Monday, May 17, 2010

Chicken and spaghetti with lemon, thyme, and roasted tomatoes

I made this up a couple of months ago, and surprised myself with how well it worked.  Usually, when that happens I forget some essential detail and can never make it the same again, so after 6 weeks of dreaming of how good it tasted, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to recreate it!
I'm sharing this with you quickly, before I forget!

This wonderfully simple collection of ingredients is about to become something special.  Not the cheese, though - that's just a decoy (or an ingredient I thought I was going to use, but changed my mind about).  Plus a splash of balsamic vinegar and whole green beans which I forgot.

First, take a small bowl or ramekin, and add one or two tablespoons of good olive oil (mine is a locally produced, cold-pressed extra virgin).  Now add the zest of a small lemon and 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped (please use fresh garlic for this.  There is a time and place for the stuff in a jar, and this is not it.)  Stir it all together and set it aside so the flavours can get to know each other.

To a second bowl, add the following, all finely chopped:  marinated artichoke hearts, (I used 3 or 4 quarters), 4 or five sundried tomatoes and a handful of fresh thyme.  There's usually enough oil already clinging these to dress these, but add another teaspoon (from the jar of tomatoes if you can!) if the mix looks dry.

Officially dedicated to my mother, who kindly tolerated my obsession with making "mixtures" as a child.  See - I've turned it into something useful!

While the flavours hang out and do their thing, take your chicken breasts and prepare for stuffing (just like we did for the crumbed mango chicken a while ago).  Stuff with the artichoke/tomato/thyme mixture.  The oil in the stuffing will make the chicken beautifully moist, and help to distribute the flavour.  Then, instead of crumbing the chicken, we're going to wrap it in streaky bacon (2-3 strips per breast).  Everything is better with bacon.
Toss a couple of cups of cherry tomatoes in olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar (use the reddest vine-ripened tomatoes you can fine.  Pale, watery substututes will not cut it here.)  Place the chicken in a medium-sized roasting tray or baking dish, and scatter the tomatoes.

Pour over half a cup of white wine, and throw the whole thing, uncovered, into an oven preheated to 220C for half an hour.

Now, this is where the timing gets tricky.  If you play your cards right, it all comes together perfectly - but read through first, so you know what's coming!

While the chicken is cooking, cook your spaghetti (I use the thinner stuff for this recipe, but not for any particular reason, so just use whet you have!)  Stir-fry beans in a wok if you feel you need the vitamins (or just because the colour looks pretty) - I've also thrown these into the boiling spaghetti for the last minute or two with some success, if you want to save on dishes!  Add the cooked (and drained!) spaghetti to the beans, and pour over the lemon/garlic/oil mixture, tossing to coat.

Remove the chicken from the oven, and drool over the way the tomatoes caramelise and the bacon browns and crisps.  Ovens are wonderful.

Set the chicken breats to one side, then pour the juices and the tomatoes into the spaghetti.  Toss again to mix.

Serve immediately.

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