It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Hug Day, and my birthday! And yesterday was National Cheese Lover’s Day. Time for a combination of two wonderful things: cheese and smokiness. I fell in love with a pasta dish from a recipe card that came with a Pampered Chef pan years ago, and have adapted it to my taste over the years. It’s pretty distant from the original, but that was the inspiration. Glorious inspiration. I hope you love it!
Jen’s Smoky, Cheesy, Bacon & Chicken over Spaghetti Squash with Lots of Complementary Vegetables
1 (big) Spaghetti Squash or 2 little ones
Halve and put cut-sides down in a microwave safe baking dish. Add ¼ cup water, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 10 minutes. Let it rest til it’s cool enough to handle.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¾ pound (12 ounces, basic package) bacon, cut into lardons (cut across the bacon strips about every ½“ to make little rectangles)
Heat a large skillet or big braiser over medium. Warm the olive oil, add the bacon, and cook until it’s your perfect doneness. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour rendered fat into another container if you’d like. (I use about 1 Tablespoon of this to cook the chicken and vegetables. It’s delicious and you’ve already paid for it. If that bothers you, you can discard it as soon as it’s cool and use olive oil instead.)
I love spiders! They’re cheap (a whopping $10 for a 3 pack!) and they are the best when you want to fish out a lot of food from the pot quickly. Here’s my set: Set of 3 Stainless Steel Skimmer Strainer, 13.8 Inches, 14.8 Inches & 16.4 Inches
½ Tablespoon (1 ½ teaspoons) of the reserved bacon fat or olive oil
2 chicken breasts (salted and peppered on both sides)
Add fat to the pan, and then add the chicken breasts. Cover and cook, turning at least once, until a thermometer registers 165°F in the thickest part. If you’re impatient, you can pound the meat a little thinner with a flat meat pounder, and it’ll go faster. Move to a cutting board.
1 head of garlic, roughly minced
1 onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
Add to the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.
1 glug of wine (I had a cabernet sauvignon opened, but pinot grigio would be fabulous)
Add and let bubble, scraping the deliciousness off the bottom of the pan.
2 c milk
Stir in the milk.
Shred your chicken while you wait for the milk to barely simmer. I’m partial to Bear Paws, but 2 forks will get the job done. But you don’t get to play Wolverine…
½ pound (8 oz) smoked Provolone cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon corn starch*
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (I did half regular and half smoked salt. Use what you have.)
Toss the cheese in corn starch. Add to the sauce, a handful at a time, stirring each time til it’s melted in. Season with the salt and pepper. Cook stirring until it’s thickened a bit. (If you forget to toss your cheese in the cornstarch, it’ll look like my picture. ~eyeroll at myself~ Don’t worry. Add a spoonful of the sauce to a tiny dish, and mix into a slurry, and add in as soon as it’s smooth, stirring vigorously until it’s part of the sauce.)
*Omit corn starch or use arrowroot powder (or tapioca, but I think arrowroot’s nicer) if you are really carb careful. It helps thicken the sauce and makes the cheese sauce silky instead of stringy in a watery sauce.
2 c frozen peas
Stir in, along with the chicken and half the bacon.
Remove the seeds and stringy center from the squash. Use a fork to release the squash from its shell. Divide among 4 plates. Spoon the smoky chicken and sauce over it.
2 handfuls fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Sprinkle with parsley and the rest of the bacon. Yum!