The Night Mrs. Gertrude Sweaters Arrived

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November 30, 2012 by caitlinvaclark

Last night I attended a Scandinavian Christmas Dinner cooking class at Food at 52, my second time at this beautiful cookery school in the nearby neighborhood of Clerkenwell. Greeted with a warm glass of Danish Glogg, I learned so much about an area of food that I’m far from familiar with. I had never cured cod before nor roasted a whole celeriac to then slice as a “bruschetta” base- brilliant! Trine Hahnemann, who taught the class, provided us with signed copies of her beautiful new cookbook, Scandinavian Christmas. You can be sure, as Christmas approaches, I will be passing along some of the delicious food we made. The savory apple sauce with bacon was to die for!


Since I don’t have anything new of my own to share, I figured I’d write about one of my old staple recipes: Chicken Toss Up.

This is my go to “fridge to skillet” recipe when I’m having a hectic day or have an excess of food to get rid of.  It was the perfect dinner for the night that our dog arrived. Mrs. Gertrude Sweaters made her London debut late in the afternoon at Heathrow Airport. Not knowing how long the adventure of retrieving her would take, I figured an easy, mindless-to-make meal was necessary.

While I hoped to be home by 6, given the hassles we had already gone through moving people to this country, I anticipated that it could be a long process. Needless to say, we ate dinner very late that night.

For years I have been making pastas where I throw whatever meat and veg we have on hand into a skillet, sauté it up with olive oil and white wine and finish with cheese or cream or herbs or tomatoes: basically hodgepodge pasta.  But rarely do I write down the recipe, which can be a bummer when it turns out delicious. I actually remembered this time though, so here’s one night’s chicken toss up.

First I sauté some diced raw chicken with garlic and olive oil. While that cooks, I prep all the vegetables and add-ins.

Then I add some chopped asparagus and a pinch of red pepper flake.  After everything is almost cooked through, I add about half a cup of white wine and reduce it by half.

This time, as luck would have it, I had a cup of homemade ricotta leftover from our housewarming party the weekend before, so I used that plus a bit of pasta water to make a creamy luxurious sauce.

Toss in some spaghetti or orecchiette or whatever pasta I have available and top with parmesan cheese for a quick and easy dinner.

And as my mother taught me, life’s never too casual for proper table settings.

Chicken Toss Up Pasta

½ Tbs olive oil

¾ lb. chicken breast, chopped into small cubes

2 cloves garlic

1 bunch asparagus, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup chopped roasted red peppers in basil oil

1 cup homemade ricotta cheese

½ cup parmesan cheese

1 box spaghetti

Boil a large pot of water.  Once boiling, salt the water graciously and add the pasta.  Cook according to your package, or about 8 minutes.

While the pasta gets going, heat the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat.  Add the chicken and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring once the chicken cooks on one side.

Add the asparagus and sauté until just tender, another 3 minutes.  Pour in the white wine and reduce by half.

Add the roasted red peppers and mix in the ricotta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta (reserving some of the cooking liquid) and add to the chicken and vegetables. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water, ¼ cup at a time until it coats all the pasta and begins to collect in the bottom of the pan.  Grate parmesan graciously over top and serve.

And for those of you who have been wondering, Gertie has been adjusting wonderfully to life in her motherland.


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