Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

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If you were to do an internet search for a creamy cajun chicken pasta, a whole slew of results will appear. This recipe is my own based on my own experience in cooking. However, to be honest, there are really only so many ways you can make a creamy cajun chicken pasta, so forgive me if  this bears resemblance to some of those other recipes.

I wanted something flavorful and a bit indulgent. Mostly to have a special night with just my husband. Now, because I was making this on the spur of the moment I don’t have precise measurements (more of guesstimates). That being said I do have lots of advice and tips on how to make this: alternative ingredients, methods, or how to adjust for more people. The recipe I made could probably serve exactly 3 people, or 2 people with a bit leftover. I will advise that in most cases, cream based sauces do not save well. You might have the sauce separate and come out as oily on reheating. So its best to make enough and have some side or dessert that can finish off the meal if the main pasta dish wasn’t filling enough.

My hubby had to work late this day (building up hours so we can take a long weekend off), so I prepped some of the ingredients before I picked him up. What you see below is two mini sweet pepper minced finely, two green onion stalks minced finely, and one chicken breast cut in half (through its thickness), sliced thinly, and seasoned generously with a cajun spice mix.

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You are welcome to use bell pepper, no pepper, or make cut it in thin strips. Me and my husband are texture people and so I try to minimize large pieces of anything (and by anything I mean vegetables). I used green onion, but you are welcome to use any other kind of onion, mince it, dice it, chop it, or thinly slice to your preference. This recipe is fairly flexible. I prefer thin long slices of chicken breast for this recipe to chicken chunks (especially because it absorbs more flavor), but you are welcome to prepare your chicken you as you like. One option is to cook the breast whole then slice it afterwards and add on top. However if you do that, i suggest adding some cajun seasoning directly into the sauce as it is thickening. As to the seasoning, I sprinkled cajun seasoning (I use McCormick but there are other good options out there) on the chicken strips, tossed, sprinkled more, tossed, etc until the pieces were very well coated. I usually under season, so this time I was more generous in my application. I then stuck everything in the fridge for what turned out to be 2 hours. I only mention this because I think the chicken sitting for so long in the spices helped the flavor absorb and adhere better.

Next, I heated some olive oil on my pan. And then added the peppers, onion, and about a teaspoon of minced garlic.

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Continue cooking until the ingredients start to soften. If you prefer to have a little crunch, use bigger pieces and don’t saute too long.

2013-07-12_19-16-19_800Then I added the chicken pieces. I cooked until the pieces were done: white through, juices run clear, slightly browned if you prefer.

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Here is where we can take two paths. The first path is delicious fat heavy actual cream sauce. Which is awesome, indulgent, and finger licking good (if you eat with your fingers of course). However, you might be like me, and not usually keep cream on hand. This time I went out and bought cream, but you don’t have to. Cream is fairly expensive and then you have to come up with enough uses for it before it goes bad. Which means one week of delightfully cream heavy meals/desserts.

Alternatively you can use a roux and make a white sauce. Not sure how to do that? I explain how in my post White Sauce and my friend RouxIf you choose that route which just uses butter, flour and milk (for a creamy no cream sauce substitute), you can either remove the chicken to make it easier to make the roux and start the sauce, or simply move it over to one side of the pan. After the sauce begins to thicken, you’ll want to re-add the chicken peppers/onion so that the sauce will pick up the flavors. For more flavor add a chicken flavored bouillon cube or chicken broth as well milk to the sauce. I wouldn’t use more than 2-3tbsp of butter and flour, and 1-2 cups of milk for this recipe’s quantity.

For those sinful cream users like me, you can at this point either directly add the the cream (about 1 cup- 1 1/2 cup), or  follow what I did. I added a bit of flour and milk (about 1/2 cup give or take, then again mebbe it was more than that) and a chicken flavored bouillon cube to the pan. You can alternatively use flour and chicken broth. I just wasn’t making a lot and didn’t want to open a can. The flour was to add to the remaining oil to make a very slight roux to thicken my chicken flavored milk.

