Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's Better Than Cereal Again : A Quick Meal for a Busy Tuesday - Roast Chicken, Gnocchi, Broccoli and Alfredo Sauce

My role as a corporate cog reaches a fever pace at the end of each month. I end up working 11 hour days that are full to the brim so my brain meats are mush and the only thing I want to do at the end of them is drink wine, put my feet up and watch @midnight.

9 times out of 10 we play The Dinner Game. The game play is simple and repetitive:

Player One: "Dinner?"
Player Two: "Yeah."
Player One: "Whatca want?"
Player Two: "Meh. I dunno."
Player One: "We have to eat something."
Player Two: "Take out?"
Player One: "Meh."

You only have the chance to 'win' this game if at least one of the players is motivated to go above and beyond a stomach-growling stale mate of cereal, or a ham sandwich. So.Many.Sandwiches.

I try to keep our house stocked with cereal and lunch meat, but also some easy to throw together items, staples that are shelf stable or happy in the freezer but that aren't box meals full of preservatives, sugar and salt.

I'm never happy with a decision to eat crap food after a long and stressful day. My body wants something easy, but tasty, that leaves me pleased with my food choice.

Last night I walked out of my office near 8pm and headed home. We won the "Dinner" game because I decided to pick up a rotisserie chicken from the local green-themed big box grocer, a bottle of the store-brand Alfredo sauce and some greens for salad.

I already had frozen broccoli bits, the cheapest ends and pieces you can get for a buck or so. The stalk ends are my favorite and they hold up better in this application. Additionally, I had a package of gnocchi in the pantry. It's nothing like making your own, but on a terrible Tuesday there is no way I am making them from scratch.

Substituting any tube pasta will also work. It's too chunky of a mix to use a long pasta like spaghetti or linguine.

For a gluten free option -use day old rice, even brown rice, but add more moisture to the sauce.

** It should be noted that what follows is less of a recipe and more of a food plan. I would suggest you read all the way through it and grasp what happens start to finish. **

Step One: Read package of gnocchi and follow the cooking instructions. While you are waiting for the water to boil, do Step 2.

Step Two: Put the Alfredo sauce into a pan over the lowest heat possible. As it gets warmer, taste it. It's not likely to need salt,  but try adding some fresh pepper or lemon juice or garlic. Using a little butter or milk will help take the 'bottled' taste out and make is less starchy.

Step Three: Take the chicken apart and off the bone. I use a half a chicken for the 2 of us. A full chicken would be enough for a family, but you might want another package of gnocchi.

Step Four: Cook the gnocchi. This takes about 3 minutes, so have a bowl and a hand strainer standing by. Your goal here is to keep the water. If you don't have a hand strainer or if you are making tube pasta, you are going to need 2 pots of water.

Step Five:  Drop the broccoli into the gnocchi water. It's only going to be in there until it's warm, so no reason not to use the old water.

Step Six:  Put the chicken in the bowl with the gnocchi, add the broccoli as it gets warm and add ladles of the Alfredo sauce until it all comes together. The chicken will break down a little and it will dry up rapidly. Don't over mix it. Toss it together and serve while it's still hot.

Add a tossed salad and you have a less than 30 minute meal that doesn't suck.

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