Monday, May 1, 2017

Linguettine and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce

     A Comfortable Café Style Pasta!
     Pasta with Tomato Herb Sauce was popular back in the 1980's, especially when shrimp or chicken was added.  In cafés and upscale casual restaurants the customers often prefer an easy to identify entrée that provides satisfaction, especially when doing a business lunch.  A name of a pasta entrée that is easy to pronounce and easy to comprehend does please casual members of the dining public, especially at places like an English pub, where most customers focus on socialization and expect simple good food that is not too sophisticated.
     During the mid 1980's I was working in a French café with a French chef that taught culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  The café was located in a wealthy retirement area in Florida.  The cafe hosted fashion shows a few days each week.  Most of our lunch clientele was senior citizen ladies and local department store shoppers.  A clientele base like this prefers to not struggle with difficult to pronounce foreign language names of food items on a menu or overly complicated cuisine.  Keeping the menu item and special du jour offering names simple was part of the key to success. When the chef wrote the menu for the cafe, all the items on the menu were written in plain English.  The French chef put no pastas on the menu.  I was the sous chef at the café and I was responsible for the lunch specials du jour.  I ran a pasta as one of the special offerings nearly every day, because I had a lot of Italian cooking experience.  Serving Italian pasta in a French café is kind of frowned upon, so I cooked pasta creations that had some French flair.
     Tomato Herb Sauce for pasta is a French style recipe and there really is not such thing in classic Italian cuisine.  White wine is nearly never added to an Italian tomato sauce, but in Provence, France, adding white wine to a tomato sauce is quite common.  In fact, the modern Provencal Tomato Sauce recipe nearly always requires liquor or white wine.
     Fresh herbs are always used to make Tomato Herb Sauce for pasta.  Sauce Provencal always requires local herbs that can be gathered during a walk in the Provence countryside, but in America, these herbs are usually only available dried and not Fresh.  The nice thing about Tomato Herb Sauce is that the selection of fresh herbs is not specific, so a chef can add any combination of fresh herbs that is preferred and seasonal herbs are usually the best choice.
     Chicken is not a traditional pasta ingredient in Italy, but in America, casual restaurants nearly always feature a chicken pasta on the menu.  The chicken pasta trend began back in the 1980's when chicken was considered to be a healthy food option.  Even so, most American style chicken pastas back in those days were usually smothered with a cheesy cream sauce that actually defeated any healthy dining intentions.  Customers that saw the word chicken in the name of the pasta used the healthy meat option as an excuse to devour a rich cream sauce pasta regardless of the consequences.  Pasta and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce definitely was the true healthier option back in those days.  
     As a sous chef, I liked making Tomato Herb Sauce, because it presented an opportunity to liquidate all of the fresh herbs that were overstocked.  A copious amount of any combination of fresh herbs can be added to this sauce, so the restaurant waste percentages could be kept in check.  The same strategy can be used in a home kitchen to eliminate waste when too many fresh herbs are leftover from previous cooking projects or when the garden produces a bumper herb crop.      
     Fresh peeled and seeded overripe fresh plum tomatoes are a good choice for today's recipe, but modern ethylene gas ripened GMO tomatoes do not ripen like old fashioned natural tomatoes.  I personally do not like GMO products at all, because they pose a potential health risk.  Italy and most European countries have banned GMO vegetables.  Imported Italian canned San Marzano Tomatoes are the best tomatoes that money can buy.  Whole or crushed San Marzano Tomatoes are good for today's recipe.
     Tomato Herb Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.  (1 portion)
     This sauce should be prepared shortly before it is served, so the herbs retain their green color. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 cups of imported Italian canned peeled and seeded San Marzano Tomatoes that are packed in their own juices in a mixing bowl.  (Be sure to add a portion of the thick juice from the can.)
     Crush the tomatoes by hand.
     Set the hand crushed San Marzano Tomatoes aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Gently sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add the reserved crushed San Marzano Tomatoes and their juices.
     Add about 2 tablespoons of a selection of minced fresh herbs of your choice.
     *The sauce in the photo examples was made with these minced herbs:
     - 1 teaspoon of basil
     - 1 teaspoon of cilantro
     - 1 teaspoon of chives
     - 2 pinches of marjoram
     - 1 pinch of sage
     - 1 pinch of oregano
     - 1 pinch of dill weed
     - 1 pinch of tarragon
     - 1 pinch of thyme
     - 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
     Step 4:  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (1 or 2 pinches)
     Add 1/2 cup dry white wine.
     *French White Burgundy Chablis is a good choice.  Only cook with a wine that you would be happy to drink!
     Add 1 cup of chicken stock.
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature to medium heat
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates and the sauce is a medium thin consistency.
     Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside.

     Linguettine and Chicken with Tomato Herb Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     *The pasta and Chicken with Tomato Sauce can be prepared at the same time!
     The cardinal Italian pasta rule still applies to this French style pasta!  Make only enough sauce to flavor the pasta and not flood the pasta with sauce.
     Step 1:  Start cooking 1 portion of Linguettine Pasta in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 6 ounces of boneless chicken breast filet that is cut into small bite size pieces.
     Sauté till the chicken is fully cooked and a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Drain off any excess oil.
     Step 4:  Return the sauté pan and chicken to medium low heat.
     Add about 1 1/2 cups of the Tomato Herb Sauce.
     Bring the sauce to a simmer.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat till the pasta finishes cooking.
     Step 5:  When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the portion of al dente cooked Linguettine Pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 6:  Use a long tine carving fork to twist and coil the pasta while placing the pasta on a plate.
     Spoon the remaining sauce and chicken from the pan over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated Romano Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish the pasta with a small basil sprig.
     Delicious and healthy!  The white wine combines with the tomatoes and herbs to create a very nice aromatic flavor.

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