Chicken Caesar Pasta

This has become my kids’ favorite meal. I made it last night and they said, “You should make this every week, Mama.”

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Of course, if I made it every week it would no longer be their favorite meal.  So, I’ll save it in my bag-o-tricks for those days when I really don’t have time to cook and know that I have a sure-fire winner for dinner in spite of no time.

Seriously, this takes no more than 30 minutes to prepare.  And it tastes like something that took waaaaaayyyy longer – or maybe came from a fancy restaurant.

The original recipe came from Cook’s Country Magazine. One of my favorite magazines.  That and it’s sister publication, Cook’s Illustrated.  LOVE those magazines.  I’ve never cooked a bad meal that I’ve found in those pages.

The little one says she loves the combination of warm and cool.  The big one loves the wilted lettuce and chicken together.  I just love it all.  It’s a perfect pasta dish.  And it’s even good the next day as a cold salad.

Seriously. Try this. You won’t regret it.

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Chicken Caesar Pasta

1 pound pasta (fusilli, cavatappi, etc.) pasta
Salt & pepper
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded, I use the fancy shreds, not the grated stuff)
2 Tbs lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 tsp jarred minced garlic)
6 Tbs olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
2 romaine lettuce hearts, halved lengthwise through core (do not cut core off)

  1. Marinate the chicken breasts in the balsamic vinaigrette for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Make the Caesar dressing. (see below)
  3. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot. Salt generously.
  4. Add pasta and cook until al dente (about 8 minutes)
  5. Pour off pasta into a colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside in a large bowl, ready for the other ingredients when they’re ready.
  6. While pasta is cooking, heat your grill. Cut chicken breasts into smaller “tender-sized” pieces. This will allow them to cook faster on the grill without drying out.
  7. When grill is hot, cook the chicken.
  8. Just before the chicken is finished cooking, lay the romaine cut side down onto the grill.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes per side until slightly charred.
  9. Bring chicken and lettuce to a cutting board. Tent chicken with foil while you chop the lettuce. Place cut lettuce in with the pasta.
  10. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in the pasta.
  11. Toss the chicken-pasta mixture with the Caesar dressing, mixing ingredients thoroughly.
  12. Sprinkle with some leftover parmesan cheese and DEVOUR.

Caesar dressing

This is truly the best homemade Caesar dressing. I can hardly stand bottled Caesar dressing after tasting this. Spoiled me forever.

In a blender or food processor, blend the mayonnaise, parmesan, lemon juice, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper.  Slowly add the olive oil until incorporated. Set aside until ready to top the pasta.

*original Cooks’ Country recipe can be found here.

Barbeque Dry-Rubbed Chicken

I subscribe to Cook’s Country magazine. I love it for many reasons… the fact that it has no advertising, the fact that they give reviews of cooking tools/appliances and foods… but mostly for the awesome recipes.  Their sister magazine Cook’s Illustrated is also great (I subscribe to that one, too) but I find I cook more of the recipes in Cook’s Country than the other one. 

They are two magazines that I can’t wait to sit down and read when they arrive in the mailbox.  And I mean read, not browse through, like I do most magazines. I find I learn something new in every single issue. So, when I got the latest issue, I couldn’t wait to dive right in.  And, I found a mother lode of recipes to try this month (in fact, this week!)

Last night, we tried the Barbeque Dry-Rubbed Chicken.  One word to describe it?  YUM.

We love barbeque chicken.  But the girls are a little picky about the “black stuff” on the chicken (also known as the caramelized barbeque sauce, which, to me, is the best part) so sometimes it is a little tricky to prepare. I was also intrigued by the fact that the recipe promised great tasting chicken – most of the time, what you taste is the barbeque sauce, not the chicken itself.  The chicken is just the transport vehicle for the sauce. 

I decided I had to try it.

I bought two packs of thighs and legs at the grocery store the other day.  So, yesterday morning, I made up the dry rub mix.  SuperMan and I decided to triple the recipe for the rub mix… once I made one batch it didn’t seem like enough. I am glad we did. We had just a tiny bit left over when the whole thing was finished and our chicken was well coated in the rub (did I say it was yummy!?! It was!!)BBQ

Recipe is below.  I served it with saffron rice and steamed vegetables.  I think grilled corn would be a great compliment to the rub seasonings, too. (the picture is a scan from the magazine. I didn’t think to take a picture last night.)

Oh, and I did not include the cayenne the recipe calls for. I am allergic (think  swollen, puffy lips and you get the idea) to cayenne, so I left it out.  Even without that kick from the cayenne, it was awesome. 

Next time I think I will add a teaspoon of smoky paprika and see how that does.  I love the flavor of smoky paprika and think it would add even more depth of flavor to the recipe and maybe replace the flavors from the cayenne.

And the girls’ verdict? They ate every single bite.  Gotta love that!

Try it!

Cook’s Country Barbequed Dry-Rub Chicken

(serves 4-6)

3 Tbs dark brown sugar
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

3 lbs bone-in, skin on chicken pieces

  1. Rub chicken – Combine brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, pepper, dry mustard, onion powder, salt and cayenne in small bowl. Transfer half of dry rub to shallow dish; reserve. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and coat over and under skin with remaining rub. Transfer to plate and place in refrigerator, covered, for one hour.
  2. Grill chicken – Grill chicken (skin side down) until skin is well browned and crisp (15-20 min)
  3. Dredge chicken – Lightly coat skin side of chicken with reserved rub and return to grill, skin side up. Continue to grill, covered, for 15-20 min (until rub has melted into a glaze)
  4. Rest – Transfer chicken to a plate, lightly tent with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

I have to say, this was the juiciest, most flavorful barbequed chicken I have ever eaten.  We will definitely be making this one again and again.