Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Going it alone...

I just finished Day 2's new and exciting task and I'm quite proud of myself! I made a meal that I've never made before, without using a recipe! That might seem totally minor to some, but let me provide a little background. I'm a strict stick-to-the-recipe kind of girl. "30-minute meals" generally take 45 or 60 minutes for me, because I'm so anal about double- and triple-checking the recipe to make sure I'm following the directions correctly. So when I'm making something that's not completely basic (e.g. scrambled eggs), I need to have a recipe.

Tonight I decided to challenge myself. The game plan: throw things together, in a somewhat logical way, and hope that it turns out. The hubby was gone tonight, so if I screwed up dinner, that would just be on me. I can deal with a failed personal first attempt, but I kind of hate disappointing other people. Anyway, my plan was a mix between pasta alla vodka and chicken piccata.

I prepared the pasta, chicken and sauce all separately, in case something went awry. I prepared the chicken breasts simply, seasoned with salt and pepper and sauteed in a bit of olive oil. I started the sauce with minced garlic sauteing in some butter and lemon juice. After a minute, I added some citron vodka and let that all reduce down. Total, I ended up adding the juice of 1 and 1/2 small lemons (I love lemon juice!). After this, I threw everything together with some additional salt, pepper and EVOO. I added capers at the very end to tie in the "piccata" part of the inspiration. That, and I'm sort of obsessed with capers lately.

The verdict: The capers and lemon juice added a nice, acidic brightness to this dish. The little textural "pop" of the capers were a nice contrast to the pasta and the chicken. I really liked the way the subtle citron vodka flavor played off the rest of the dish. Success, if you ask me! It was really fun to combine the vodka sauce and piccata styles together, and even more enjoyable because I sort of just blindly ran ahead, using only my prior culinary knowledge, instincts and tastebuds to guide me!

Thoughts for next time: I wanted to saute some minced shallot in here, but didn't have any. I also wanted to sprinkle some fresh parsley on top at the end, but the store was all out of that today (lame). I did like using thin spaghetti with this kind of sauce. Any larger pasta wouldn't have worked as well, IMO. And throwing in some veggies might be tasty, too. Like mushrooms or, ooh, asparagus! That could be yummy.

Overall, I'm pretty psyched that I gave myself this little challenge. I'm really excited to do this again, to experiment with dishes, tweak old favorites, etc.

Lesson learned from today's new experience: going out on a limb can lead to bigger trees.

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