My friend Steve and I met while working at Tower Theaters in South Hadley, MA, about four years ago, when I was still at Mount Holyoke. Although he was my manager, the two of us quickly became the fastest of friends, and he’s one of the people closest to me in the world, even though he’s currently in New York City and I in Boston. Steve is a fabulously talented musician and equally an adroit writer. We share a number of “traditions” to keep in touch, including a yearly pilgrimage to see the Nutcracker with our respective girlfriends. The four of us more often end up doing something centered around food; whether it’s lunch at Fitzwilly’s in Northampton, or cooking for each other. This is my favorite recipe of Steve’s. Called “Araby” after the short story by James Joyce, published in Dubliners, this cheesy tortellini-and-chicken dish is filling, and will warm you to the core! In Steve’s own words:
You need: 1 pound of boneless chicken breast
3 tbsp of flour
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
A whole bulb of garlic
1/2 pint of heavy cream (there’s a big one, a small one, and one in the middle…you want the middle-sized one)
A bag of microwaveable peas [They don't have to be microwaveable, but it's easier. Look for flash-frozen organic peas. - Hannah]
2 bags of cheese tortellini
Cook the chicken first in a large pan. Start by cutting up the chicken into bite sized pieces. Place the chicken into a large tupperware container with a lid (don’t put the lid on yet). Add 1 cup of flour, pepper, and salt to taste, and garlic powder to taste (more is usually better!) Put the lid on the tupperware and shake it like a Polaroid picture. You may have to remove the cover and mix the chicken and the flour by hand until all the chicken is coated in the mix.
Next, and this will take a long time, separate all the cloves of garlic from the bulb, strip them, and mince them. Yes, all of them. [It won't take so very long if you use this. I swear by it. - Hannah]
Over medium heat, heat the pan and then add the olive oil. Once or twice around the pan is usually good. Add the garlic first, careful not to burn it. After about a minute or two, add the chicken. Cook the chicken until it is lightly golden on all sides and is cooked all the way through. Remove from heat and set aside. Maybe cover with a lid or tin foil so it stays hot, and remember, meat keeps cooking even after you remove it from heat.
Next, boil a large pot of water. Since the pasta takes about 5 minutes, you can wait to do this and the peas at the last minute.
While the water is boiling take another large pot…I mean, big…the bigger the surface area the better. Heat up the pot and add the heavy cream. With a whisk, stir the cream. You want to keep it from bubbling up too much. After a long long time of stirring the cream will start to appear translucent in places — you’ll see little holes, almost. Remove from heat.
If you haven’t already, microwave your peas and add your pasta. In the interim, add the cup of cheese to the cream slowly and whisk in. Add more pepper and garlic powder to taste.
When the pasta is done, strain it, open the bag of peas and mix everything together.