Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Cajun Chicken Alfredo on Fettucine

 A few months ago on the Food Network, I started watching a show that featured chefs making their favorite, sure thing/go-to recipes, called The Best Thing I Ever Made. (With a title like that, who could resist, right? ) Guy Fieri . host of several Food Network shows (like Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and Guy’s Big Bites) started his career in food as the owner of a restaurant called “Johnny Garlic’s”. With its success, he then added many more restaurants to his stable. He credits the dish I’m about to share with you as being the dish that not only caused ALL his restaurants to stay in business, but that also helped him pass his exam to get out of culinary school, when he was training for his career. With such high praise, I was eager to try Guy’s Cajun Chicken Alfredo.

Now any recipe with an Alfredo sauce is going to be laden with fat, and, as we know, fat = flavor. But really, I thought I could get a lot of flavor with a lot less fat, so if you want Guy’s full fat version, click the link above.  I came very close to following his recipe exactly, but I cut the fat by using half and half rather than cream in the sauce. (Cream is 36% fat, while half and half is anywhere from 10% -18% fat, depending on the half and half you buy.) Even when using half and half, this is no diet dish, but I felt better about that small savings. To compensate for the loss of fat in my version, I increased my cooking time of the sauce, to allow the sauce to further reduce, and thicken up.

I wanted to tell you about another change in the recipe that I made due to my own personal preference. You can buy jars of marinated in oil sun-dried tomatoes, which is what Guy’s original recipe calls for, and they have a brighter red color than the variety that I used, but frankly, their taste tends to be more sour and bitter. I prefer to buy Frieda’s sun-dried tomatoes that come in a plastic/paper packet and are hanging from a rod in our local grocery store’s produce section, and here’s my reason. When I buy dried sun-dried tomatoes, and then hydrate them myself by soaking them in boiling water for 5 minutes before draining and chopping them, I find their flavor to be much sweeter,  deeper, and richer. There may be less color in my dish, but the color gets covered up by the Alfredo Sauce, anyway. If you want a bit more color in your dish (and I will next time) sprinkle on a few halved or quartered grape tomatoes for color, after you have plated your pasta.

I made my own blackening rub by following Guy’s recipe, but frankly, when I was done stirring it up, I found a jar of “Cajun Seasoning” in the back of my spice cabinet, and did a blind “spice sniff test” with my son and me, and discovered that both he and I preferred the aroma of the Luzianne Cajun Seasoning I already had on hand. (But since I’d already mixed up this fresh batch of spices, that’s what I used.) So, if you happen to have a jar of that spice blend, or Paul Prudhomme’s blackening spice mix, you can definitely save yourself several minutes of digging through your spice cabinet, and use what you have. There is one advantage to making your own blend, which is that you control the amount of cayenne (read: HEAT) that you put in your own blackening spice. At my house, we are slightly weenie-like in our ability to tolerate heat, so rather than putting in a full teaspoon of cayenne, which is what Guy’s recipe called for, I only added 1/4 of a teaspoon. You should adjust this recipe to your family’s preference for heat/spiciness. ALSO: Guy called for dredging the chicken breasts in the spice, but I sprinkled the breasts generously with the spice mix. This gave me a lighter coating of spices, which was what I wanted. Didn’t want TOO much salt: I’m not that wild about the gritty coating of acrid burnt spices that “blackening” sometimes produces.

Would I make this again? It was absolutely scrumptious, the kids were CRAZY about it, and it was pretty easy to do, so, yes, I would. I’d be more likely to make it when my husband is out of town,  though, because, let’s face it, it’s not exactly a heart healthy recipe. My husband is not going to be happy to read that, and will probably remind me how much weight he has lost and how hard he is exercising these days to keep his blood vessels nice and unclogged. (You’re the best, Babe. If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to keep you alive for a long, long time.)

Without any further delay, here is MY version of Guy Fieri’s Cajun Chicken Alfredo: DELICIOUS!

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Blackening spice: recipe follows
2 T. olive oil
3 T. minced garlic
1/4 c. dry white wine
3 c. half and half
1 c. roughly chopped, re-hydrated sun-dried tomatoes

1 lb. fettucine

3/4 c. grated Parmesan
1 t. fine sea salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. thinly sliced green onion, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350º. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over very high heat.

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the Blackening Spice Rub (recipe follows). Place the chicken in the hot skillet, and blacken both sides of the chicken, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and place in the oven until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165º on an instant read thermometer, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and slice the chicken into strips on the bias.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and lightly brown it, about a minute. Stir in the wine. Pour in the half and half and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and chicken slices.

Meanwhile, cook the fettucine al dente, according to the package instructions and drain.

When the cream sauce is the desired consistency, stir in 1/2 c. of the Parmesan, the sea salt, pepper and pasta.

To serve, toss the pasta with the cream sauce and serve. Garnish with the green onions and the remaining 1/4 c. Parmesan. (Some chopped grape tomatoes would add more color, if you like.)

Blackening Spice Rub:

1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 T. salt
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. onion powder
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1 t. Italian seasoning
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. chili powder

Combine the spices in a small bowl, and store the leftovers in an airtight container.

If you were to make this dish, what are your preferences in regard to heat/spiciness?


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