It's been a while since I've lived in a place that experiences four, bona fide seasons, like we do in the Midwest. While we have been enjoying deliciously warm-but-not-too-hot weather, occasionally spring likes to remind us what she's all about by peppering in a few cool, rainy days here and there. It never ceases to amaze me how the lack of sunshine affects everyone's mood and overall motivation. At our home the gloomy, blue haze lingers throughout the house and casts its sleepy spell on all inhabitants. You know it's going to be a lazy day when even our usually crazy, hyper-vigilant dog wants nothing to do but snooze.
Those are the days that call for staying indoors, listening to the sound of the rain, and if I'm lucky reading something in actual print. At least, that's what sounds nice to me anyways. In reality, I could probably be found keeping our newly-mobile baby away from the skittish dog, while rotating out toys for optimum interest, while moving from room to room just for a change of scenery. Those are the days I'm thankful for the ever-alluring stairs and the several minutes they can keep a crawling baby entertained. Mental note: get some more toys. I digress...
For these rainy, spring days, I love throwing together a quick and easy dinner that feels light and seasonal, yet hearty and warming at the same time. There's really nothing like the heavenly smell of pan-roasted, garlicky chicken to help forget about the dreariness outside. Combine that with the seasonal asparagus, nutty and tangy goat cheese, bright lemon, and sweet sun-dried tomatoes, and you will be singing the praises of late spring showers in no time.
A few weeks back, at the peak of asparagus season, I bought a gigantic bundle of the beautiful, crisp stalks not realizing just how long it would last. I've thrown it in frittatas and sprinkled it on pizzas, but it truly shines in pasta. Look for large, bright green stalks with no wilting. I even saw a purple variety at a farmer's market the other day, which would be fun to try. Many people peel their asparagus, but I find it time consuming and mostly unnecessary. Just be sure to cut off the bottom few inches of each bundle, as that part is usually a bit too tough for eating.
My hands-down favorite part about making pasta dishes like this one is that there are usually leftovers. Translation: more time for baby wrangling and a night off from cooking. Winner winner chicken dinner.
Pan-Roasted Chicken and Asparagus Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 box penne or farfalle pasta
2 lbs. chicken breasts
1/2 onion, diced
1 small handful of asparagus, bottom 3" trimmed, and cut into 1" pieces
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned (see tips)
juice of 1 lemon
2-3 oz good goat cheese (chèvre)
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder
Preheat oven to 375 F. Season the top side of the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Set a saute pan over medium-high heat, and let it get hot. Drizzle the pan with olive oil, then swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Place the chicken in the pan, seasoned side down, and sear for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Turn over with tongs and continue to sear for a couple minutes. Transfer the chicken to the oven to continue cooking until done (165 F internal temp, time will vary greatly based on the thickness). When the chicken is done, remove from oven, let rest for five minutes, and slice into strips. Click here for more tips on cooking chicken this way.
While the chicken is roasting, bring a pot of water to a boil. Drizzle olive oil in the water and add a palm full of Kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook for about 7-10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain in colander.
Using the same saute pan you used for the chicken, drizzle olive oil to coat the bottom (all the chicken bits will only add flavor). Add the onion and saute until translucent, or about 3 minutes.
Add the garlic, asparagus, and sun dried tomatoes, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, chicken stock, and butter and stir until the butter melts.
Add the cooked pasta and chicken, and toss to coat.
Finally, break the goat cheese into pieces with your fingers and add to the pan. Stir until slightly melted.
Sprinkle a little more Kosher salt and pepper.
Plate and garnish with more goat cheese. Enjoy!
For the sun-dried tomatoes, you can use either the ones packed in oil or the dry ones. If using the dry ones, soak in hot water for about 10 minutes prior to use.
Replace the lemon juice with your favorite white wine for a more refined flavor.
When shopping for good goat cheese, look in the specialty cheese case near the deli, not in the sliced and shredded cheese section.
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