Summer has arrived, and with a vengeance. The days leading up to 1st December have been record breaking, scorchingly hot temperatures, so not much has been happening in my kitchen as far as innovative meals are concerned. A steak on the barbie with potatoes and a tossed salad has been pretty much my limit in the past couple of weeks. Not only has it been too hot to eat outside, but our outside guests this year are in plague proportions. I'm talking flies....sticky, baby bush flies that are so persistent and thick, one could easily inhale half a dozen whilst trying to eat. The drought has been blamed for the extreme numbers of flies this year, because the dung beetle numbers are down, so the breeding cycle for these pests have been given a free run this year. And when you think of where most of the breeding is occurring, i.e. animal excretion, swallowing the odd one just about makes you retch.
So after that little biology lesson, and my annoyance at not being able to enjoy summer meals outside, I've decided to stick to inside meals this week, and pray that the important dung beetle starts to populate again.....soon....very soon.
This is an Italian sounding dish, very apt since Simona from Briciole is hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, however it is an American dish named after a famous opera singer, Luisa Tetrazzini, who thrilled Americans at the turn of the last century with her wonderful voice.
There are many differing versions of this recipe, but I chose one from The Food Network by Giada De Laurentiis, a chef you either love or hate. It's really an operatic version of chicken and mushroom pasta.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 ounces linguine
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup dried Italian-style breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Spread 1 tablespoon of butter over a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Melt 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil in a deep large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the hot pan and cook until pale golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool slightly. Coarsely shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and into a large bowl.
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil to the same pan. Add the mushrooms and saute over medium-high heat until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms become pale golden, about 12 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it evaporates, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to the bowl with the chicken.
Melt 3 more tablespoons butter in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, cream, broth, nutmeg, remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase the heat to high. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 10 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 9 minutes. Drain. Add the linguine, sauce, peas, and parsley to the chicken mixture. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta and the mixture is well blended.
Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Stir the cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the pasta. Dot with the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Bake, uncovered, until golden brown on top and the sauce bubbles, about 25 minutes.