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Bring milk to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until it thickened. It will happen pretty quickly if you’re making a small amount like I did here.  As I mentioned earlier you can omit this step and skip to where I added cream.

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Now add the cream.

2013-07-12_19-26-59_420Bring the cream  just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened. This may take a while. But don’t leave it lest you not notice it boil (and potentially boil over).

Meanwhile, I know the meanwhile is a little late, boil water and cook pasta. I used about 6 or 7 oz of a hidden veggie fettuccine. I also started the process too soon, got distracted and overcooked my pasta. Lame sauce… or rather.. lame pasta. I prefer my pasta al dente, not barely a couple steps from mushy.

Once the sauce thickened, I added a bit of parmesan cheese and stirred until it seemed mixed in/melted in. Then I removed from the heat and tossed in the pasta. I know some people prefer to add the sauce to the pasta, or keep them separate for others, but I combine it. It gives me a better idea of how the sauce is sticking, and lets me cook it a bit longer if it isn’t adhering how I like. Also it lets me do what I did–which is add a bit of cream and toss to coat. Why? Because I think it tastes good.

Remember I’m describing my spur of the moment cooking impulses, not what I would necessarily publish in a cook book.

2013-07-12_19-43-36_685So there the pasta is in all its creamy indulgent glory. Yes, not necessarily the most attractive. But very very delicious. Look at this closeup to see how the sauce clings to the chicken and pasta. Yum!

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Now, I’m not always the best at making sauces for pasta, even creamy cajun sauces, or my favorite alfredo sauce. I tend to make the mistake of over cooking and causing it to separate, or not cooking something right so the sauce never thickens. It’s very frustrating, especially when I go to some of those restaurants with the beautiful delicious pastas and then get a craving for it at home. One book I still reference is Pasta. Maybe that sounds a little too obvious, but this book has my favorite recipe for fettuccine alfredo, details how to make pasta from scratch (if you so desire), and includes pasta and sauce ideas I would never have thought of. It is one of my favorite pasta resources. What I find most enjoyable about it is the full page photos for every recipe. This book provides a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.

Now completely inaccurate, but as close as I can guess recipe with measurements:

Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 green onions, minced or sliced [can be substituted with other onions; sliced, diced or minced]
  • 2 mini sweet peppers, minced or thinly sliced [or 1/4- 1/2 bell pepper; sliced, diced or minced]
  • 1 tsp minced garlic clove
  • 1 large chicken breast, halved to 1/4- 1/3 inch thickness and sliced thinly
  • 2-3 tbsp cajun seasoning (to taste)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 chicken flavored bouillon cube and 3/4 cup of milk [OR instead 3/4 cup chicken broth]
  • 1 1/2 cup cream, divided [can use an additional 1 1/2 milk instead; add in addition to prior ingredient]
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 6 oz fettuccine

Directions

  1. Bring water to boil and prepare pasta as directed. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium to medium high heat.
  3. Add onion, garlic and peppers. Saute until beginning to soften.
  4. Meanwhile, toss chicken in cajun seasoning to coat.
  5. Add chicken to softened onion mixture. Saute until cooked through.
  6. Move chicken to side of pan. Add flour to other side of pan and mix flour into oil remaining in pan  (you may need to add a little more oil or butter). Add bouillon cube and milk OR chicken broth.
  7. Heat mixture to boiling, stirring often until it thickens. You may reduce heat to simmer after it comes to a boil to avoid burning.
  8. Add 1 1/4c cream to thicken sauce. Heat to boiling, then reduce to simmer. Continue cooking, stirring often until mixture thickens.
  9. Add parmesan cheese if desired. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
  10. Remove from heat. Add pasta and toss to coat. Add remaining 1/4 c cream. If sauce is thin omit extra 1/4 cup cream and return to heat for 5 minutes until sauce thickens and clings to the pasta.
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