Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Between the Sheets

Ragù di Pollo con Pomodorini, Olive, Caperi e Sedano alla Siciliana & Lasagne
Sicilian Styled Ragu of Chicken, Olives, Tomatoes, Capers and Celery on Lasagna

Another hot, humid, cloudy and stormy day in Frankfurt- sigh! And as our Summer draws to an end, I have to face up to the sad reality of the fact... that we haven't even had one! Still, somehow, I managed to find a 15 minute break in the torrential rain and the thunder and lightning and get home dry this evening. I took that as a good omen and a sign from above that I should rejoice and celebrate my good fortune with something yummy for supper. As it was feeling decidedly Fall-like... this was what I made! Not bad for 20 minutes of effort!

This is a nice and different way to put together a quick pasta dish- the sheets of lasagna taste silky- smooth cooked this way and are a great complement to the rich and tangy tomato sauce. Lasagna is the name given to the pasta form and not to the recipe that immediately springs to mind, with the layers of meat, cheese and bechamel sauce. That dish is called "Lasagne al Forno". or "oven baked lasagna". All kinds of "flat" pasta are classified as "lasagne" in Italy, from narrow linguini to broad pappardelle. But let's not mess around with any of that stuff tonight- let's go straight to the broadest and boldest pasta of all and get cooking!

Let's start by cutting our chicken breast into slices and starting it "frying" in a dry pan. Make a very fine dice of carrot, cut the celery into slices and add these both to the chicken. Now add the capers and black olives, stirring constantly. Once the chicken starts to brown, add your herbs and spices (if you do that from the start, they tend to burn). I added finely chopped garlic, dried oregano, rosemary and thyme. Season with salt, pepper and a little cayenne and remove from the heat.

Time for the lasagna! I would suggest 2 sheets of pasta per person- that should be plenty... but if you are feeling hungry- knock yourself out! Bring your well-salted water to the boil and add the lasagne sheets. Allow to cook for 4-6 minutes at the most, pour off the water gently, whilst keeping them in your saucepan and run cold water over them to slow down the cooking process and to rinse off excess starch, which would make the pasta sheets stick together. It may sound silly, but leave a little water in the saucepan and return them to your stovetop- there should be enough residual heat to keep the pasta warm whilst you finish the sauce...

Usually a ragu will cook for a couple of hours at least- but you will have this one finished in just 5-10 minutes... isn't that neat? Remove the chicken and vegetables from the pan and turn the heat back on. Add a good tablespoon of tomato paste and stir it in well, then after a minute or two, de-glaze the frying pan with a good shot of red wine. Or two. Add the chicken back into the mix and a couple of spring onions cut into approximately 2" pieces. After 2-3 minutes, add the sliced cherry tomatoes... again- add them too early and they will overcook, lose there shape and color and just not be as nice. And you should be almost ready to rumble!

I carefully took the lasagna sheets and drizzled them lightly with olive oil, grated them with nutmeg, and started to arrange them on my plate. I laid one sheet out and layered some of the spicy. saucy chicken over it, then added the second sheet of pasta on top and repeating the procedure... pretty easy!

A light drizzle of olive oil, some salt, pepper or peperoncino and a basil leaf or two as a garnish and we are in business! As you all know, I prefer the heady flavor of a salted Ricotta cheese to that of parmasan- but that is of course MORE THAN perfectly fine with this dish. And all you need to do now is to go grab your your friends and a bottle of Corvo and enjoy!

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