Mix It, Crank It, Eat It

6 Jul

So we have all been there, laying on the couch one evening watching a stimulating episode of Chopped or Masterchef on the television and you think to yourself, “Hey, that looks easy I can do that!” I think we all have moments of inspiration where we think we are a James Beard award winner or the recipient of a few Michelin stars. I had one such moment this evening. I have been wanting to make homemade pasta for the longest time. So what does any future award winning chef do? Google, “How to make Pasta”. A great, informative website appeared before me, complete with pasta recipes. As I was reading the recipe, I could hear the music from Lady and the Tramp playing in the background.  I knew spaghetti was in my future. After the cannoli from Moio’s this week, I have officially turned our home into Little Italy. Needless to say I began looking for pasta machines. I started by looking for an attachment for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which I highly recommend as a kitchen staple for any aspiring chef. After a quick Internet search, I learned that the attachment costs somewhere in the realm of $200. Plan B, go to Target. So Gray and I loaded up the station wagon and headed off to Target (we needed to go to Trader Joe’s anyway so it worked out). We fought through the heat and the traffic only to discover that this Target does not carry pasta machines. They do have a device so that you can make your own soda, though. (Man I have so much to learn as a chef!). We got back into the car to Google search Plan C. I knew there was a William-Sonoma in Shadyside. Well according to their website they sell a nice, pasta machine for approximately $80. Lets consider a Plan D before we jump in with the $80 option. Back to Google (this search engine has saved me thousands in culinary art classes)–Bed, Bath, and Beyond boasts a $37 pasta machine. Plan D it is! I totally will buy generic. Go to BBB, find a coupon for 20% off–Yes! Pasta machine for less that $30. Gourmet and Thrifty! Plus I get to be more intimate with my pasta by utilizing a hand crank system versus the electronic version–quite rustic!

So I will include lots of pictures this post and let you experience a dinner at the New-burgher’s residence. I made a simple chicken parmigiana on top of a homemade spinach spaghetti finished with Trader Joe’s tomato-basil sauce. (I know store bought sauce on homemade pasta–I had to cut a time-corner somewhere).

Spinach Pasta Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 oz. Fresh Spinach
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Chicken Parmigiana Ingredients:

  • 1 Chicken breast, butterflied and sliced
  • 1 Egg wash (1 egg with a little water, beaten)
  • 1 to 1.5 cups of Italian Bread crumbs
  • Oregano
  • Garlic Salt
  • Clarified butter
  • Mozzarella
  • Trader Joe’s Tomato-basil sauce

So the first thing you want to do is open your pasta machine from the box. Stare at it for a few seconds while the light bounces off the stainless steel and you imagine the throwing down of food in which you are about to partake. Oh yea, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

After you have prepared yourself mentally,  you want to begin to prepare the dough. First, sauté the spinach in a skillet. I cooked mine in a little bit of clarified butter. Now for those who do not know what clarified butter is, its unsalted butter that has the milk fat removed. I do this myself by melting butter in a pan and skimming off the milk fat that floats to the top. The left over golden yellow liquid is phenomenal. I love it because it has a higher burning point than regular butter so it is great for sautéing and browning (amazing sear on chicken) on high heat.  After the spinach sautés, quickly cool it under water and then strain it. I am sure a rice cloth or something similar is great. I cut another corner and used a multi-layer paper towel system. The goal is to get as much of the liquid out prior to putting it in the food processor. Once the spinach is strained put it all in a food processor. Pour in the 2 eggs, the salt, and the olive oil. MIX! Prepare the 2 cups of flour by dumping it on the counter. Make a well in the center of the flour for your spinach mixture. Pour in the wet ingredients until it forms a beautiful, green ball. Now this will take a few minutes. Also, this will get sticky. Flour your hands before diving in. You may want to use a fork at first, then your hands. Also, the dough will feel tougher than bread dough that is ok. Cover the emerald dough ball and let is sit in the fridge for 20 minutes.

While the dough is resting and radiating in all of its greenness, butterfly (a technique where you cut the breast length wise-kind of like an oreo cookie-and stop a few centimeter from going all the way through. This creates a nice heart shape for your chicken) and slice your chicken breast. I have found that when you butterfly you get more portion out of the chicken. This is a way we control our portions at home, yet I get more bites out of the same amount of chicken. I decided to slice the chicken into strips so that it would cook faster and I could eat sooner.

