Penne with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I’M BACK!!!

It has been over a week now since our last major snow storm and there has even been some major melting going on here so things are starting to get back to normal.  I hope I didn’t just jinx myself!

I have been in a cooking rut lately.  Maybe it is the multiple feet of snow outside and the fact that we are constantly on snow removal duty this winter, but I haven’t been spending enough time in the kitchen cooking on my new gas range that I got for Christmas :).  I feel like I have been making the same things for dinner over and over, so I am on a mission to try some new recipes.  I came across a few recipes on Pinterest and although they sounded good, nothing was exactly what I was looking for so I decided to craft this one up on my own.  It turned out to be a big hit and I will definitely be making this again!  It is also a quick weeknight meal recipe, which I need more of.

Penne with Chicken and Sundried Tomato - LiveDineParty

Penne with Chicken and Sundried Tomato - LiveDineParty

Penne with Chicken and Sundried Tomato - LiveDineParty

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. Sun-dried Tomatoes (packed in oil)
  • Olive Oil
  • Handful of Fresh Basil
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove (if you love garlic feel free to add more)
  • 1 Tbs. Pine Nuts (optional)
  • Chicken, cut into tenders
  • Flour
  • 1/2 lb Penne
  • Half & Half
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

First, make the sun-dried tomato pesto.  In a food processor, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, 3 Tbs. oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, 2 Tbs. olive oil, garlic, basil, pine nuts, salt & pepper.  Blend together.  Add additional olive oil if necessary.

In a medium pot, boil water and cook the penne pasta.  Make sure to reserve some pasta water as you will need it to add to the sauce.

While the water boils, dredge the chicken in flour.  Heat 3 Tbs. of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium/high heat.  Cook the chicken until golden brown on both sides.  Add the sun-dried tomato pesto and cook on low.  Add the cooked penne to the skillet.  Add pasta water, a little at a time, to thin out the sauce.  Once the sauce is at your desired consistency, add the half and half to make the sauce a little creamy.  I don’t have an exact measurement for the half and half because everyone likes a different level of creaminess to their sauces.  I tend to just add a little bit at time, maybe 1-2 Tbs. total.  Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Valentine’s Dinner for Two

I’m officially sick of all of the snow we have been getting in the Boston area.  We got about a foot of snow on Wednesday and now it is snowing again.  I’m getting to the point where I would like to hibernate for the rest of winter and wait until it all melts to leave the house again.  Needless to say a snow blower has been added to next year’s budget.

However, with nowhere to be or go today, I am kind of enjoying the winter wonderland outside 🙂 .

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So, it is the perfect day to be snowed in and cook a romantic Valentine’s dinner.  We are celebrating a day late because, to be honest, the thought of cooking an involved dinner on Friday night after work just didn’t sound exciting to me.

The tablescape…well without an actual kitchen or dining room table this will be a breakfast bar scape.   Since it is not a full table, I am also limited in space so I kept it simple with the red roses my husband got me and some candles.

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I decided to do a nice French themed dinner.  I didn’t plan on it being French, but it just kind of turned out that way.  I’m making two of my husband’s favorites…French Onion Soup for the appetizer and Filet Mignon au Poivre with Cognac Sauce and baked potatoes for the main course.

Classic French Onion Soup

Adapted from finecooking.com

Serves about 2-4

French Onion Soup - LiveDineParty

As I mentioned, French Onion Soup is one of my husband’s favorites.  And anytime we go out to eat and he sees it on the menu he orders it.  So I decided to attempt to make it.  This was first attempt and I have heard it is not that easy so I was not expecting much, but it actually turned out great!  It takes a long time to caramelize the onions properly so I decided to make the soup earlier in the day so that I was not going crazy trying to time everything.  You can definitely make this ahead of time because you end up putting it in the oven prior to serving it anyways.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium-large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 small baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 4 cups lower-salt canned beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cups grated Gruyère

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.  Stir in the onions and season with 1 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Reduce the heat to low.  Press a piece of foil onto the onions to cover them completely, cover the pot with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally (you will have to lift the foil), until the onions are very soft but not falling apart, 35 to 45 minutes. I think I may have cooked my onions a few minutes too long because they did start to fall apart, so as they begin to get soft check them more frequently.  Remove the lid and foil, raise the heat to medium high, and stir in the sugar.  Cook, stirring often, until very deeply browned (another 10 to 15 minutes).

