Sunday, May 21, 2006

Needs some work

It has been awhile since I've given some love to Ray Ray and since I wasn't totally in the mood to cook tonight, it seem appropriate to hook us up with some dinner that only took 30 mintues.

I checked out what I had bookmarked in Rachel's book: 365: No Repeats and found Southwestern Pasta Bake.

Southwestern Pasta Bake
4 Servings

1 pound penne or cavatappi
2 TB vegetable oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 TB ground cumin
1 TB ground coriander
2 TB chili powder
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, diced fine
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
2 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Preheat the broiler of your oven.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta until slightly undercooked--a little chewy at center.

While the water is coming up to a boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat with the vegetable oil. Season the chicken with cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt & pepper. Add the chicken to the hot skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic and jalapeno and continue to cook for 5 minutes. While the chicken is cooking with the onions, make the cheese sauce.

In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes over moderate heat, then whisk in the milk. When the milk comes to a bubble, stir in the cheese, cilantro and parsley with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper and remove the cheese sauce from the heat.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it back into the large pot, add the chicken mixture and the cheese sauce, stir to combine. Transfer to a baking dish and place under the broiler to lightly brown.

*Ok, first off, this was not for four people. This was at least six, maybe eight! Whew.
*Second, it was alright, not great, not bad, just alright....while I was making it, I thought it was going to have a lot of huge flavors, but when all was said and done, it kind of plain.
*I covered the top with some bread crumbs to add a touch more texture, it was ok. If I do that again, I will would mix 1/2 cup of bread crumbs with some melted butter, little salt and pepper. Then put on the top of dish.
*Rachel's recipe called for 3/4 cup of cheese, I'd do at least one and maybe 1 1/2 cups next time.
*Outside of those suggestions, I'm not sure what this might need to take it from OK to good or great...? Suggestions???

I anticipated being lazy, so I used a leftover tin baking dish from Thanksgiving!
If you do make it, the recipe doesn't specify which size
baking dish; you'll want a 13x9 dish.

If I figure something out for improving this dish, it would be great for a potluck.


Dancer in DC said...

Yes, I'd definitely say more cheese - that was certainly missing.

Since it's a bit Mexican, I suppose you could serve salsa and sour cream on the side?

Lady Brandenburg said...

More cheese and more zing - more jalepeno? Or maybe Chilefire has some suggestions as to a spice to add?

Chilefire said...

Chimayo chile!
Hi everyone, sorry I haven't been around for a while, but we have a lot going on! (I will let everyone know as soon as the big day comes around.)
There are a couple of things I might do to bring this to life: The first would be to spice it up with a couple of tablespoons of good dried chile powder, and then perhaps a bit of cilantro pesto over the top before cooking would give it a nudge - (And a bit of the old olive oil infusion) - and if all else fails, red wine and cream! cream! cream!.
I hope everyone is well! I hope we get to get together and cook for each other again soon!

Asian Mistress said...

Reminds me of how excited I was to try Paula Deen's "mexican chicken" dish...and it tasted like crap. We threw it away. What did I expect from something that included 3 cans of soup? Tasted so processed and gross. Maybe in the 50's it would have been good, but now...yuck.

lala said...

i've found that many of rachael's meals are bland...i made the mexican lasagna and it needed double of all the seasonings to even make it palatable.

maybe add some salsa? or serve with a dollop of homemade guac? who knows.

Big Man Tiny Kitchen said...

First -- love your site! I just started a (mildly cooshy) new job in the District that actually allows some breathing time to read fun stuff, and you're bookmarked.

Second -- I almost always use twice the recommended chili powder whenEVER I'm using chili powder. I prefer to add it to veg after they've sweated for a bit, before adding liquids, so it's almost a pasty/roux-like consistency...

I have a dark, shameful love of the Casserole, and I'll definitely try this one with extra spice and (as Chilefire notes) lots of cheese. Hard to go wrong with spicy, cheesy pasta gloppo. Yum...

Anonymous said...

I don't want to sound critical, but RAYRAY's recipe calls for 3/4 lb. of cheese, not 3/4 cup. Also, the recipe calls for 1 1/2 lb. of chicken, not just 1 lb. I use alot of Rachael Ray's recipes because I have 3 children and I homeschool. I have noticed that adding a cheese topping such as sliced pepper jack or just sharp cheddar and melting it under the broiler gives this dish some extra zing. Give Ray a break...I think the dish is great!

ScottE. said...

Dear Anon:

I stand corrected on the measurements. Thanks for pointing that out. I have checked the book and yes, got it wrong. I do have a bit of an issue those with the original recipe calling for four 6oz breasts, when very rarely do you find a package of chicken breasts in packs of four. 99% of the time I find packs of 5-6 or packs of 3.

And the cheese. If you buy packaged shredded cheese, it comes in packs of 2 cups or 4 cups, generally. So the exact Ray Ray says herself, are generally guidelines.

As for giving RayRay a break. I love her. She does drive me nuts, but I still watch her and support her.

Anonymous said...

Scott--you hit the nail on the head with your comments on the dish. I made this for a church potluck today and I told my husband that the dish was okay but not spectacular. It's not something that I would seek out and say "Man, I have a taste for that Southwestern Pasta Bake." I did follow the recipe correctly as far as all of the measurements go. I thought it would have more spice and flavor but in the end the result was a little bland. Like I said, there was nothing really wrong with the taste of it, it just wasn't anything that was very memorable. But at least I tried it and now I know and that's what cooking is about!