Comfort food Spotlight: Chicken Alfredo

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Hello everyone! I’d like to welcome you back to TrueGrub for my latest recipe: Chicken Alfredo! Most of my experience with cooking is related to American cuisine, but I actually worked for a number of years at an Italian restaurant, and this allowed me to pick up some tips and tricks on cooking Italian dishes.

I love the core foundation of most Italian dishes: a tomato based sauce, pasta, and some sort of protein. I’ve dabbled with many tomato based sauces such as marinara, but when I think of comfort food one sauce really comes to mind: Alfredo! Alfredo is a dairy-based sauce that incorporates melted Parmesan cheese and several spices. It is a hearty sauce and probably not the best for those watching calories haha!

There are essentially three components to bringing together Chicken Alfredo successfully: the chicken, the pasta, and of course the sauce. Cooking the protein correctly is always important to a successful dish, but I believe the sauce is what really brings out the flavor in this case. Since this does require three different components, it can be a bit tricky to time all of them correctly but have no fear! I will provide some guidelines for you to make sure all of these ingredients come together to create a wonderful dish.

NOTE: I highly recommend getting a meat thermometer for this recipe. Chicken can be a tricky protein to work with, and the fear of salmonella from under-cooked chicken is still very real. I advise using sanitized surfaces and washing your hands/utensils that come into contact with raw chicken in order to avoid cross-contamination. The thermometer will allow you to safely assess when the chicken is cooked all the way through (which should be an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit). You want there to be absolutely no pink inside of your chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Heavy cream or half and half
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • ½ cup Shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 package Fettucine noodles
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ½ cup loose leaf Spinach (optional)

The Chicken

I prefer to use a bit of a larger chicken breast because it is usually easier to slice or dice and then add to the dish. Keep the breast whole while cooking as to keep the juices inside, and finish by cutting after resting.

Preparation:

  1. Begin by laying out the chicken breast(s) on a sanitized surface, preferably a cutting board. Apply generous amounts of salt and pepper to one side of the chicken.
  2. Get pan ready on stovetop with a medium setting of 6-7. A cast-iron skillet is preferred but a stainless steel or non-stick will work just as well.
  3. Let pan warm up for approximately 5 minutes and then add olive oil.

Cooking:

  1. Place seasoned chicken breast into heated oil in the pan and let cook until that side is golden brown with white edges.
  2. While seasoned side is cooking, apply the same amount of salt and pepper to face-up, unseasoned side.
  3. Flip the chicken breast and repeat the same searing process to the opposite side.
  4. Once both sides are visibly golden brown, use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken is at an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull chicken out of pan and let rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips. WARNING!: Make sure the chicken is cooked to exactly 165 degrees or more, no less. There should be no visible pink, and if there is, then put chicken back in the pan to continue cooking. Under-cooked chicken can be quite dangerous, so it always best to utilize both a meat thermometer as well as visual inspection.

The Pasta

Now it’s true that using store-bought is sort of taking the easy way out, but let’s face it, not everyone has time, space, or the know-how to make fresh pasta. Fresh pasta is delicious and cooks in a matter of minutes, but it can be very time consuming and adds at least another 30 minutes to this recipe, so for time’s sake we’ll be using boxed pasta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package store-bought Fettucine noodles
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 cups/2 quarts of water

Preparation and Cooking:

  1. Getting the right amount of pasta per person is always a difficult task. When measuring dry pasta, holding it vertically in your hands will allow you to look at the top. One serving is generally enough per person, and the diameter of that amount of dry pasta is roughly the size of a United States quarter. So if you have a quarter available then use that to determine how many servings are needed dependent on appetite and number of people eating. There are tools you can obtain from most kitchen stores that will provide a sort of stencil that you can slide pasta through to get a better idea for serving size.
  2. Add cups of water to pot and begin boiling with the burner on high. Add a few dashes of salt to taste to further flavor the pasta while it is cooking.
  3. Once the water has come to a rolling boil (top layer of water is completely covered in bubbles that appear to rolling), then add desired amount of pasta and let cook for roughly 11 minutes while stirring occasionally. If you prefer your pasta with more of a snap (al dente), then take it out a bit early. Leave it in longer if you prefer little to no snap.
  4. Place strainer in sink and pour pasta and water into it. Shake around to remove excess water. NOTE: Some people prefer to rinse the pasta off and this is not recommended. Washing the pasta will remove the starch on the noodles, and will actually result in it being gummy or stuck together.

The Sauce

I have been cooking this dish for several years now, and I have experimented with sauce consistency quite a bit. I suggest using heavy cream for your first attempt, and if the sauce is too thick then use half and half the next time. The difference is fairly marginal but a thicker sauce can have some difficulties when trying to warm it up as leftovers.

Cooking:

  1. The sauce is what really brings this dish together. It is a dairy based sauce that requires either heavy cream or half and half. Heavy cream will provide a denser sauce with a bit of a richer flavor, but is difficult to reconstitute the next day. Half and half will be a little less rich, but will result in a smoother sauce.
  2. Begin by warming your saucepan on medium setting 6-7, and add the tablespoons of butter.
  3. Once the butter has consistently melted, add the cup of cream and allow the two to simmer and marry into each other while stirring occasionally.
  4. Have your ½ cup of shredded Parmesan ready because once the sauce starts to bubble up from simmering, you will need to consistently add pinches of cheese every so often as it melts down into the sauce.
  5. Once you have used about half the cheese and the sauce begins to thicken up, get all of the spices ready. Cayenne pepper can be used but is optional, as it adds quite a bit of heat. Pour all spices into sauce and stir them into it. Continue adding the rest of the cheese in the manner as before.
  6. You can also add spinach to the sauce once all of the cheese is melted and the spices incorporated. Spinach works well as it cooks quickly, but other optional vegetables can be used as well.

The Finished Product

To assemble this dish all you have to do is add the noodles on bottom, lay sliced chicken breast on top, and add the desired amount of sauce. Use a fork and spoon to mix all the contents together and get an even coating of sauce. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “Comfort food Spotlight: Chicken Alfredo

  1. This is a great recipe! I have tasted the finished product and well worth the effort. I love the way you explain in detail each step necessary and little hints as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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