 T Butter, melted in the microwave
All set up!
All set up!

Heat a nonstick griddle over medium-high heat.

Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) until they’re a uniform powder. Then pour in the melted butter, milk and crack the eggs into the mixture. Stir it all together so the yolks make the batter a bit yellowish. Stir until it’s just mixed but still a little lumpy. It should seem a bit thin – if it’s too thick add a few more splashes of milk.

Test to see if the griddle is hot enough by flicking some water onto it – the drops should sizzle and dance if it’s ready. It CAN get too hot, though, so check it after not too long.

Ready to flip
Ready to flip

Use a quarter-cup measuring cup or a ladle to pour the pancakes out onto the griddle. When bubbles begin to form around their edges, they are ready to flip.

After you flip them, they will puff up a little. Wait a moment, then press them down with the spatula (they’re tastier if they are thinner). If you want, cut a piece of butter to put on top of each one while the second side is cooking, so it melts down into it.

If you are cooking for a large group, you can have the oven on “warm” with a plate in it – keep the finished pancakes there while you make griddleful after griddleful. Serve in stacks with syrup and watch your family enjoy their morning.

Ready to eat!
Ready to eat!

You can double the recipe and save it in the fridge overnight for Sunday morning pancakes too. It tastes even better after sitting a while.

Cooking With Brad: Nourishing My Family As An Act Of Devotion

I’ve always worked hard and poured a lot of myself into my career. Some years ago, I moved with my family to a new city for a new job. I immediately set about trying to prove myself by working long hours. It did not help that the culture at that office was to work long hours anyway.

I was out of the house for about twelve hours every day, on my way to, at, or from work. It made me tired and sometimes it was all I could do to come home, plunk myself down with some Wendy’s, and read the paper before going to bed.

A Personal Crisis

And then it got worse. Work got busier, and I was gone longer hours. There was more stress at the office, too, so I had a lot on my mind all too frequently. I was preoccupied and absent.

I was disgusted with the father I had become. I began to feel a sense of desperation, as I grew further and further from my family.

The feelings that were plaguing me probably aren’t gender-specific. I know women in the workplace feel the same way I do, only with even more layers of guilt and shame as tapes roll in their heads about the supermoms they are supposed to be. But, I don’t know as much about how they feel as I do about how I feel, so that’s where I am writing from. I am writing from the desolation of the busy parent who has to work.

If you don’t know what I mean, then I applaud you because you have found your own solution. But, if I am speaking to you – or a part of you – or to a fear you have about what you’re becoming as you rise to vice president of your firm – if you understand – read on.

My Solution: Become The Nourisher

I want to share with you a piece of a solution that I found to that growing chasm of distance.

I threw myself into a new role at home: nourisher. I don’t mean “provider.” We’re not talking economics here. And I don’t mean “nourisher” in a  New-Agey kind of we-are-all-one way.

What I mean is that I threw myself with gusto into preparing, cooking, and presenting our meals. And it has persisted to this day. I cook things from scratch. I go to the market. I bake. I fill the house with kitchen smells whenever I can. I’m not militant about it – I’ll pop open a can or nuke a frozen chicken nugget when the occasion demands. But when I can, at least a few times a week, I make real food.

The result? Nothing short of a subtle miracle.

First, my kids have come to see me as integrally a part of their lives instead of the guy who comes home just before they go to bed. I feed them. They see it. They even help, sometimes. This is not to say I was totally absent beforehand. By no means. But, I often felt absent. If you are a busy parent, you know what I mean about the sense of failure you can have as another workday passes and you still haven’t watched your son’s new skateboard trick or helped with your daughter’s algebra. Well, maybe I don’t do all that all the time. But at least I feed them.

Second, I find myself approaching the family with much more devotion – in a tangible, needed way. I am giving rather than taking. It’s right there in front of me, proof positive. As I stand at the kitchen counter, literally kneading our daily bread, I think about how the kids will like their sandwiches, what they’ll say later when they taste the extra butter I baked in. I look forward to the questions when it comes out of the oven: “Can I have a piece before dinner?”

Third, and this is not trivial, I am proud. My wife is proud of her husband who knows how to cook. My kids are proud of their daddy and think he should open a restaurant. To colleagues, I casually mention that I bake bread from scratch – without a bread machine!

Fourth, I know more about what my family is eating. I’m not a health food junkie, but I like the family to eat food that at least feeds them. I worry that we’ll get obese like 30% of our fellow countrypeople.

Fifth, I have a hobby that doesn’t take me out of the house. I am home, where I belong.

Sharing What I’ve Learned

I know there are a number of people who feel as I do, so I thought I would try to share what I’ve learned about how to cook. I’ll be sharing recipes regularly from here on out. So it’s easy to find, I am giving the series a title: “Cooking With Brad.” You’ve already seen one of my recipes, the one for “Super White Bread.”

I come at it from the standpoint of someone who didn’t start with any prior knowledge. I did not grow up in a household where we cooked very much, so I picked it all up as I went, as an adult.

And, while I like to keep the time required manageable, I don’t approach meals by trying to cram it all into 30 minutes or make it so easy that all I do is open a can. That’s not the point. The point is to put some of myself into the cooking, so I feel that connection. So my recipes come from that standpoint.

