I've mentioned it here before and I'll mention it again—my tastes have come a long way since high school. I lived off chicken fingers and cheese sticks in those days, with a few chocolate malts in between. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for that high speed metabolism!)
In my small Alabama town, it was a huge deal when the mass chain restaurants finally popped up along our little sliver of the interstate. Going out to dinner became a little more frequent, and not just a special occasion thing. If I ever veered from my usual fried fare, I ordered the chicken and broccoli pasta Alfredo. It was a carb extravaganza, and I can't even imagine what it was doing to my arteries. Let's just say I usually licked the bowl clean.
It's been years since I've walked into one of those generic American "restaurants." I've moved passed those cravings for the most part, thank goodness. But I recently had a hankering for that creamy, cheesy bastard of a dish, so I decided to recreate my own version from scratch. Oh my, I'm so glad I did.
I stood over the pot of heavenly goodness, shoving bites into my mouth like there was no tomorrow. It took me a few minutes to come up for air; always the sign of a successful dish. A funny thought I had while eating it was, "man, my (future) children are going to love this." Lucky kids.
I've enjoyed the leftovers two more times since the first, and there's some more on the counter top waiting for me as I type. On that note I'm going to go now.
Blackened Chicken Pasta
Serves 4 to 6
For the seasoning: 2 tablespoons paprika 2 teaspoons black pepper 2 teaspoons dried oregano 2 teaspoons sugar 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
For the chicken: Canola oil, for cooking 2 chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds) split in half crosswise 3 tablespoons butter, melted 1 pound broccoli, woody stems removed and broken into florets 1/2 pound angel hair pasta
For the sauce: 1 cup heavy cream 1 cup milk (2% or whole) 1 egg yolk 3 large cloves garlic, smashed 1 cup packed freshly-grated Parmesan Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Sourdough bread crumbs Diced tomatoes, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375°F. For the blackening seasoning, combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over highest heat or until scalding hot, about 5 minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil is very hot, dip the chicken in the melted butter; then thoroughly coat in the blackening rub. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until blackened on each side, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a lightly-greased sheet pan. Cook in the oven until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F and the juices run clear.
While the chicken is in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook until bright green and tender, 2-3 minutes. Remove with a strainer to another bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Return the water to a boil and cook the noodles to al dente according to package directions, about 3-4 minutes. Drain but do not rinse.
To make the sauce, in a heavy saucepan, whisk together the cream, milk, and egg yolk. Add the garlic cloves and bring to barely a simmer, stirring constantly, over medium-low to medium heat. Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, watching carefully to not cook the egg. Turn off the heat and stir in grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Combine the noodles, broccoli, and cream sauce. Season the dish with salt and pepper, to taste. Thinly slice chicken on the bias and place atop the pasta. Garnish with diced tomatoes, bread crumbs, and additional Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.