Add the broth and bay leaf to the caramelized onions and bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the croûtes (baguette toasts), pre-heat the oven to 350°F.  Make 1 to 2 croûtes per bowl of soup.  Arrange the baguette slices on the sheet in a single layer.  Bake until the bread is crisp and lightly browned, turning once, 15 to 20 minutes.  Set aside.  These can also be made ahead of time.

When you are ready to serve the soup, heat the broiler to high.  Put ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a baking sheet.  Put 1 or 2 croûtes in each bowl and ladle the soup on top.  Sprinkle with the cheese and broil until the top is browned and bubbly.  This will only take a few minutes.  Serve immediately.

Filet Mignon au Poivre

Adapted from finecooking.com

Serves 2

Steak au Poivre is a traditional French dish that consists of steak with a peppercorn crust.  It can be made with Filet Mignon, NY Strip Steaks, etc.  This dish looks fancy, but it was actually pretty easy and quick to cook so don’t be intimidated by it.  The key to making a great steak is first buying quality meat (it is expensive, but it is worth it) and letting it rest before and after cooking.  I decided to pair the steak with a simple baked potato…meat and potatoes our favorite!  My husband paired his with a Sam Adams beer and I would have paired mine with a nice glass of red wine if I wasn’t fighting a cold right now.

Filet Mignon au Poivre - LiveDineParty

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. whole black peppercorns
  • Kosher salt
  • Two Filet Mignon steaks (about 2 lb. total)
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely diced shallot (about 1 large)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. Cognac or brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

Crack the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle.  If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, crack the peppercorns on a cutting board, using a meat pounder or rolling pin.

Filet Mignon au Poivre - LiveDinePartyFilet Mignon au Poivre - LiveDineParty

Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt evenly on both sides of the steaks and then pat the cracked peppercorns on both sides to create a thin crust.  Let the steaks sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.

Heat the oil in a heavy-duty 10- or 11-inch ovenproof skillet (I used a cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat.  You may want to turn on the stove’s exhaust fan, things could get smoky.  Once it is hot, add the steaks and cook on each side until they are nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes for each side.

Filet Mignon au Poivre - LiveDineParty

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the steaks until a thermometer inserted in the center reads 125°F for rare, 130°F for medium rare, and 135°F for medium.  Transfer the steaks to a plate, tent with foil and let them rest while you prepare the sauce.

To prepare the Cognac sauce, melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until softened.  Add 1/3 cup of the Cognac or brandy and cook until the Cognac reduces to a glazy consistency, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the cream and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced.  Stir in the remaining 1 tsp. Cognac and season to taste with salt.  Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve.

I hope you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day as much as we did!

From the Farm to My Pasta Bowl…

Jarring Tomatoes - LiveDineParty

I’m dedicating this post to my Papa, who passed away last year.  I have so many amazing memories of him and one of those memories is him and my Nana jarring tomatoes.  He loved going to the farm every August and picking tons of tomatoes to jar them for the entire family.  When you would go down to the cellar, the jarred tomatoes would be stock piled.

Although it will never be the same without him, this year my dad decided to carry on the tradition.  My husband and I recently spent an August weekend with my family helping and learning the process.  15 bushels (750 lbs) of tomatoes later, I think we will have enough tomatoes for Sunday dinners this year!  It is a lot of work, but we had a lot of fun.  It also gets pretty messy so don’t try this in a fancy kitchen and don’t wear nice clothes while doing it either!

Here is the quick version of the steps in the process.  It sounds a lot easier than it is 🙂

  • Check and wash each tomato.  Any rotten spots should be removed.
  • Bring the tomatoes to a boil.

Jarring Tomatoes - LiveDineParty

  • Let the excess water drain out of the tomatoes.

Jarring Tomatoes - LiveDineParty

  • Run the tomatoes through tomato press several times until there is no more puree coming out of them.

Jarring Tomatoes - LiveDineParty Jarring Tomatoes - LiveDinePartyJarring Tomatoes - LiveDineParty

  • Fill the washed jars with fresh basil and the tomato puree.

Jarring Tomatoes - LiveDinePartyJarring Tomatoes - LiveDineParty

  • Boil the jars to seal them.

Jarring Tomatoes - LiveDineParty

Now the tomatoes are ready to be made into the perfect sauce for a dish of macaroni!