If you don’t want to spend the time, then these recipes might not be for you. But, even in the midst of a very busy work life, I found that I could set aside a few hours on a Saturday and Sunday for sure, and could often build a super dinner a couple of times a week. The trick is to make it a priority.

Our family recipe book
Our family recipe book

These recipes are ones I have collected from many places and made my own. (You can see the binder I made to the right. Sometimes that’s just an addition of more salt or sugar. Other times, it’s mixing two recipes for the same thing together. The key is to make food that fits into a busy house, is fun to make, and pretty fool proof.

So, please do follow along. Enjoy the recipes. I have tried to give as much information about that how as I have about the what. For instance, how to tell whether the griddle is hot enough for pancakes, not just what goes into the batter, Because cooking is all about the hows – how do you stir? Where do you put the spoon?

My hope is to collect all of these recipes and tips into one publication, so watch for that.

I am especially interested in learning new recipes and hearing about how others have embedded nourishing their families into their lives. So speak up in the comments!

I hope you enjoy and find your own way to connect with your family.

Cooking With Brad: Super White Bread Recipe

If you want to feel like Super Dad, just bake a loaf of bread for the family. Your home will fill with the sweet smell of a bakery, and will feel especially inviting.

This bread recipe is a slight modification of “Neil’s Harbor White Bread” by Christa Bauman. Neil’s Harbor is in Nova Scotia, and once I discovered this recipe I developed a fascination with the place. I have yet to visit, but I have traveled there many times in my mind. I imagine it to be a small, harbor village with fishermen and children and dogs all running about. (The only link I can find to the original recipe appears dead, so maybe you will have better luck.)

This recipe increases the sugar and butter slightly, and adds gluten. It’s really the most basic white sandwich bread you can imagine, everything that Wonder bread should be and isn’t. I used to make 3 loaves every Sunday using a mixer, but you can make it a loaf at a time just using a bowl and a spoon (the directions below are for one loaf). Can you believe it, my kids actually like this better than store-bought. And, my dad often comes over Sunday just for his loaf.

One Loaf

  • 1C Lukewarm Water (110 to 115 degrees F)
  • 4T Butter, Melted in the microwave
  • 3T Sugar and 1T Sugar
  • 1T Yeast – Active Dry or “Bread Machine”
  • 1t Salt – Kosher
  • 3C Flour
  • 1T Wheat Gluten (optional, but it improves the texture)

Three Loaves

  • 3C Lukewarm Water
  • ½C Butter, Melted
  • ½C Sugar and 1T Sugar
  • 2T Yeast
  • 1 1/2T Salt – Kosher
  • 9C Flour
  • 3T Wheat Gluten

In a large, warm bowl, stir 1T of the sugar into the water until it dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it sit for five to seven minutes. Once the yeast has dissolved and is beginning to bubble, mix in the sugar, salt and butter until you have a sort of soup.

Knead it!
Knead it!

Stir in one cup of the flour. Once it’s mixed together, stir in another. Continue adding a cup of flour at a time – don’t add too much at once. Once there are about twice the number of cups of flour as there are liquid, it will be hard to stir. (If you are making three loaves, you should be using a big mixer, and switch to the dough hook after about five or six cups). Keep adding flour until there are three cups flour to every one cup water. Then, you may need to add more flour at the end– it should be a little sticky but not too wet.

Knead it for ten to fifteen minutes. Once it’s elastic and feels like a damp, deflated football half filled with water, roll it into a ball. One loaf will be about the size of a softball; three will be the size of a cantaloupe.

With olive oil (use vegetable or canola oil if you don’t have olive oil), coat the sides of a large bowl and put the ball in. Flip it once or twice so it’s covered with oil. Cover it with a dishtowel and set it aside in a warm spot away from drafts.

Its OK if it rises this much!
It's OK if it rises this much!

In anywhere from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, the dough will have risen to about double its original size. It will feel moister, and won’t be as dense. Flip it out onto a hard surface (coat the surface with a bit of flour so the dough won’t stick to it) and punch the dough down until it’s flat. Then, roll it into a loaf, about the diameter of a soda can or slightly smaller.

Now, turn on the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

Oil the inside of a large loaf pan (Pam will work fine) and put the shaped loaf into it. If the dough has a “seam,” put it on the bottom. Cover the loaf with a dishtowel and let it rise again. It should grow to about double size again, so the dough is just about an inch below the top of the loaf pan. This second rise will take anywhere from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours as well. It all depends on your climate, the ingredients, and luck.

Ready to bake
Ready to bake

Once the loaf is up to about an inch or so below the top of the loaf pan, bake it for 18 minutes at 400 degrees. It will puff up nicely, and turn golden brown. When it’s ready, take it out of the oven and turn it out of the pan. It will sound hollow when you thump it. Let it cool on a rack if you have one or on a wooden cutting board.

Now, go get your family and give them some fresh, warm bread with butter spread all over it!

This bread freezes well; just wait until it’s cooled to room temperature before you put it in a plastic bag and toss it in the freezer. Since it has some fat content, this bread will keep up to about four days once it’s sliced. Don’t throw away the heels and old pieces; it makes great French Toast.

Ready to enjoy!
Ready to enjoy!

Do you have a favorite bread recipe? Let us know in the comments!