I'm starting to wonder if my new kitchen is jinxed ... or someone put the gris-gris on me. Maybe its because a bunch of my pots and pans seem to have vanished somehow and I'm not using the right tools at the moment, but it seems like almost everything I've cooked or baked lately has had some sort of "issue." This time, it was the pasta.
If you've been following along, you know that I will periodically crumble and brown a batch of vermicelli (Shehrieh - pronounced shy-rah) to have on hand for making Pilaf. OK, so a new apartment called for a new batch. When I can find it, I like to buy the kind that comes shaped like a bird's nest. That way, instead of breaking long strands of pasta, I can just squeeze the "nests" to break them up over a cookie sheet and pop it in the oven to brown.
Because there are more nests in a box than I will use in a year for Pilaf, I got it in my head to use some of that pasta for this dish, rather than penne or something else. That turned out to be a big mistake. For some reason, the pasta turned out very gummy. I was thinking the knots in the center might come out a little chewy, like fried wontons, but I didn't expect the whole nest to cook strangely. Sigh! At least the rest of the dish turned out great. Next time, I'll either boil regular spaghetti and use tongs to try and twist it into a nest, or just go with the penne.
This made enough for two, but since I'm only one, I'm thinking of draining the liquid out of the leftovers, chopping it a little finer and turning it into a pizza or calzone.
1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 links hot Italian sausage
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 orange Bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t olive oil
1 can Del Monte Petite Diced Tomatoes with Zesty Jalapeno
Pasta of choice
1 can chicken broth (optional for cooking pasta)
Fresh parsley or other herb for garnish
Cook the sausage per the package directions - in my case, that meant keeping them moving in a covered pan with 3T of water for 12-15 minutes, then for another 15-20 uncovered until fully cooked.
While you're doing that, you can get a pot boiling for your pasta. I cooked mine in chicken broth instead of water.
OK, I have a confession. My intention was to cut the sausage into coins and pan fry them, then cook the veggies in the same pan so they would soak up all that flavor. It didn't occur to me that I have always cooked Italian sausages whole, or used bulk sausage.
TIP: Do NOT attempt to slice through uncooked Italian link sausages. If you plan ahead, you can toss them in the freezer for a little while to firm up, but do not attempt it straight out of the fridge. I used a straight edge, then tried a serrated knife, but that didn't go any better. This squished mess went in a zip-lock in the freezer. I'll use it in a lasagna or something. Good thing I had extra links. See, I'm jinxed (or an idiot, one or the other). Guess I'm used to slicing kielbasa.
OK, now that your sausages are cooked, set them aside to cool until you can slice them into coins. If you are using a non-stick pan, you can sauté your veggies in the same pan. Because I only have one pan at the moment, and it's not non-stick, I had a few extra crispy spots that I didn't want to ruin the flavor, so I washed out the pan and started fresh. I'm just glad this pan isn't one of the ones that vanished. I refer to this as my Yelanchi pan. It's what I always use to make the filling for my Yelanchi (Stuffed Grape Leaves), Porov Kufte a/k/a Bombs (a stuffed Kufte --- kinda like a stuffed meatball), and other goodies.
Sauté your garlic, onion, and orange bell pepper pieces in the 2t of olive oil until they just start to soften. If you cooked your sausages whole, slice them into coins and add them to the pan with the veggies while they cook so you can brown those cut edges.
If you're using the nests, they should cook fairly quickly, so go ahead and drop those now.
When the veggies are cooked and the sausages are browned, stir in the tomatoes and chicken. Let that simmer for a few minutes to condense the tomato juice and heat the chicken through. If you want your finished dish to be more saucy than chunky, you can add a ladle of the starchy pasta liquid to the pan and let that cook down a bit as well.
To serve, plate two of the cooked pasta nests, spooning the filling over the top. Garnish with your fresh herb of choice.