When I read this recipe for the first time, I was excited to try it because it seemed like a much-streamlined, lighter, healthier, Julia Child recipe. (MUCH streamlined–you only need one pot and one pan. And it takes about 30 to 40 minutes rather than four hours. Phew.)
This is no dainty dish. The Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Milled Flax Seed, cooked al dente, is a delicious, wholesome complement to the tender chicken, the mushrooms, fragrant from their simmering in sherry, and the light and creamy sauce, all spiked with bright, snappy green parsley. It’s all much heartier than it appears, and really good on a cold winter evening. This would be a great dish for a special family dinner, a celebration, or just to shake up your normal weekday meal routine. Add a green salad, or another veggie on the side, and it’s a full meal.
I am really partial to the whole wheat pastas with milled flax seed. After eating these, regular white-flour pasta simply has no bite. (No Dente? ;). I know I didn’t always feel this way; it was a gradual shift. But now I prefer the taste of whole wheat, and I like that it’s more nutritious. If you’re just getting used to whole wheat pasta, you might ease into it by trying Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Angel Hair, which I think is somehow lighter, or even by cooking half white and half whole wheat pasta to get you started. If you grab Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Brown Rice Spaghetti (or another gluten-free pasta), this can easily be a gluten-free dish, too.
A note on shallots, since I only recently started cooking with them and you also might be similarly intimidated: they look like small brown papery onions, but their flavor is milder, so they’re often used in sauces–taste wise, they’re kind of like a cross between a sweet onion and garlic. They’re often minced, or cut into tiny pieces, for recipes. This is how we’ll use them in this recipe.
One more note: if you’re serving this to kids or fussy eaters, think about cutting down on the amount of mushrooms, and dicing them into tiny pieces. (I love tricking people into eating things that are good for them. Just ask my roommates.) Does anyone have any thoughts on ways to make this recipe more kid-friendly?
I’ll go through the steps to this recipe slowly—there are a lot of instructions—but I think they’re well laid out and the timing described worked really well for me.
Start a large pot of water boiling for your pasta as well—don’t skimp on the water, because using too little water to cook pasta can make it sticky and gummy. Heat olive oil in a large pan,and when it’s heated, add the sliced chicken and minced shallots.
Cook until you don’t see any pink on the surface of the chicken, about seven minutes. Don’t worry if it’s not cooked through; we’re going to keep simmering it. At this point, add the mushrooms . . .
Cook five more minutes, until the liquid they release has reduced. Then add the sherry . . .
Almost done now. After the liquid reduces, it’s time to add the half-and-half, and cook on low to let that liquid reduce—about three to four minutes. All this reducing is concentrating the flavors and letting the chicken and mushrooms absorb all the wonderful richness.
By the time you add the half-and-half, the pasta water should be ready to boil, which is the perfect time to add the pasta to the boiling water. It will be done when you turn off the heat to the chicken, and ready to drain at the last minute.
After cooking a few minutes, the half-and-half will thicken slightly. Add the cornstarch and water mixture and simmer one more minute. Turn off the heat. This last cornstarch step thickens your sauce and helps it stick to the noodles.
Speaking of noodles, yours should be done at this point. Drain the cooked pasta well, but don’t rinse—rinsing makes cooked pasta gummy, and can reduce its vitamin content. It’s also best to leave it “dry,” don’t toss with oil—oil keeps the sauce from adhering to the noodles. I prefer to cook the pasta at the last minute, and throw pasta onto plates,with sauce, as soon as possible after the pasta is drained. If you have to wait, toss the pasta with a bit of the sauce and cover it up to keep it at its best.
(The beautiful pictures in this post are a product of the inestimable talents of my friend Kevin Good. A thousand, thousand thanks.)
Elegant Chicken and Mushrooms over Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Spaghetti
1 16-ounce box Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Spaghetti
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 boneless chicken breasts, sliced
2 Tablespoons raw shallots, diced (no shallots? Try a substitute)
8 ounces raw mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bella; cremini or button would also be good)
½ cup sherry wine, dry (I used generic supermarket brand sherry cooking wine)
½ cup half & half cream, nonfat (If you’re not watching fat, go for full-fat half & half or whole milk)
1 ½ teaspoons Hodgson Mill Pure Cornstarch stirred into ¼ cup cold water
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced, or ½ teaspoon dried
In a large pot, start water boiling for pasta according to instructions on package (*see note and cooking directions below).
Bring olive oil to medium heat in a large, non-stick skillet. A drop of water should sizzle slightly in the pan when the oil is ready; you may also see tiny bubbles form at edges of oil. Add chicken slices and shallots when heated and sauté, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked on the outside (about 7 minutes). Stir in sliced mushrooms and sherry, cook approximately 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until liquid is reduced by one-third. (It may be difficult to measure the liquid, but 5 minutes timing worked for my dish.)
Stir in half-and-half and simmer, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes. The sauce will reduce slightly. (*Note: This is a good time to start the spaghetti in the boiling water.) Remove the chicken from the heat and add the cornstarch/water mixture. Then return to medium-low heat, simmering 1 minute until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle chicken and sauce over spaghetti, and toss lightly. Garnish with minced fresh or a little dried parsley.
Cooking directions for spaghetti:
Boil 4 quarts of water. Salt to taste (optional). Add contents of package to boiling water; stirring vigorously until water boils again (approximately 30 seconds). Cook 6-7 minutes or longer until desired tenderness. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Drain (do not rinse.)
Makes six servings. Mix pasta and chicken-mushroom and sauce in sealed containers for keeping in fridge, and reheat leftovers (if you have any) in microwave or on low heat stovetop.
Post by: Erin – Hodgson Mill Blogger