|Grilled Chicken and Pasta Fonduta with Tomatoes|
On my recent trip to Seattle I travelled with 40 women on a "Shop Till You Drop" weekend. A friend of mine puts these trips together several times a year and as you can imagine we are a diverse group of women of all age groups. While we travel as a group we have varying interests and the one thing that suits all of our needs is our capability to shape our weekend to suit our own schedules and tastes. Some of us travel to simply shop, frequent every outlet mall between here and Seattle, and pay lots of duty. This is mecca for the shopaholics. Others go to gamble, some just to relax and swim at the pool at the hotel and explore the immediate neighbourhood. Like many I am not adverse to shopping but really enjoy the flexibility this trip offers each of us. So, in true "foodie" fashion you will find me downtown at Pike Place Market at Sur la Table. This time around I was able to join Jan Marie once again on her tour of the market and also join a fellow food blogger and new friend at an exceptional restaurant for the evening...more about that later.
With all this activity one thing is for certain when the ladies and I are all together we have to replenish our energy... we have to eat. Two of the favourite standbys for large groups are P.F. Changs and The Olive Garden.. neither of which we have in our area.
I am a creature of habit so when I head to the Olive Garden I want a dish that combines two of my favourites chicken and pasta. My latest favourite there is Chicken Fonduta. The version at Olive Garden has 1,080 calories. Yes 1,080 calories, can you believe it!!!! Good thing I have a small appetite and so ended up having the second half of the dish the next day!!! The recipe that follows is a lightened up and seasonal version with leeks and asparagus.
This dish is based on Fonduta which is a highly regarded local specialty in the mountainous Piedmont region of Northern Italy. The dish, a cheese fondue enriched with egg and milk, is usually served as an appetizer accompanied by toast or in puff pastry shells. The enticing concoction also can serve as an easy-to-make quick sauce for pasta. I read that the first recipes found for fondue included eggs... which fonduta includes to this day. This version does not include eggs to reduce the caloric intake . Other ingredients are butter, milk, grappa and Fontina cheese when it’s still relatively young and creamy. This cheese is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk, has a milk fat content of 45%, and little holes in it that look like air bubbles.
When this sauce is served with pasta it is typically adorned with thinly shaved white truffles. If you have truffle oil add it to the fonduta just before adding it to the pasta if truffles are not available. The addition of grappa not only gives the impression that the dish is lighter, but also adds a fruity flavour to the nutty fontina cheese used in the sauce. Another favourite for me is to add cooked shallots or leeks and steamed asparagus for my Spring time twist. In the recipe below I am trying to emulate how this dish is served at the Olive Garden so I topped the dish with small diced campari and yellow heirloom tomatoes with the addition of a little olive oil and served it alongside grilled chicken.
I am sending this recipe over to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast the "pasta queen" for her popular event. I try and join in on the fun whenever I have pasta over at Presto Pasta Nights. My cupboards are always full of pasta in countless shapes and sizes. It is too hard to resist at our local Italian grocers, especially since they have expanded!!! I want to have pasta every day of the year!!!! Presto Pasta Nights event has been the baby of Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast for over 3 glorious years. Whenever we feel the urge for some pasta we can go over to her site and have 3 years of entries from all over the world to choose from from pasta salad to lasagna to Pho. This week this popular event is being hosted by Chaya of Comfy Cook so head on over there on Friday and soak in the pasta dishes.
“Cento anni di salute e felicità !” (One hundred years of health and happiness)
**Grilled Chicken with Spring Pasta Fonduta and Tomatoes**
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup leeks or shallots chopped
1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound/8 oz./1 cup Fontina cheese
1-2 tablespoons grappa
salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
4 grilled and marinated boneless chicken breasts
2 yellow Heirloom tomatoes, finely diced
2 Campari tomatoes, finely diced
Mix campari and heirloom tomatoes together in a small bowl. Add olive oil and set aside.
In a large pot cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Cover the pot with the lid.
Scald the milk in a medium, non reactive saucepan. In a separate small skillet add the butter. When the butter foams add the chopped leeks of shallots. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the flour. Stir together and cook until pale gold in colour. Stir in 1/2 cup of the scaled milk to create a bechamel sauce. Add all of this to the remaining milk in the other pan. Turn the heat to medium high. Add the fontina cheese and keep stirring until it melts. Add the grappa, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Strain the fonduta through a sieve directly into the pot with the pasta. Stir thoroughly to cover pasta.
To serve, place 1 cup pasta on platter. Top with grilled chicken breast and then tomato mixture. Enjoy!!
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