Simply food

COMFORT FOOD REDUX

Even though restaurants have reopened, dining out is still an ordeal with only 50 per cent occupancy allowed in Toronto, for example. Time for more comfort food; in this case pasta with an Alfredo sauce.

One of my friendly followers posted a story headlined ‘Fall in love with mayo’ which I completely misunderstood. To me mayo is short for mayonnaise. To her it is a lovely county on the wild west coast of Ireland. As I have distant Irish ancestry, one day I’d like to get there. County Mayo will certainly be on my menu.

Snowdrops in Thorpe Salvin (NNA photo)

Back to mayonnaise: I slather it on all sorts of things as a tasty alternative to butter. It works wonders in a bacon sarnie (Britspeak for sandwich). I relish it with the ‘World Famous Peameal Bacon Sandwich’ at the Carousel Bakery in the St Lawrence Market, where owner Robert Biancolin kindly adds the mayo for me. It is an essential component in a club sandwich or a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato to the uninitiated). It makes a dull salad interesting. You can easily make it yourself, but good ones are so readily available that I don’t know anyone who bothers. Even my favourite chefs get it in a big commercial tub.

However, this leads me to other sauces, which I do make from scratch and I fancy fettuccine Alfredo. I wrote about this in Celebrity Pasta and received a nice invitation from the current owner of the original Alfredo’s in Rome.  Today, I’m going to make the sauce creamier and add some lightly poached chicken to enhance the dish, as I did in an earlier version outlined in Pasta, The Ultimate Comfort Food. That’s why I’ve called this recipe ‘redux,’ meaning ‘revived.’ The cupboard reveals a lack of fettuccine, so linguine will be a splendid substitute. Use whatever pasta you prefer.

While the snowdrops are coming up in England (reports my middle daughter from Chipping Norton) and even the daffodils are starting to poke their heads up in my Thorpe Salvin garden (reports my wonderful local gardener) here in Ontario we are still digging out from several significant snowfalls and suffering days on end of double digit below zero temperatures. We planted dozens of bulbs in our Annex garden in the autumn, but they are months away from blooming. Endless winter looms on and on, unless forecasting rodent Wiarton Willie’s Groundhog Day prognostication proves right and we have an early spring.

So, comfort food reigns and to heck with the diet!

CHICKEN ALFREDO

Shopping list

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups dried linguine (OPTION: fettuccine, penne, fusilli, rotini etc)
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups whipping (35 per cent) or heavy cream
  • 2 eggs, yolk only
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
  • Pepper and salt
  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1 in pieces

Garnish

  • 6 spring onions, peeled and chopped

Preparation and cooking

  1. Wash the chicken breasts and cut into bite sized pieces. Gently poach in broth to cover for 10 mins. If there’s not enough broth to cover the chicken pieces, top up with water. Drain and set aside.
  2. Bring 6 quarts generously salted water to a boil.
  3. While the water heats, melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Sautée the garlic lightly, about 2 mins. Remove from the heat.
  4. Separate the egg yolks into a bowl, discarding the white, and whisk in the cream until blended. Pour this mixture into the garlic butter and blend further. Reduce heat to low and keep the sauce warm. Do not let it boil.
  5. Wash and chop the asparagus into 1 in segments, keeping the tips whole and breaking off the base and discarding. Steam until tender, no more than 4-6 mins. Keep warm.
  6. Peel off the outer layer of the spring onions, chop finely, discarding any tough green tops and roots. Set aside.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water, partially covered, until al dente, about 8-10 mins. Drain in a colander, being careful to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  8. Pour the hot pasta into the cream mixture and toss to coat, still over low heat. Add the grated cheese a bit at a time and keep tossing gently until cream is mostly absorbed. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little pasta water. Season well with salt and pepper.
  9. Stir in chicken pieces.
  10. Top with warm asparagus pieces and chopped spring onions, and serve at once on a large platter for self-serve, or individual portions in warm bowls. (NOTE: If there’s any left over pasta, save it for a carbonara the next day: check the recipe here.)
Featured image: Carousel Bakery’s Robert Biancolin with the ‘World Famous Peameal Bacon Sandwich’

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This is Nigel’s 334th blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well, if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories, or check under CATEGORIES.

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