The Spice Girls met last night for the first of our “Weeknight Dinner” meetings. The goal, besides getting together more often, was to try recipes that were quickly prepared and menus that were less complicated. We are certainly off to a good start with the following pasta recipe. We had a simple salad of greens and cherry tomatoes with a vinaigrette that contained a delicious fig flavored vinegar! The cupcakes were not quick, but worth the effort. Ginger had baked the cupcakes and prepared the pastry cream and the chocolate glaze in advance. The Spice Girls assembled them after quite a bit of test-tasting of the glaze. Since Ginger’s house is undergoing extensive renovations, this meeting was held at her boyfriend’s beautiful home. We were thrilled that while cooking, we enjoyed music provided by Tim playing his gorgeous baby grand piano. The Spice Girls could easily get used to such special treatment. And then, with apologies to our northern friends, we sat down to our great dinner outside by the pool. Yes, in February!! All in all, a weeknight worthy of weekend status!
Chicken Pappardelle with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Makes 7 cups; Total Time 25 minutes
8 oz. dry pappardelle (or wide egg noodles)
2 strips thick sliced bacon
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained, minced
3 cups cooked chicken, sliced (12 oz), you can use a rotisserie chicken)
1 T. garlic, minced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.
Saute bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When bacon is almost browned, add tomatoes. Saute for another minute or so. Add chicken, garlic and pepper flakes, and cook until garlic starts to brown.
Deglaze with wine, scraping bottom of skillet. Stir in broth, cream and pasta, and bring to a simmer. Cook until sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Boston Cream Cupcakes
Makes 16; Total time about 2 hours
1 recipe Pastry Cream (recipe below)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. table salt
2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 cup)
1 cup buttermilk
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 t. instant espresso dissolved in 2 T. hot water
Preheat over to 325 degrees; line 16 muffin cups with paper liners and coat with non-stick spray.
Prepare pastry cream and chill.
Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl, set aside.
Cream sugar and butter in a bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in 1/2 of the flour mixture, then add buttermilk and vanilla; mix until combined. Add remaining flour and mix until blended. Transfer 2 cups batter to a small bowl.
Fold cocoa and espresso mixture into 2 cups batter until incorporated. Scoop a heaping tablespoon chocolate batter into the bottom of each liner; smooth to cover bottom. Top with vanilla cake batter; filling liners to top, the bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Cool cupcakes in the pan for 20 minutes, transfer to a rack, then, when cool, assemble with pastry cream and glaze. Store in the refrigerator.
Once the cupcakes are completely cool, slice off the tops and spread the bases with a layer of pastry cream.
Spread 2 T. of Chocolate Glaze (recipe below) on each cupcake.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 t. kosher salt
2 T. unsalted butter
1/2 t. vanilla extract
Heat milk in a saucepan over medium until it begins to steam and bubbles form around the edge. Remove milk from burner.
Whisk suger, cornstarch and slat together in a bowl. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth, then gradually whisk in 1/2 of the hot milk.
Pour the egg-milk mixture into the remaining milk in the pan, and return pan to the burner. Cook custard over medium heat, whisking often, until thick. Boil 1 minute, whisking constantly, to eliminate the starchy taste of the flour and to thicken further.
Off heat, stir in butter and vanilla until butter is melted. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic, pressing it onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill before using.
Makes 1 1/2 cups; Total time: 10 minutes
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 T. light corn syrup
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Boil cream and corn syrup in a saucepan. Off heat, whisk in chocolate until smooth. (May be made up to 1 week ahead and chilled.) Spread 2 T. glaze on each cupcake.
Recipes adapted from Cuisine at Home February 2008.