Garlic Chicken Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Nothing Says Romance Like Garlic
Who eats garlic pasta on a first date? It’s either a sign that you absolutely won’t be making out later, or that you are so comfortable with the person that you won’t even care that you both have toxic, anti-vampire garlic breath when the time comes.
I think it was the latter for me and Jason.
“Just go out with me once – if you don’t have a good time, I’ll never ask again.” Who can turn down a proposal like that?! It didn’t take much convincing, anyway. I could almost see my fate through the mist – I knew I wouldn’t say no. I knew I’d be saying yes for a long time.
Guess I was right.Jason was terribly urbane and delicious (and remains so), especially for a small-town country girl like me. When the other college guys were taking their dates to the bars or pizza dives, he took me to the most subtle, sophisticated restaurant in College Station – Cafe Eccell. As young professors sat at the wine bar sipping and debating, the dim lights and low ceilings made for intimate conversation and romantic tête-à-têtes. That, paired with Jason’s green eyes, quiet wit and intelligence, were intoxicating. One date was definitely not going to be enough.
Trying not to take advantage, I ordered a simple soup and water. Jason confidently ordered the garlic chicken pasta, telling me I should, too. Thus begins a lifetime of my husband out-ordering me at restaurants, always picking the better dish.
When the steaming plate of pasta arrived, I looked on with barely disguised longing. Seeing the wink of jealousy in my eyes, he offered a bite. And then another. And another.
I don’t know if we were sharing, so much as I was taking squatter’s rights to his pasta, but he allowed it with a laugh and a smile.
The man knew the way to my heart.
Creamy with the rounded depth of slow roasted garlic, the white sauce draping the penne was dotted with plump slivers of sun dried tomato and the delicate char of grilled chicken. A woody whiff of rosemary scented the dish. Leaning in, laughing, the rest of the room melted away, and my soul was warm that cool winter evening.
It was a perfect dish, tasty and accessible, down-home flavors with a touch of handcrafted elegance – a great dish to recreate at home. The key element of this dish is the roasted garlic, which takes only a little forethought to accomplish and can be used all week long in other dishes. If you can’t wait, I know our local King Soopers has small plastic containers of pre-roasted garlic for relatively cheap in the artisan cheese/meat/olive bar area.
But if you DO roast it low and slow, you will have mellow, sweet, soft and mashable cloves to last you all week long (not to mention a few good drizzles of garlic olive oil for bread)!
Turn the lights down low and make this for someone you want to captivate – but be ready to share!
- 6-8 chicken tenders
- 2 Tbsp (1-2) sprigs finely diced rosemary
- ½ lb of penne pasta
- 10 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (you can use dried, too, but they will need to be rehydrated), sliced into slivers
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 8-10 cloves roasted garlic*, either whole or diced depending on preference (I prefer diced, so you don’t get a mouthful of garlic) *See below for recipe.
- ½ cup white wine (boxed white wine is great for cooking!)
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup finely shredded parmigiano reggiano
- Fire up the grill and let it preheat. On both sides, salt and pepper chicken tenders, then sprinkle 1 tbsp rosemary. Give them a drizzle of olive oil on both sides, then place on the grill. Tenders will grill quickly, just a couple minutes on each side should do it (slightly underdone is okay, as the tenders can finish off in the sauce later). Place on a plate and let rest.
- Over medium heat, saute shallot, garlic and remaining 1 tbsp rosemary in 1 tbsp butter just until shallots are translucent. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, letting the wine simmer until reduced by half.
- Add cream and milk, simmer until thickened. Don’t let it bubble and boil too vigorously, you don’t want the milk to break (using fattier milks will help prevent this, 2% or less is not recommended). As the milk reduces, set a pot of water to boil for your pasta and slice the chicken tenders against the grain into bite-size pieces.
- When the sauce has thickened, add sun-dried tomatoes and sliced chicken and simmer another ten minutes. Drizzle any chicken juice that collected on the plate into the sauce for extra chickeny oomph! Cook your pasta as the sauce simmers.
- Add half the parmesan and stir until melted into sauce. Drain the pasta, then add to sauce (or you can add the sauce to your pasta pot if there’s not enough room). Sprinkle with remaining parmesan and toss until pasta is well coated and chicken is evenly distributed.
- Eat pasta, then kiss your date with mutual jeopardy garlic breath.
- Whole head of garlic
- Olive oil
- Rosemary or thyme (optional)
- Aluminum foil
- Ramekin or small baking dish/crock
- Preheat the oven (or a small toaster oven, if you have one) to 375 degrees.
- Turn the head of garlic on its side and slice off the top so the tops of all the cloves are exposed. No need to peel, the skins will slip right off when the garlic is finished roasting!
- Shape the aluminum foil into a circular coil or nest that will support and hold the head of garlic upright. Nestle the garlic into the foil, then place the foil into the ramekin or baking dish. Drizzle olive oil generously over the exposed cloves, letting it seep into the nooks and crannies. It’s okay if some drains into the ramekin - you can use this for toast or a bread dipping sauce later!
- Top the head of garlic with a snippet of rosemary or thyme, if you have it, then place the ramekin in the oven and check for doneness after 45 minutes. If the garlic is soft when squeezed with some tongs and lightly browned, you can take it out to cool; otherwise keep going, checking every 5-10 minutes until ready.
- After the garlic is cooled, you can gently squeeze the cloves out of the papery skin. They should slip out easily. Now you can either mash them into a smooth paste, or preserve the cloves whole. Placing the cloves back in the ramekin, they can sit in the remaining garlic-scented olive oil. Use either the cloves or the oil over the next week or two anywhere you would use garlic normally (the roasted garlic will be sweeter, with less of a sharp flavor).