Racing Rachael: Tool Shop
Carrie Applegate Jaeger
According to the Food Network website, Rachael Ray created this meal using her favorite kitchen tools. Looking through the recipes, I assume that she is referring to the food processor and box grater used to make these two dishes. Really? Of all the gadgets out there that can overstock your kitchen and wipe out your checking account, these are the best? Personally, I only grudgingly use the hard-to-clean food processor and feel slightly antiquated using the box grater. Surely, there are some more interesting gizmos out there, but maybe Rachael was hard up for some creative meal topics. Her tool features are lame, but will the meal be a hit?
The food: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breasts and Spaghetti with Zucchini and Garlic. Feeling the pressure of the clock, I did not pound the monster chicken breasts I had as much as I should have. This made it difficult to both roll and to cook the chicken properly (I ended up placing two of the breasts in the oven to finish). So, learn from my mistake and beat those breasts.
The spinach and mushroom stuffing was so easy to make and very tasty. Since the cooked stuffing ingredients end up in Rachael's beloved food processor, there is minimal chopping to be done. The stuffing has a subtle layer of flavors. From the earthy mushrooms to the garlicky goodness to the what-is-that hint of nutmeg, it's got a lot going on. The stuffing escapes the chicken a bit while cooking, but it creates a yummy fried cheese crunch on the ends. Add the quick pan gravy made of butter, flour, white wine and chicken stock, and you've got a flavorful entrée that is pretty enough to serve to guests.
The side of spaghetti was also unbelievably easy, but a little less successful in the taste department. Although I like the idea of adding veggies into a side of pasta, the zucchini did not add much flavor (or color) to the party. I used a heavy hand with both the garlic and the cheese, which saved the dish. If I make this again, I'd add some red pepper flake for some kick.
The time: 37 minutes. I have to admit I was not exactly flying around the kitchen. Maybe a residual effect from the wine drinking the previous evening...
The verdict: If you don't like garlic or have a hot date, don't make this meal. The chicken was delicious and did not taste or look like a 30-minute meal. And, while I appreciated a non-salad side, this one essentially tasted like spaghetti and garlic. If this is your thing, then you'll love this. I need a little something more. By the way, the stuffing recipe makes WAY more than you need. What to do with the leftover? Make little patties, cover in breadcrumbs and brown in a little canola oil. Serve this alongside the chicken to accompany the bites that don't have as much stuffing as you'd like.
Ways to beat the clock: Don't feel compelled to chop the mushrooms before putting them in the sauté pan. I quartered mine, but I don't even think that is necessary. I also grated all of the cheese by hand, but doing this ahead or buying pre-grated cheese would save you a few minutes.
Happy (speedy) cooking!
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