I'm finding that my favorite Tyler recipes are those for pasta dishes. This particular recipe, though it has "cold" in its title, was absolutely incredible served warm the first night and cold as leftovers. This is the first incarnation of Tyler's cold pasta salad, but it will not be the last. I am going to make it again in the coming week with my own twists.
I like to give a recipe an even break the first time and make it as written, so that is what I did. Again, the flavor was incredible, but I'll discuss later how I intend to tweak the recipe.
extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb plums, halved and pitted
1 lb penne
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 lb crumbled blue cheese
handful fresh basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Heat a 2-count of oil in a cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium high heat until almost smoking. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Flip the breasts again, then place in the oven and cook until the juices run clear (another 12-20 minutes). In the last 8 minutes of cooking, add the plums in with the chicken. Remove plums and chicken from the pan and cool slightly.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain after chilling with cold water.
Make the vinaigrette last by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, and sugar in a large serving bowl, then whisking in the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the chopped herbs. Slice the chicken and toss into the bowl along with the pasta, the blue cheese, and the whole basil leaves. Toss, taste for seasoning, then serve with the plums alongside.
Now, about those "tweaks." This is the second Tyler recipe that called for beginning the chicken by sauteeing, then finishing it in the oven. I have to say I do not like this method for 2 reasons. First, it uses more oil than necessary. Second, the chicken isn't as moist as it can be. Next time I make this pasta salad, I will prepare the chicken the way I normally do. I will marinate it with some Italian dressing, my own or bottled, then grill the chicken. This produces a more flavorful and moist chicken. I may also substitute skinless, boneless thighs as that is what SO and I prefer.
Next, while the plums looked pretty, they were pretty mushy and didn't add much to the salad. I will eliminate these entirely or wait until plums hit their peak. It was a pain to split and pit them and they just weren't very sweet. Plus, there was that mushiness and I only had them in the oven about 5 minutes, not the called for 8. I am toying with the idea of adding some very ripe, seeded and cored, chopped tomato.
Finally, I am going to replace the "saved" olive oil calories with some chopped bacon. After all, what is blue cheese without bacon?
I hope Tyler will forgive me for these changes. I'm pretty sure he will since he's an understanding type of guy and, after all, it will still be HIS recipe. I'll be sure to post the pasta salad redux when I try it.