Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Spicing it Up a Bit

When I was in college I spent a lot of time watching cooking shows, one of my favorites was Emeril Live.  He always seemed larger then life and just made watching fun.  I think it was because he didn't seem like your regular chef, tossing things in the pots, adding a "BAM" here and there and just really enjoying what he was doing.  I've always wanted to try something Emerilish and I can't think of anything better then something that's Cajun inspired with a little twist.

I have a Blackened Chicken with Creamy Angel Hair Pasta recipe that I found on The Kitchn that I've been meaning to try, but, Aaron can't take a lot of spice in his foods so I've been trying to come up with something similar but different to try.  I spent this morning doing just that.  The basics of the recipe are the same, but I've changed things up, including adding a marinade for the chicken, to make it my own so I'm hoping this works out tonight.

The marinade I'm adding I found on a blog called A Thrifty Mom and I wanted to change it up a bit to play with some spices I have in my cupboard but the original sounds pretty good too.  I think I'm going to try it this summer with something on the grill.

I also decided to use a different sauce for the pasta, it's called Better Than Olive Garden Alfredo Sauce and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!  It's thick, creamy and oh so cheesy.  Even better is that I made a big batch of it awhile ago and I have some in my freezer that I can just pull out to use. 

Blackened Chicken with Creamy Pasta & Broccoli

For the Seasoning

2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp Black Pepper
2 Tsp Dried Oregano
2 Tsp Sugar
2 Tsp Kosher/Coarse Salt
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Tsp Onion Powder
1/4 Tsp Cayenne Pepper, or more to taste

For the Marinade

4 Tbsp Lime Juice
4 Tbsp EVOO (aka Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
3 Tsp Dried Cilantro Leaves
1/2 Tsp Coriander Seed
1/2 Tsp Ground Coriander
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Garlic Clove, minced

For the Chicken

Homemade Pasta...mmmm
1 1/2-2 Tbsp Coconut Oil, for cooking
2 Chicken Breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs), split in half crosswise
Head of Broccoli, cut up into small florets
1/2 lb Pasta, either Angel Hair or a Spaghettini
(For the pasta, I make my own at home, which is a recipe I'll post down the road.  Feel free to use dried pasta or fresh pasta from the store.)

For the Sauce

Prepared Better then Olive Garden Alfredo Sauce
(sorry to leave you hanging on this, I'll do another batch up soon and post it)
Sourdough Bread Crumbs
Diced Tomatoes, for garnish
Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese

To start off I made up the marinade for the chicken.  If the chicken breasts were frozen you could toss them in just like that but, I would marinade them for at least a couple hours.  Since my chicken breasts are thawed, I just combined all the ingredients for the marinade and dumped it into a Ziplock bag, tossed in the chicken and stuck it in the fridge for about a half hour or so. 

While the chicken was marinating, I put together the seasoning.  How did I do that you might ask, well I went all Emerilish and tossed everything in a medium bowl, gave it a stir to combine it all together and then set it aside.

Once the chicken was done marinating, I took the chicken out of the marinade and let it drip off for a couple seconds and then pressed each piece into the seasoning, thouroughly coating each one. After the chicken was all coated I covered it with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge to wait while I got everything else ready to go.
Ready to Hit the Hot Stuff:)

Once I was ready to get dinner on the table I preheated the oven to 375F and heated my cast iron skillet (you could use any heavy bottomed pan) starting at low to warm it up and then increasing it to medium-high.  I did this because I've done some research on cast iron and I guess you shouldn't just toss it on a hot element, you should gradually allow it to heat up.  It's probably not a big deal but, my way of thinking is that if I treat my kitchen appliances/tools well they'll do the same to me:)

I added the coconut oil to the skillet once it had heated up a bit and allowed it to heat up for a minute or two.  Next up, I added the chicken pieces to the hot pan and cooked them until they were, well, blackened, about 1-2 minutes per side.  I did the chicken up in two batches because my cast iron skillet will only hold two at a time.  Once they were good and black, I transferred them to a parchment covered baking sheet and threw them in the oven.  The chicken took about another 8 minutes, if you can't tell from previous posts, I'm an internal temperature freak, so I wanted it to be 160F and the juices to run clear. 

While all of this was happening, I tossed the broccoli into my rice steamer and steamed it for about 2-3 minutes, until it was bright green and tender, and I brought my large pasta pot of salted water to a boil and added the pasta. Once the broccoli was done, I removed it and put it into another bowl and seasoned it with some salt and pepper.  You want the noodles to be al dente, so cook them according to the package instructions.  Once they're done, drain them, but don't rinse them. 
Some Good For You Green Stuff

Since my pasta sauce was already made, I just needed to thaw it out and heat it up.

Once everything was done, I combined the noodles, broccoli and sauce and added a little bit of my Epicure Red Garlic Sansel to taste.  Then I sliced the chicken up thinly and added it to the top of the pasta.  To garnish it, I was going to put some diced tomatoes on top, but I forgot and I sprinkled it with some fresh sourdough crumbs from the loaf I made yesterday and topped it off with some fresh grated parmesan cheese. 

Cutting down on the spice a bit was key for Aaron and the kids to be able to eat this and having it mixed with the creamy pasta and broccoli helped too.  It was a thumbs up from everyone at the table, Connor even had seconds (without broccoli though).  This is what the plates looked like after dinner was over.


  1. I like the colorful little pictures of your seasonings and marinade ingredients in the bowls.  

    1. Thanks:) Picture taking isn't my forte but I hope I'm getting better at it:)

      Happy Reading,

  2. Hey Carrie, you mentioned using coconut oil as your cooking oil in this recipe. I've been thinking of making the switch for cooking since I've already been using it in my daily life and looove it! Is there anything I should know about cooking with coconut oil? Should it be extra virgin or refined? Is there a high/low burn temp etc?

    Thanks for you help!

    1. Hey Brittany,

      I'm a recent coconut oil converter and just like you I LOVE it for my everyday uses, a conditioner for my hair & a great moisturizer for my skin:) I use an organic, virgin Coconut oil so it's smoke point is lower then the refined, it has a smoke point of 350F from all the reading I've done. For a higher heat I've recently purchased Extra Virgin Avocado Oil which has a smoke point closer to 500F. I haven't had a chance to use it yet but the next stir fry I try will be its turn to come up to bat:) I hope this helps:)

      Happy Reading,