I love the “what’s in my fridge to make for dinner” game. Almost as much as I love when my studly husband goes to the climbing gym and comes back sweaty, buff-er, and high on workout endorphins. He’s such a stud.
This particular night last week we were behind on grocery shopping and our fridge and cupboards were pretty bare, which is my favorite setting for the dinner game!
Here’s what I came up with: a couple of chicken thighs, onion, spinach, some fresh mozzarella, eggs, and flour. Chicken and pasta it is!
I could have cut up the chicken thighs and sauteed the meat, but my husband has a deep love for crispy chicken skin. Plus, this was way easier and I had pasta to make.
First, I scored the top of the chicken. Does this really matter? I have no idea. I know you’re supposed to do it for duck to help render the fat between the skin and the meat, but does it really make a difference for chicken, not sure, but I did it anyway.
I wanted to keep the chicken as fast and easy as possible, so I did just a quick oil of a baking dish,
and coated each side. Flip-flop.
Then generously salt and peppered each side with another flip-flop. Then a pop in the oven at 350 degrees. Fast and easy.
While the chicken baked, I could spend that time making the pasta. So I took out our dough marble to start the pasta. This little gem (actually it’s pretty heavy, duh it is marble) has been Dan’s baking marble for years. Yes, my studly husband bakes so much he (while single) acquired a baking marble to make his banking easier. Have I mentioned how hot he is?!
This marble is perfect for baking; it’s the perfect surface for kneading and rolling. Especially when we have a horribly annoying tendency to live in homes with horrific tile counter tops. You know what’s terrible for baking? Tile counter tops. You know what’s super annoying to clean? Tile counter tops. You know what I hate more than anything about our kitchen. Those f-ing tile counter tops. I vow to never have tile counter tops again.
Now for the super simple, quick pasta dough. There are so many varieties of pasta dough, but again, it was a week night and I only wanted enough for a plate for my hungry husband. I didn’t have time to roll out and cut much more than that, so I cut the recipe in half. I put 1 and 3/4 cups of flour on the center of marble and hollowed out a little well in the center. Think mashed potato and gravy volcano.
Except instead of gravy, two eggs. I was too busy taking pictures to make an adequate volcano and it erupted.
I did my best to reclaim most of the egg white into the well and then I beat the eggs slowly incorporating the flour.
Until it looked like this. Then I could start kneading.
You know what’s hard? Kneading dough and taking pictures of it yourself. This was about 5 minutes of kneading in. My eggs weren’t really big enough and so my dough was not as sticky as it would be with extra large eggs like the recipe called for, so there was no need to add extra flour like it said you would. I removed the excess flour bits and kneaded a few more times and formed it in to a ball.
Then I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 2o minutes. This will allow the gluten you just activated with all the kneading to rest which will allow you to roll it out. Also, I know that recipes often call for that resting to happen in the fridge. Bah. All the times I made pasta in Italy, the dough was never refrigerated. Room temperature is fine. And if Italians in Italy don’t do it, I’m not going to.
While the little glutens rest I started the ‘sauce’. It’s a rare day when we don’t have fresh tomatoes in our house which would have been great for a simple marinara, but it was one of those days. We did have garlic, onion, some spinach, and oil. Sold. So I did a coarse mince of the garlic and chopped the onion. I’m a lefty which used to terrify my dad when I would use a knife as a kid and it now continues to terrify my husband. After watching me chop an onion when we first started dating, he showed me a much easier, faster, cleaner, and ultimately safer way to do it. I was impressed. What a suave culinary stud I’d found! I started to praise him and his technique, and then he told me he learned it from Alton Brown. OF course he did. That just made him studlier.
A little oil in a pan heated up and I tossed in the garlic and onion with some salt and pepper and let it simmer away. I love the smell of garlic and onion cooking and that sizzle when they first hit the hot pan.
While they’re sizzling, I cleaned the (little) spinach we had in our fridge. I love everything about fresh spinach. Except the cleaning of it. There’s always little pockets of dirt that I’m so worried I’m going to miss and then have a gross dirt bomb. That hasn’t happened, but for some reason I’m convinced that it’s going to.
After about 20 minutes I prepped my little pasta rolling station. We got this new little kitchen cart which I’d originally gotten for our little ‘nook’ / bar that’s off of the kitchen, but it seems to have instead found a home in the kitchen. Reason #1- it’s the only thing we have aside from our dining room table that fits our pasta roller. Reason number 324 why I hate those damn tile counter tops.
This pasta roller is really great. It gets the job done and it was cheap. $35 at Target. I had originally been drooling over the kitchen aid attachment but for a starting cost of $100 and to get all of the fancy-schmancy additional attachments at $400…?! My father used to have a saying to things like this. It was a upward motion of a forearm and clap to a bicep followed by one of the few Polish words he taught me that I wasn’t allowed to say in front of my grandmother.
So here’s my little pasta dough. Much smoother and stretchy after it’s little nap. I separated the ball in two, kept half of the unused ball in the plastic wrap, and did a quick roll on the other. Just to about 1/4 of an inch thick.
Then I ran it (slowly) through the pasta roller at it’s widest setting. This is also really hard to take a picture of by yourself. If you try to roll too fast and too thin at first, the dough will tear. So I usually run the dough through at least 3 times, a setting less each time until you have a nice long, thin, dough. Again, kind of hard to show with only one person.
By this time, the onions and garlic will definitely be done and ready to have the spinach added.
And now it’s time to start the salted pasta water.
and to cut the pasta! I chose linguine for this dish, because the sauce was so simple and the chicken was on the side so a heartier, thicker pasta would work well. Stud still wasn’t home yet so, again, photographing and cutting pasta is really hard.
But hey, look at all of the pasta! This drying rack was an impulse buy one day that I thought would encourage me to make more pasta. It’s been worth every penny!
Once the water started to boil, I put in the pasta to cook.
By this time the chicken was also done. Oh and so was the spinach and onion (awhile ago, actually), but I forgot to get a picture of it.
While the pasta cooked I sliced some of our fresh mozzarella.
When the pasta was al dente, I took it off the heat and drained it.
And tossed it with the onions, garlic, and spinach. There was so little spinach… that stuff cooks down to nothing! But that’s just one of risks of the game… it’s all I had in the fridge. I added a touch more oil and mixed it all up so the pasta picked up the oil and all the other goodness that had been simmering for quite some time. Had I had white wine, that would have been delish to deglaze the pan with.
And here it is! Stud’s post climbing gym dinner. Fresh pasta, onions, garlic, oil, fresh mozzarella and oven baked chicken thigh. All from scratch, all super healthy and filled with good fats, protein, iron, and he nearly inhaled it, which is always a good sign of a great meal.