One the chicken is cut, begin to heat a skillet on medium-high heat with 2 T of clarified butter. Prepare the egg wash and the bread crumbs in two separate bowls. Start by dipping each strip in the egg wash and then the bread crumbs. For less of a mess, I use my right hand for egg wash dip. Drop into bread crumb and then use left hand to coat. This way I am not breading my fingers for frying. Once breaded begin placing in the frying pan to get a nice pan sear. You are just wanting to get the crunch. Don’t worry about cooking all the way through, you will finish it off in the oven.

Once you have a nice golden brown crust on each side of the chicken strips, coat the bottom of a small baking dish with a tablespoon of sauce. This will prevent sticking and, I think, drying out. Place the chicken on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with oregano, garlic salt, sauce, and mozzarella cheese (in that order). Place in the over for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked and cheese melted.

Now prepare yourself for fun in the kitchen.

Take your dough out of the refrigerator. Starting with the widest setting on your pasta machine begin rolling out your dough, each time passing it through a thiner setting until you reach the desired consistency. I went all the way to the thinnest setting. Have a knife or rolling cutter on hand because the dough is going to start getting really long. Cut it into segments to ease with the rolling. For those with children, this is a great activity to get them involved in the kitchen. Though Gray is only 16 months, he was still trying to turn the crank. Really all you have to do is turn a crank, so let your little ones have in on the fun. This is a great family activity. Plus, when they eat this delicious spinach pasta they are getting some (not all, but some) of their vegetables. If your child is like mine, he loves carbs and sweets but does not care for vegetables. So I hid it in the carb and, voila!..a small serving of spinach. Once you have rolled your dough, let it rest for a few minutes to dry out a bit so it doesn’t stick. Once rested, it is time to cut. My machine came with a fettucini cut and a spaghetti cut. I went with spaghetti cut.

Now you are going to get something that resembles seaweed or witch’s hair. I recommend cutting the noodles into small sizes. 1) Its easier to handle. 2) It helps with cooking 3) It helps with eating. It can get tough to eat a 3 foot long piece of spaghetti. So use some cooking scissors and cut it down. Place your post in a pot of water that has reached a rolling boil. I seasoned mine with salt and olive oil. Mine cooked in about 2-3 minutes, very fast. Cook what you want. You can refrigerate un-cooked pasta for 3 days (because of the eggs) or you can dry your pasta to resemble the store bought kind and keep it for longer. However, I cooked all of it because I was so excited.

Once the pasta is cooked, plate it with the red sauce for a delicious meal with beautiful colors. Pat yourself on the back and make sure you gloat in your accomplishments. Feel free to present you dinner to your family by listing out all of the ingredients and how it was prepared. That is how you make it sound gourmet. “Tonight we have a butterflied, pan-seared chicken breast parmigiana that is served atop of a homemade spinach pasta that has been cooked al dente. A savory tomato sauce finishes your dish”

Thanks for stopping by for dinner, you can take the leftovers home with you. Please wipe the drool off the screen.

Note: I need to thank Instagram for making my meal look more vintage.

7 Responses to “Mix It, Crank It, Eat It”

  1. Karen July 7, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    I know you are going to enjoy your pasta machine. Your meal looks terrific.

    • rtw0004 July 7, 2012 at 8:06 am #

      Thanks for the comment Karen, I am already thinking about other pasta’s I am going to make. The pictures on your blog are excellent. I am still perfecting my photo skills.

      • Karen July 7, 2012 at 8:13 am #

        Thanks for the nice comment…I think your photos are very good.

  2. Alex G. July 7, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    I have been wanting to try homade pasta for a long time. My grandmother used to make it without a press so the noodles were very thick. But I intend to try both. I suppose it is a continuation of my bread making fascination. It all looks excellent though.

    • rtw0004 July 8, 2012 at 7:02 am #

      Alex! I am honored you read my blog you bread making fool. I hope you are doing well, congrats again on graduation. Come visit soon.

  3. Kelsi July 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    This looks DELICIOUS! I really want to try this! Great Job!
    Sidenote: We just got a Trader Joe’s

  4. The Minimalist Chef August 24, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    You are quite lucky that you have a pasta machine! When I make homemade pasta, I have to roll it out by hand and cut it with a knife; I try to use as few tools and ingredients as possible when cooking a recipe, hence my name: The Minimalist Chef, http://www.cookingminimally.blogspot.com/. Would you mind checking my blog out? I’d be happy to give you a backlink back!

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